The 2019 Orienteering World Cup Final took place in Guangzhou, China, from 24th-30th October, and included middle distance, mixed sprint relay and individual sprint races. The competition was the first time a major event had been hosted in China, so an exciting prospect for athletes, coaches and organisers alike. As many runners had not previously competed in China, and with the majority of teams staying in the same hotel, eating the same foods, and sharing the same transport, it felt to me like a much more level playing field as we all prepared to race in the same conditions.
First up for me was the mixed sprint relay. The race was held in the Nanhai Movie and TV Town; an open-air film studio, the setting for many famous Chinese programmes and films. I was selected to run the first leg in a team with Peter, Ralph and Cecilie, and I was really excited to compete in an international sprint relay again, having not done so for over one year. The course was probably simpler than I anticipated, but unfortunately I didn’t cope with the challenges well. It’s sometimes hard to pinpoint the reason behind your mistakes, and my error in running from control 8 to 12 before correcting and going to number 9 still baffles me. I’m lucky to have a great team behind me who all raced well, battling right to the line to earn us the sport as the 8th nation home. The experience racing in an international relay again has given me the chance to learn a great deal about both myself and my competitors, and it motivates me to perform at a higher level next time!
On the rest day following the mixed sprint relay, the majority of the GB team headed out to a training area relevant for the individual sprint being held the following day. I enjoyed training in the maze of alleyways (some barely wide enough for a person!) as it gave me confidence that I would be able to navigate through the complex streets in the upcoming race. Becoming familiar with the style of buildings, and what to look out for when choosing a route, was key to feeling prepared for the challenge ahead.
The individual sprint, held in Songtang Village, was the final race in the competition programme. My race strategy was to keep really close contact with the map, to really force myself to take time to work out a route, and let the running speed come naturally. I was pleased with how I performed for the majority of the race, but I made one big and two smaller errors, leaving me not totally satisfied with my performance. A 30th place finish provides a lot of fuel to the fire for my winter training!
Thank you so much to The Orienteering Foundation for supporting me with my travel to China. As a PhD student, financing international competitions and training camps can be difficult to manage, but with the support from The Orienteering Foundation I was able to gain another opportunity to race on the biggest orienteering stage, and have come away with lasting memories.
Competing in China was a unique and unforgettable experience. I was reminded of how important it is to keep consistent pre-race routines; not just in the hours before a race, but in the week leading up as well. I learnt a lot from my time in Guangzhou, and had such a fantastic time with all of team GB. Bring on 2020 and the new orienteering season.