Euro orienteering|  Event notes from Kiwis Kaia, Zefa & Rachel 
By Christo Peters - Fri 31 May 2024 6:14pm
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Landing in a new country, you learn to adapt very fast. After Rachel’s arrival in the UK, the main change in running was to get used to significantly muddier conditions – much more than she had encountered in New Zealand. For Zefa, there has been a shift in sport attire due to regulations. Shorts are banned in order to minimise the risk of hepatitis transfer (and also helps to prevents ticks attaching). While this rule applied in the UK and Sweden, it isn’t universal across Europe, yet Zefa has opted for trousers even in Czechia, where it wasn’t obligatory as he tends to be a tick magnet. So slowly the terrain is changing our kiwi orienteers as they immerse themselves in European orienteering experiences.

So what have our young orienteers experienced so far? The trio reunited at the Easter JK races in England before heading to Czechia for a training camp in the Pilsen area – the venue for the upcoming JWOC. This provided a valuable opportunity to familiarise themselves with the terrain they’ll be competing in this July. The landscape, characterised by hilly forests with diverse vegetation and remnants of old mining sites, the latter reminding them of Naseby in central Otago. The  raced with juniors from other countries preparing for JWOC, with Zefa and Kaia clinching some victories and strong placements. Zefa had win in the mass start loop race and the competition middle distance, while Kaia took out the competition sprint and also a second place in the timed middle distance race. Zefa is mentioned in this JWOC report after the training camp in Czechia here

Their next meet-up was at Tiomila /10-mila. This was their inaugural run in such a colossal event and representing European teams was another big first. Rachel describes it..  “Tiomila was an amazing experience, running in new forests and for a foreign team (but they were very welcoming and kind) was a bit nervous to think about beforehand. It was pretty amazing to be watching the top girls go out and fight for the victory before I started (as I was running last), and I was in awe at the size of the event. During the race it was cool to be out running with other people, although as I ran the 6th leg it was quite spread out by the time I went out. Farum Tisvilde had lots of excitement when our 1st leg mens runner came back in the lead, and it was awesome to witness the club pride everyone has.“ 

Rachel continues on to describe her busy orienteering schedule..“other major races over in the UK are starting to come to a close – due to the thriving bracken, brambles and nettle. I’ve had a really good build-up into the competition season from being over here in the UK. Something I’ve definitely experienced over here is running big races every other weekend, and the junior development programmes in the UK seem to be rather successful, so being able to join the North East Junior Squad Training weekend, as well as the SYO training weekend. These have all been really helpful and I continually see improvement.” 

Rachel’s event  timeline: 

Compass Sport Cup Heat –> Lake District Training Weekend with SYO –> Lipica Open 5 Day (Slovenia) –> Lake District Training Weekend with the North East Junior Squad –> JK –> Czech Training Camp –> British Long & Relay Champs –> British Middle Champs –> Tiomila –> Lake District National Weekend.

Zefa and Kaia have recently competed in the Swedish trial races, grappling with dense spring undergrowth of heather and blueberries that posed challenges to their running. It proved hard to beat the local Swedish orienteers who proved to be formidable on their home terrain. Zefa’s performance in one race suffered due to a significant detour when he realised he had picked up the wrong map after a map flip, forcing him to backtrack and disrupting his running momentum.

As temperatures rise over in Europe, weekly sprints around Stockholm have kicked off, attracting a massive turnout of orienteers. Unlike the NZ Summer evening sprints, which typically draw a couple of hundred runners, the Stockholm sprints see thousands out for a run. Negotiating tight corners requires extra caution alongside the quick route-choice decisions, in order to contend with traffic and other participants. Despite the crowds, Kaia managed a 4th place in the field of over 100 open women in her first Stockholm City race. Zefa was also close to the top in a race won by the legendary Gustav Bergman. Both Zefa and Kaia will be looking forward to Lakia-Jukola in Finland next. This renowned event is also known for its massive participation statistics. With around 1,600 participants and several hundred could start in the first leg alongside you. It promises to be another exhilarating challenge for the kiwi orienteers.

Both Zefa and Kaia will be looking forward to Lakia-Jukola in Finland next. This renowned event is also known for its massive participation statistics. With around 1,600 participants, several hundred could start in the first leg alongside you. It promises to be another exhilarating challenge for the kiwi orienteers.

Top photo: Rachel is with the Cleveland Orienteering Klub in the UK, but runs with the Danish Farum Tisvilde n Europe, pictured here in the girls team. Above: Zefa and Kaia  in the OK Linné team. Kai is with Pia Young Vik and Johanna Ridefelt (Norwegian and Swedish team members)

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