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Tara Melhuish - JWOC Story and Photos

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Going to JWOC was the most rewarding experience in my orienteering career so far. It was amazing to be able to compete in new terrain against the world's best and Switzerland delivered some excellent races.

 

My JWOC experience started two weeks before the competition with extra training in Switzerland. Asha, Lanita and I competed in a double round of Swiss national events in Saint-Cergue - a middle and long distance - with our guide Lukas Frei. These were lots of fun, but technically challenging for me in particular when not used to the terrain and forest, and much more difficult underfoot to run through.

 

We then proceeded to travel to the very opposite side of the country where for the next two weeks we would stay in Sent, just outside of Scuol (embargoed) in the Engadin Valley. This was very scenic, with constant mountain views and the warm sunny weather made it even better. For the first week we trained with other team members who joined us there, running on the scenic trails around Sent and on the training maps accessible by train down the valley. This was very useful as I was able to acclimatise and get used to the features and climb of Swiss terrain, taking as long as needed. The maps were very steep and had complex rock and contour detail which took lots of concentration to focus on. It was also difficult to notice features on the ground when everything was covered in green moss or grass.

 

 

The next week was a full team training camp with coaches Julian Dent and Ralph Street. This was very much a taper week but we still visited many maps (some of the same) and did lots of technical work such as discussing different events, mental scenarios and map walks where their expertise was very helpful. Here we also did many fun team activities including research tasks about Switzerland (classic teacher move).

 

Once the official JWOC week started we moved to Ftan. Everything got very exciting with the opening ceremony as this was the first we had seen of most other teams and the live debut of the official JWOC song Our Road.

 

Then it was down to business with the first race - the sprint. I was feeling prepared for the race around Scuol after training on similar maps and studying it from handmade maps, however after rushing out of control 5 I lost 2mins and any hope of doing well. It was a good and fun course but messy orienteering from me. However it was a great day of celebrations for the team when Henry came 6th and undoubtedly got the loudest cheer of everyone on the podium.

 

Next was the long and my best race of the week. It was held even further up in the mountains at Val Mustair, which was definitely the most scenic event I've ever done. The terrain was very steep and the course consisted of technical areas along with long, hilly route choice legs. Here pacing yourself and executing the easiest route for you was the key to a good race which I did quite well. This event as well as the sprint however showed just how much it takes to be at the top of the world, as small mistakes or pure running speed lost a lot of time compared to the winners.

 

After a rest day came the middle qualification and another bad race from me. I took the start slow as it was very technical but made a couple of big mistakes when the legs became longer and continued to lose small amounts of time by not spiking each control exactly. It was very import to keep map contact at all times when here were so many rock and complex contour details. This landed me in the C final for the middle which was a furthermore technical race. After some small mistakes at the beginning of the course, I finished the course off well in what was very fun and interesting terrain. It was so interesting to have so many more ground features than in Australia and extremely satisfying to nail legs which required so much reading and following.

 

The final event was the relay in somewhat different terrain to the previous days. The ground was mostly grassy and very runnable but the courses contained large amounts of climb starting straight up the hill out of the start/changeover area. There were many more difficult hillside controls where noticing height change was very important. The entire course provided a brutal physical challenge as well as some technical areas of controls. Again we were shown that it takes immense terrain fitness and technique to succeed at this level.

 

 

The entire competition week was so much fun even despite the mixed results and staying with the team brought us all closer together with many great memories. The Engadin valley was a very scenic area for the competition to be held which made the experience even more rewarding. I will definitely be returning home much more motivated to train hard and take on JWOC again next year. Thanks to everyone in Australia who supported me through training, competition and allowed me to get to JWOC - in particular Parawanga and Orienteering ACT.

 

Tara Melhuish

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