Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

I is for income


Orienteering costs money. As sports go, it isn't especially important. But, you need some income to orienteer.

Today's Aftonbladet had an article about Fredrik Lowegren (the current number one-ranked orienteer in the world). Here is a bit of the article translated:

The orienteer Fredrik Lowegren trains the most and pays his own way

Fredrik is...a full time professional, just like Peter Forsberg, Fredrik Ljunberg, Annika Sorenstam and Kajsa Bergqvist [all fairly well known Swedish athletes].

He trains 20 hours a week, which is a lot of training. According to Anders Garderud, the newly named coach for the Norwegian national orienteering team, Fredrik trains more than any other athlete in Sweden.

While millions rain over athletes in other sports, Fredrik is happy if he breaks even each year....

Aftonbladet goes on to describe how Lowegren is at a training camp in South Africa with the Swedish National Track Team. But, he had to pay his own way. In Sweden, if it isn't an Olympic sport there aren't grants.

What drives an athlete to train more than everyone else when the salary is mostly honor? Fredrik is, in some ways, the last amateur in a world that has become professional and enormously lucrative for most of the world's top athletes.

"What drives me is a love for the sport. I do what I love. And I've got a vision -- standing on top of the podium at the world champs. Then I'll know if it was worth the price I paid; if the feeling is what I'd expected."

But don't you get envious of athletes earning millions?

"No. But, they've got it a lot easier. I'm not out to make a lot of money, but it'd be nice to be able to go to a training camp without having to worry about what it costs."

What about Bjornar Valstad?

Coincidentally (or maybe not?), Bjornar Valstad wrote about "wealth" on his homepage today. Here is a quick (and rough) translation:

"Wealth," that was what I was thinking about on my first training session today.

I am rich. Maybe not rich in terms of money, but someone who can do what I do is rich. It is a privilege to be able to lead my own life day to day and have the freedom to train in the environment I do.

As an orienteer, even with many world champs medals, be rich in economic terms. But, what does that matter?...

It is important to have enough money to do what we need to be good athletes; and that isn't really much money.

Orienteering income

I've written before that orienteers in the US are lucky to be involved in a sport where you can make a living (at least for a while) doing their sport. You can make enough to survive as a mapper. Working as a mapper is tough, but it is good practice and gives you enough time to train.

I lived the "O' bum" lifestyle for a short period (less than a year). It was a good time. In the end, I preferred mixing training and studying.

If I were a lot younger (maybe 22 or so) and really wanted to be as good an orienteer as possible, I'd try earning my livelihood as a mapper and train as much as I could. I'd either move to Europe (where both mapping and training opportunities are good), or I'd stay in the U.S. If I stayed in the U.S. and I was a bit of a sales-type, I'd try to make some money teaching orienteering to adventure racers (to supplement mapping income). I think you could make ends meet. It might not be a career, but it'd sustain you for a few years.

posted by Michael | 8:30 PM


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