Sonia Hollands JWOC Report

Junior World Orienteering Championships which were held in Borovets, Bulgaria has to be one of the most memorable and joyful experiences in my sporting career so far as a junior elite. The time spent over in Bulgaria comprised of a Training week prior to JWOC Competition week. The training week was aimed at terrain familiarisation, simulation races, observing the features that appear on the unfamiliar terrain and running on the model maps, which had some relevance to the competition terrain. I utilised this training week as best I could so that I would prepared for the coming week. I was happy to have much needed support and advice throughout the two weeks from the New Zealand coach Rob Jessop and Australian Elite Hanny Allston, as without these two I wouldn’t have been as prepared or ready for competition week. With 39 nations competing I knew this week was going to be tough especially running against more experienced orienteers.

Competition week was going to be not only physically demanding for the body but also mentally and technically draining. First up was the sprint distance, which was held in the local town of Samokov, little did we know the quarantine was actually held indoors. One thing that I managed to control was my nerves, however I felt the tension building up in pre start. The sprint was probably the most consistent run through the week with a placing of 79th in my first international race, over a flat and fast urban town, 2.5km course with 17 controls.

The following day was the long distance held on the map Maliovitsa, this was a physical and tough course over 7.2km with 16 controls and around 210m of climb. We were racing at 1300-1750m above sea level. The terrain on this map was nothing like New Zealand terrain and I found it very technical and hard to keep in touch with the map and the physical surroundings. I was one of the last starters out of the 134 Women that were competing which gave some advantage such as tracking in the forest, but this did not help so much and finished in 96th place. I would say this is one of the hardest courses I have done and am proud that I finished.

Next was a well-deserved rest say which gave us the chance to visit the middle model map called Zheleznica. Compass bearing and exit direction was definitely the key for the upcoming middle qualification on Zheleznica North. I had the luck of starting fairly early in my heat, I was in the 3rd Qualification, the terrain was typical Scandinavian terrain with many gullies and detailed with rock features, streams and mixed vegetation, although the course was a short distance of 2.4km and 13 controls, I placed 32nd in my heat and was 12 places off making the A-final. I ran in the B-final the following day with 4 other NZ women, this was run on Zheleznica South with a slightly longer course of 2.9km with 13 controls. I had a fairly clean run with only a few technical errors and placed 25th only 12mins down on the B-final winner.

The relay the following day was held in Borovets on a cross-country skiing course, with thick vegetation and many distinct tracks which would be an aid to route choice. I was in New Zealand 2 and was first leg runner, the mass start was rather scary having not run one before but I managed it rather well. I came in before the other New Zealand 1 team passing onto fellow team mate Sophie Harrison then Helena Barnes, it was good to finish the week with a clean run and be happy with my performance. Our relay team finished in 33rd place.

Overall I feel that having been selected to represent New Zealand at the Junior World Orienteering Championships has given me much needed experience internationally and has motivated me to prepare more and train smarter I am not only proud but very pleased that my first JWOC went well and the performances were successful. I now look forward to training hard for Oceania Championships in Tasmania next year.

I would like to thank Counties Manukau Orienteering Club for there generous grant towards covering some of the cost of competing overseas. It was much appreciated, I would also like to thank the committee members for their support in helping me achieve this goal and getting me to where I am now within the sport.

Sonia

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