On orienteering, current World Champion Thierry Gueorgiou once said, “No matter how hard you work, no matter how great your talent is, your mind is the ultimate weapon. Most of the runners use it against themselves!” Bearing this in mind, you would hope that Oxford could produce some talented orienteers, and it would seem, with two athletes now selected for the World Universities Championships, that this is the case.
The two athletes, St. Anne’s student Peter Hodkinson, and recent Exeter graduate Alan Cherry, are now gearing up for the World Universities Orienteering Championships after successfully making the Great Britain squad for the event which will take place in the Czech Republic
Cherry is taking advantage of a rule which allows the participation of any former student who has graduated within a year of the World Championships.
Both Alan and Peter were Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme scholars here, and are ranked among the best Orienteers in the country, with Peter currently ranked 11th, and Alan 30th.
Peter, who was the Blackwell’s Scholar and nominated for Oxford University Sportsman of the Year 2013, formed part of the Oxford men’s team relay which finished 3rd at 2014 BUCS Championships in Leeds this February.
In 2013 he placed highly in both the varsity cross-country event and the varsity steeplechase. This will be Peter’s 2nd trip to a World University Championships after he travelled to Spain two years ago after a run of performances including 3rd in the Senior British Championships and 3rd in the BUCS Championships which led to his selection.
There is more Oxford interest too, as the team manager is former Sports Federation Administrator Edward Nicholas.
From the 12th to the 16th of August the Great Britain team will take part in a series of races, ranging from sprint races, to long distance relays.
Taking place in the Czech region of Olomouc, the discipline requires both athletic and mental prowess, as athletes must be both quick across difficult terrain, and able to correctly locate the checkpoints which form the orienterring course.
Hodkinson told Cherwell, “This will be the second time I’ve raced for Oxford and Great Britain at the World University Orienteering Championships. My big targets are the Sprint and Relay events, in which I am hoping to win medals. Orienteering requires a mix of navigation skill and running speed, which I plan to continue to work on by training with the Athletics club throughout Trinity term.”
The event is held biannually, usually at a location in Europe, and in 2012 the championships were held in Alicante, Spain, and saw Sweden and Switzerland come away with the most successful medal hauls, whilst David Schorah was the most impressive British participant, taking top 20 finishes in several events.
To provide a short history of the sport, orienteering first gained popularity as a military exercise in 19th century Sweden. Then the term simply meant the crossing of unknown land with just a map and compass.
By the 1930s, orienteering was becoming popular in Europe as inexpensive and reliable compasses became available. After World War II, orienteering grew popular worldwide and in 1959, an international conference on orienteering was held in Sweden to discuss the formation of an orienteering committee. As a result, in 1961 the International Orienteering Federation (IOF) was formed and represented 10 European countries.
Orienteering is not just the preserve of elite athletes though, on Saturday 3rd May, this year’s orienterring cuppers is taking place in the vicinity of University Parks between 2:30pm and 4:30pm, so there is an opportunity for novices to perhaps appreciate the difficulty of this unheralded outdoor pursuit.