This is the text of the interview with “The National”, a Scottish newspaper, on May 21st 2016. It is replicated here as the original webpage my not be available to all. But they own the copyright of it.
THE strength of orienteering in Britain is a well-kept secret and it is another little-known fact that Scotland has a world-class orienteer as a mainstay of the British team.
Hollie Orr is ranked No 31 in the world and has made a good start to the 2016 season, claiming a top-20 finish at the first World Cup event of the year in Poland last month, which has set her up nicely for the European Championships in the Czech Republic next week.
The 27-year-old says that admits that taking19th place in the World Cup event was a timely confidence boost, and even more encouraging is the room for improvement.
She said: “I didn’t race very well but still finished 19th, which is a positive sign because in previous years, if I’d had that kind of race, I would have been a lot lower down the field.
“That’s a big confidence boost going into the Europeans so I’m looking forward to it.
“I’m as fit as I’ve ever been, which is always a good starting point. So much can happen in this sport, though – there are both physical and technical aspects, so it’s always tricky to set specific targets. I’m aiming to just focus on my own performance and have a good race.”
Orr, who is a mechanical engineer, ’s has made significant strides forward in recent months, after moving to Norway. She is a mechanical engineer and so combines her work with her sport, something she says is much easier to do there than it was in the UK.
“Orienteering is pretty big in Norway. Last year’s World Championships were broadcast live on national television and the percentage of the population who are involved in the sport is much higher than in the UK,” Orr said.
“The main benefit for me is that the club I’m at has a really good set-up. I do a lot more technical work and that’s been really good because in the UK, it can often be tricky to get the technical training and much easier to just focus on the running side of things.”
One of the challenges with orienteering is that so little of a race is within the athlete’s control.
They turn up at an event and will have no idea where they will be racing. They get on a bus and are dropped off at the start line, meaning the potential for meticulous preparation is limited.
Many elite athletes would be a struggle to cope, but for Orr, the unpredictability of orienteering is one of the main attractions.
“There’s only so much preparation you can do because there are a lot of unknowns, but that’s something that really appeals to me,” she says. “It’s different every time, so you need to have an adaptable set of skills and that’s what makes it exciting.
“You could be on sand dunes or in the Highlands of Scotland and I really like that. I think in life you need different challenges to keep it interesting.”
Orr was introduced to orienteering by family friends when she was a child. In her sport, which places as much importance on the mental aspect as it does on the physical, experience counts for a lot. While she admits that it can be a frustrating discipline, it is the potential for improvement that keeps her motivated.
“The big difference between orienteering and running is that with running, you only see marginal gains whereas with orienteering, you can see what you should have done differently and you know what to change the next time,” she said. “When you make a mistake, it’s so apparent. In the heat of the moment, when you’re under pressure and you’ve got so much adrenaline, you can think that the map matches the ground and so you keep going and then all of a sudden, you realise that it doesn’t.
“That’s the biggest challenge when you’re coming up through the sport because it can be easy to go a bit crazy and get completely lost.”
The year ahead looks promising for Orr. Her primary target is the World Championships in August and with the strength in depth of the British team improving all the time, the Scot is excited about the future.
“I feel like I can keep improving,” she says. “I see new challenges all the time and it’s a really exciting time for the sport. There’s a really good group of girls in the British team and so there’s a lot of excitement around the sport, especially the relays where we’re looking to get into the medals.”