August has seen a continuation of the 2022 international season with both World Cup Round 2 and the World University Championships. Although it has been quiet on the domestic front, the culmination of NZL’s major participation in the 2022 international season (except for the final round of the World Cup which is still to come) has allowed a bit of reflection on how the previous 2.5 years of Covid has impacted on us vis-à-vis the international scene. That resulted in the article, which is reviewed below, which generated furious comment from some. Also below are draft plans for the 2023 NOL and NSL and training camps.
Upping the game, where to from here?
The article “Upping the game” was quite deliberately published on the ONZ website and various social media outlets in an attempt to generate comment, and it certainly succeeded in that and, obviously, rattled a few cages! Although the original intent was to reprint it here, I will instead concentrate on looking at the various comments that it elicited, the misconceptions it generated, and the issues at its heart. If you haven’t read it, it is still available on the ONZ website (https://www.orienteering.org.nz/news/upping-the-game/).
The article arose out of two things: surveying New Zealand’s results at the various international events over the last few months, and the discussions that have been on-going with High Performance Sport NZ. It was published after proof reading and agreement by the ONZ General Manager, who like me has been involved in those discussions, and was intended to reflect the position where orienteering currently sits in the wider HP context and how we can progress from here.
Perhaps the first thing is to look at what is meant by HP sport. The HPSNZ website says the following: “HPSNZ works together with National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) to enable and empower world class performances that inspire New Zealanders. To ensure repeatable success for New Zealand on the world stage, we partner with specific sports and campaigns. We focus on the performance pathways, wellbeing, engagement, and funding and investment for those sports.” To me the important points in that statement are (i) that HP deals with “world class performances”, (ii) that HPSNZ are interested in “repeatable success for New Zealand on the world stage”, and (iii) there needs to be a focus on “performance pathways”. It is in the context of these that the original article was written. That is not to say, as some claimed, that there was any intent to ignore the social aspect of orienteering, or to discard anyone who is not interested in performing at international level. Neither was anyone being blamed, or fingers pointed, for performances over the last few months.
There was a range of feedback – some that I would argue were reading things between the lines that were simply not there, whereas others were very constructive and insightful. The most frequent comment was that there needs to be development below the current ONZ HP level. I couldn’t agree more. This was specified almost word-for-word in the 2015 HP Plan with the hope that senior elite orienteers in each region would take leadership of what were referred to as “regional squads”. The reality was that apart from a few spasmodic bursts of training, and all credit to those who did initiate those, it has simply never happened at a sustained level.
We are now hearing the comment “ONZ needs to do something”, which is fine and I hope those wanting ONZ to lead, hopefully some of those raising this cry, will now respond to the call for regional development co-ordinators on the ONZ website, and in this month’s Compass Point and ONZ Club Newsletters: (https://www.orienteering.org.nz/news/onz-is-looking-for-regional-development-co-ordinators/). The move to regional development co-ordinators is part of a targeted plan to develop junior and young senior athletes in the current High-Performance plan approved by Council earlier this year.
The other issue that elicited most comment was that of performance standards. Again, this was not actually being proposed, but times that you might need to be able to run 3000 m in to qualify for a WOC sprint final were used to illustrate the speed and fitness needed at the top level. Both Ross Morrison and Tim Robertson raised excellent points with regard to this. Ross suggested having a series of such, let’s say, “guidelines” building up to this level to enable athletes to demonstrate progress. Tim pointed out, quite correctly, that “orienteering speed” has to be considered along with pure running speed, and a balance of both is required if you want to be successful. The application form that the Swiss give their athletes to fill in was included to illustrate just what we are up against. Joseph Lynch pointed out that we probably shouldn’t be trying to replicate the Swiss. This, again, is true, but given that Switzerland’s population is only 1.7 times that of New Zealand, wouldn’t we like to have 60% of their number of truly elite orienteers? To me the most telling thing on the Swiss form was the table (below) that, first of all, divided training up into categories, and secondly, had a clear expectation that athletes are planning their training a year at a time. How many of us do that?
|Sport||Hours Planned 2021||Hours Actual 2021||Hours Target 2022|
|Orienteering (training and competition, all intensities)|
|Running (without orienteering)|
(training, competitions etc., all intensities
|Alternative endurance (bike, swim, etc., all intensities)|
|Strength (weight room, core strength, circuit, etc.)|
|Alternative training (other sports, not endurance)|
So where does this leave us, or, as in the heading, where to from here? It is quite clear that Covid, with reduced numbers at training camps, spasmodic events, and lack of overseas competition has set us back and we need to take urgent steps to even recover to where we were at the end of 2019. Having brought the issue into focus, hopefully there will now finally be progress in establishing regional training groups. Not only can then provide a vehicle for serious training for those who aspire to true HP, but a pathway for those wanting to move in that direction, and a social training environment for both HP and non-HP athletes. In 2023, without using a form like the Swiss, a slightly more targeted approach to what we expect from our aspiring JWOC and WOC athletes, and a greater focus on HP camps through the first part of the year.
World Cup Round 2/European Champs
The second round of the IOF World Cup took place in Estonia at he beginning of August and produced a real challenge which saw some very surprising results. NZL was represented by Toby Scott and Briana Steven. Briana was running at this level for the first time and submitted the following report on her (and Toby’s) experience.
Toby Scott and myself (Briana Steven), attended the second round of the World Cup which was held in Rakvere, Estonia and doubled as the European Champs. After a very green and bushy model event, the Estonian Orienteering President summed it up perfectly: “In the Estonia forest you should feel pain. If you don’t feel pain in the forest, then you will feel pain when you look at the results.”
This sentiment was very accurate in the middle qualification where many suffered large mistakes in the thick vegetation, including Toby who sank 7 minutes into one control. I had a surprisingly good first ever elite race, finishing 27th in my heat so the only Oceanic entry through to the A final was Aston Key. For a group who only had 60 minutes training in the forest (compared to the scandi’s who had training weeks aplenty) it was a very solid effort.
Men Heat A: 1. Miika Kirula (FIN) 29:25, 2. Lauri Sild (EST) 29:56, 3. Ruslan Glibov (UKR) 30 :02, 41. Toby Scott (NZL) 51 :59.
Women Heat C : 1. Simona Aubersold (SUI) 30:35, 2. Venla Harju (FIN) 31:21, 3. Tove Alexandersson 34:03, 27. Briana Steven (NZL) 48:20B.
The long was very long, with the women’s winning time more than 15 minutes longer than estimated over the 12.9km. Once again there were some very thick areas of forest which slowed things down, and a somewhat controversial river crossing over an “uncrossable” body of water, where competitors who assumed the river would be too difficult to cross chose wider routes. I survived the whole race, which was my primary goal, and ended up 79th out of 107 entries and only 63 minutes down on the winner! Toby had a redemption from the middle qual to take 57th, but was hurt by the river situation so could have shaved off some minutes.
Men: 1. Martin Regborn (SWE) 1:39:18, 2. Eskil Kinneberg (NOR) 1:39:49, 3. Elias Kuukka (FIN) 1:40:24, 57. Toby Scott 2:11:43.
Women: 1. Venla Harju (FIN) 1:29:52, 2. Tove Alexandersson (SWE) 1:30:09, 3. Marika Tein (FIN) 1:30:44, 79. Briana Steven 2:33:34.
The middle final allowed the B racers to hang in the arena to see the A final play out, which was incredibly exciting, and then once the rain had cleared, and the tracking in the forest had been made the B final started. Again it was thick bush in a lot of places, but some sections were actually nice white open forest which made a lovely break in battling through the bush. I can’t speak for Toby but after just two races before this one I was completely exhausted, and feeling dead before I had even reached the start triangle. But there are no world ranking points if you don’t find all the controls so I reached the finish line in just over an hour to land at 35th, and Toby came in to 19th.
The crazy forest shook up the playing field in the elites, so there were some different faces on the podiums including an Estonia silver in the women’s middle final. It was amazing to finally reach the elite stage. It came close a few times when I was getting stuck between logs or in vines. I am excited to return next year to some more competitions. It will be amazing to see more black NZ shirts at world cups in the future as we start to venture out across the globe again, the Australians had a full 12 person squad at this event so it’s not impossible.
Men A Final: 1. Albin Ridefelt (SWE) 35:40, 2. Anton Johansson (SWE) 35:57, 3. Gustav Bergman (SWE) 36:17.
Women A Final: 1. Simona Aebersold (SUI) 35:40, 2.Evely Kaasiku (EST) 37:07, 3. Venla Harju (FIN) 38:30.
Men B Final: 1. Alexander Chepelin (GBR) 37:07, 2. Tadas Dementavicius (LTH) 38:09, 3. Christoph Meier (SUI) 38:17, 19. Toby Scott 42:11.
Women B Final: 1. Kaja Wisnes Nordhagen (NOR) 40:57, 2. Hedvig Valbjorn Gydesen (DEN) 41:48, 3. Sandra Pauzaite (LTH) 43:48, 35. Briana Steven 1:03:31.
The final round of the 2022 World Cup is in Switzerland at the beginning of October and Toby will be joined by Tim Robertson. Remarkably, having not attended World Cup round 2, Tim still currently sits in 4th place overall 62 points behind leader Kasper Harlem Fosser. The final round, like Round 2, has a middle distance and a long distance.
World University Championships
WUOC, usually held every 2 years, has always been a bit of an enigma. At the top end of the field it is highly competitive, often populated by athletes who have just missed out on their national WOC team. For example, this year both the second and third placegetters in the men’s KO Sprint at WOC were entrants, while in 2016 Tim Robertson took out the WUOC sprint. At the other end of the field things are more relaxed, perhaps more akin to what might be expected at a student championship. The event is also highly intense with sprint, long, sprint relay, middle and forest relay taking place on successive days without a break.
New Zealand had a team of 6 men and 3 women at this year’s event in Switzerland. None of the team had previously competed at JWOC, so this was their first experience of competition at this level. With Kieran Woods as manager the team trained with the large Australian contingent beforehand, making use of some of the training maps available for WOC2023, which will also be in Switzerland. Unfortunately, like other NZL teams of the last few months they were also hampered by Covid striking at least one team member in the run-up to the event.
The best results of the week for NZL were in the opening sprint, where Ronal Lee and Aryton Shadbolt were only a few seconds apart, albeit half way down the field. WOC KO silver medallist took out the men’s title, with Australia’s Aston Key backing up his strong showing at WOC with 5th place, only 3 seconds off the bronze medal.
Sprint – Men: 1. Jonatan Gustafsson (SWE) 11:30, 2. Timo Suter (SUI) 11:38, 3. Colin Kolbe (GER) 11:53, 48. Ronan Lee 13:22, 51. Aryton Shadbolt 13:30, 65. Nathan Borton 13:56, 81. Scott Smith 15:16.
Sprint – Women: 1. Eline Gemperle (SUI) 11:47, 2. Inka Nurminen (FIN) 12:06, 3. Cecile Calandry (FRA) 12:09, 70. Amber Riddle (NZL) 15:55, 73. Heidi Stolberger (NZ) 16:41, 77. Anna Cory-Wright (NZL) 18:03.
With each country only allowed 4 entrants in each of the individual races, Liam Stolberger and Dougal Shepherd replaced Aryton and Nathan Borton in the long distance. Although not quite in the mountainous terrain promised for WOC, this had lots of climb and, in the patchwork of forest featuring many tracks, had some interesting route choices on both the long and short legs. It was by no means familiar terrain for the Kiwis and only Ronan managed to get within 30 minutes of a winning time
Long – Men: 1. Fabian Aebersold (SUI) 1:18:43, 2. Simon Imark (SWE) 1:19:14, 3. Mattieu Yves Perrin (FRA) 1:19:31, 60. Ronan Lee 1:46:32, 66. Liam Stolberger 1:50:36, 67. Scott Smith 1:51:01, 73. Dougal Shepherd 2:01:10.
Long – Women: 1. Katrin Muller (SUI) 1:13:01, 2. Ida Haapala (FIN) 1:16:47, 3. Anu Tuomisto (FIN) 1:17:27, 63. Amber Riddle 1:52:34, 67. Heidi Stolberger 1:55:00, 71. Anna Cory-Wright 2:08:20.
The sprint relay on the third day was not happy experience for NZL with the team suffering a mis-punch and finish at the back of the official results.
Sprint Relay: 1. Switzerland 50:59, 2. Sweden 51:22, 3. Finland 51:34, New Zealand (Amber Riddle, Ronan Lee, Nathan Borton, Anna Cory-Wright) mp. Aryton and Scott were the best performers in the middle distance which differed from the long in having much more contour detail, green and rock. The middle part of the course in particular (between controls 11 and 15 for the men, below) caused problems for many in the field, including most of the Kiwis. Aston Key again excelled for the Aussies finishing in 4th place.
Middle – Men: 1. Viktor Svensk (SWE) 32:10, 2. Simon Imark 32:25, 3. Mattieu Perrin (FRA) 33:14, 55. Aryton Shadbolt 42:12, 58. Scott Smith 43:01, 73. Dougal Shepherd 51:07, 74. Liam Stolberger 53:20.
Middle – Women: 1. Ida Haapala 31:09, 2. Katrin Muller 31:12, 3. Elisa Mattila (FIN) 31:43, 73. Heidi Stolberger 54:38, 82. Anna Cory-Wright 1:08:13.
The final event, the relay, was not one to remember for New Zealand. The top men’s team of Ronan, Aryton and Scott finished 26th out of 38 starters, but the other men’s team was a mis-more relay training is required. The women’s team, with Amber Riddle still recovering from Covid, was well off the pace.
Relay -Men: 1. Sweden 1 1:59:50, 2. Switzerland 1 2:01:03, 3. Finland 1 2:01:31, 26. New Zealand 1 (Ronan Lee, Aryton Shadbolt, Scott Smith) 2:40:25, New Zealand 2 (Dougal Shepherd, Nathan Borton, Liam Stolberger) mp.
Relay -Women: 1. France 1 1:55:12, 2. Switzerland 1 1:55:18, 3. Sweden 1 1:55:23, 28. New Zealand 1 (Heidi Stolberger, Anna Cory-Wright, Amber Riddle) 3:14:44.
The next WUOC is scheduled for 2024 in Bulgaria.
Drug Free Sport NZ – e-learning
Orienteering NZ is committed to clean sport. We want all our HP athletes to understand their role in keeping sport clean, so we encourage you to take the Drug Free Sport New Zealand Level 1 e-learning course. It’ll give you valuable information on your rights, responsibilities, the doping control process and your role in keeping sport clean and fair for all. This can be found at drugfreesport.org.nz/e-learning.
Note that DFSNZ has an ever-growing list of HP orienteers (this a requirement of ONZ as National Sports Organization) and it is quite possible that anyone on that list may be subject, without warning, to out-of-competition testing. It is important therefore that athletes are aware of their rights and responsibilities.
NOL, NSL and training camps 2023
The introduction of the National Sprint League in 2022 has meant that confining both it and the National O League to the period between January and June is too restrictive. Therefore henceforth both the NSL and the NOL will run from October through June. As it is infinitely preferable to use existing events for both competitions these will allow, for example, Labour Weekend and late in the year regional championships to be included in the programme.
The final programmes for what will be 2022-23 are still being worked out and ultimately will depend on clubs settling their 2023 events. In draft form, at present, the following events will be included, with others, especially for the NSL to be added.
National O League
Round1: Saturday 22 October, Sunday 23 October Labour Weekend day 1 and day 2 (not the day 3 chasing start) – North West.
Round 2: Saturday 12 November SI Champs 2022 middle distance; Sunday 13 November SI Champs 2022 long distance – PAPO.
Round 3: Sunday 29 January SI Champs 2023 long distance; Monday 30 January SI Champs 2023 middle distance – Nelson.
Round 4: Easter 2023 – ONZ Champs middle distance and long distance (Hawkes Bay)
Round 5: Queens Birthday 2023 – at least 2 days (Counties).
Consideration is being given to making the ONZ Champs events and QB compulsory counting events.
National Sprint League
Round 1: Friday 11 November SI Champs 2022 sprint distance – PAPO.
Round 2: 4-6 February Southern O Week, individual sprint, KO sprint, sprint relay – PAPO.
Round 3: Easter 2023 – ONZ Champs sprint, follow-on KO sprint.
There is also some planning for HP camps in the late 2022 and the early part of 2023. First and foremost, the Under 23 Camp will take place from 7-13 December based at Houghtons Bush camp, Muriwai. Applications will be called for very shortly. Following that there is a plan for a short camp in Christchurch between SI Champs 2023 and SOW. Details of that will be settled when the detailed programme for both of the events that bracket it are finalised. Further camps in Auckland and central regions will also be organized, the latter of these possibly being in the Wanganui area after the NI Secondary School Champs just before Anzac Weekend.
It is also hoped that there can be at least 2 weekend camps (Fri pm-Sun) focussed on JWOC/WOC preparations. The first of these is presently touted to take place at Nelson Lakes on the last weekend in February and to focus on physical preparation as much as technical.
In line with what is above, October and November see two major events on the New Zealand calendar. Labour Weekend is the Northern Champs, promising 3 days in classic Woodhill forest sand dunes, with a chasing start for the third day. Entries close on 12 October and can be made at https://entero.co.nz/evento.php?eventName=tnrc-2022.
The Southern Champs takes place from 11-13 November and feature a sprint in Geraldine – one of the few town, as opposed to campus, sprint maps that New Zealand has. The middle and long then take place toward and at Tekapo.
Prior to these of course 2 New Zealand selections will be running in the Australian Schools Championships in Victoria, competing against the state teams.
Whilst there are currently steps afoot to reinstitute regional training groups, funnily enough some 10-20 years ago there was such a Wellington group. Local events meant that this group, under the care of the MapSport Shop, accumulated some funds to be used for training purposes. Michael Wood has now very generously indicated that he wishes to turn what remains of this fund over to ONZ for use by High Performance. This is in the process of being done, with the intent that the money be used to help subsidise HP athletes who require, for example, physiotherapy. The fund will be administered by the ONZ General Manager and further details will be made available in due course. ONZ wishes to thank Michael for this generous gesture.