GPS tracking will be provided at British Long Distance Championships (21st March) and the three individual days of the JK International Festival of Orienteering (12-14th April). The top 15 seniors and top 10 juniors in both men and women will wear GPS devices and online tracking will be provided so commentators can provide a more insightful service and fans can be a part of the action. Tracking will remain online after the races for use by athletes and coaches for analysis and in articles, videos and social media posts.
One of the goals of the UK Elite Orienteering League is to increase retainment of young
athletes by making orienteering more engaging. GPS can help do that:
- Raise the fan experience of Britain’s flagship events towards international standards - tracking is common at international races and many domestic races abroad, but little is provided in the UK.
- Allow fellow athletes, parents, and spectators to follow race progress, seeing the agony of mistakes, and see head-to-head route-choices.
- Allow commentators to tell a better story – more insight into what is happening in the forest and better warning of approaching athletes allowing them to build tension.
- Facilitate richer post-race media coverage in videos, social media feeds and articles (e.g. UK Elite O League, On The Red Line, The Run In, CompassSport, etc.).
- Help elite preparation for major competitions - getting used to wearing trackers and managing any extra pressure knowing others are watching.
- Analysis available in 2D Rerun for athletes and coaches to improve future performances.
- Provide feedback to planners.
- Stimulate future organisers to provide GPS tracking.
The application was submitted by Duncan Birtwhistle, UKEOL coordinator, and also an elite orinteering himself. Several references were provided in support of the application, for example Katherine Bett (commentor) said:
Live GPS tracking would enable the commentators to convey a more detailed account of the races as they unfold, including letting the arena know when someone makes a mistake. It would also allow the commentary team to build tension when they know an athlete is nearing the arena and enable them to conduct a more detailed post-race interview, where the athlete can comment on route-choices or mistakes they've made.
Meanwhile Paul Murgatroyd (Head Coach for Talent, British Orienteering) said:
Your proposal has many merits! The junior international scene is very variable when it comes to use of GPS, but usually the top 20 or so runners of each gender will get tracked at JWOC and sometimes we have seen this at EYOC and JEC. It would indeed be very valuable to have juniors experience this much more often at domestic races and I would be supportive of such a venture.
The trackers will be loaned from the Scottish Junior Orienteering Squad (ScotJOS), and online tracking will be shown via Loggator. Tracking has been used in Scotland for some time, but there is little experience in other parts of the country. It is hoped this project will stimulate future organisers to want to provide GPS tracking. One of the aims is to increase understanding of the GPS tracking system with officials involved in staging major events so that it can be more easily provided in the future. A GPS Tracking Handbook will be created to guide future organisers.