Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

What has changed?


A week or so ago Tom Hollowell wrote an email that's been circulating. He wrote some thoughts about his recent trip to the U.S., his orienteering and the WOC in Sweden. It makes for great writing fodder. I think I'll touch on a couple of things Tom wrote about over the next few days.

Tom is an American orienteer living in Sweden. He's been living in Norway and Sweden for years. He's about my age (runs M40). I don't know Tom very well. I stayed with him for a few days when he lived in Sandefjord, Norway (maybe 1987?). He knows a lot about orienteering.

You can see a short video of Tom running to a control at the district champs last year.

Here is part of what Tom wrote:

Since I found the attackpoint site I have been trying to keep up with the US/NA orienteering scene a bit. I guess I would have to comment that unfortunately it doesn't seem much has changed. I don't mean or want that to sound derogatory and please correct me if I'm wrong. It seems like there is a willingness to improve but still not the methods.

Tom lived and orienteered in the U.S. in the early 1980s. He writes that "it doesn't seem like much has changed." That got me thinking -- how does orienteering in the U.S. in 2004 compare to the 1980s?

I think the top level hasn't changed much. In the early 1980s, the best North American orienteers were Eric Weyman and Ted De St. Croix. The best women were probably Denise DeMonte and Sharon Crawford. I don't think the best orienteers now are any better (if they are, they aren't much better).

But, I think the level just below the top has improved a lot. I'd bet that the 5-10th best men and women now are much better than the 5-10th best in the 1980s.

One of the biggest changes since the early 1980s is what I'd call the "O' infrastructure." We've got a lot more good maps now. We've also got many more orienteers who know a lot about orienteering. Back in the early 1980s, if you wanted to learn about orienteering you might find a few people with 5-10 years of experience. But now you've got people with a lot of experience. Collectively there is a lot of knowledge about orienteering, competing and training. That just wasn't around in the early 1980s.

If an up-and-coming orienteer wanted to improve, the conditions are much better now. We've got lots of good maps and lots of good advice.

Tom wrote some more interesting stuff that I'll probably touch on in the next few days.

posted by Michael | 8:55 PM


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