Detailed review of 2019 World Schools Championships Orienteering

In early May the Scotland team headed to the World Schools Championships Orienteering in Otepää, Estonia, and you can now read the full, detailed reports written by Angus Ivory and Iris MacMillan.

A shorter version can be found in the latest issue of SCORE magazine, which you can download from our SCORE magazine page, and this longer version gives a great insight into not only the championships themselves, but also what it takes to get there.

Angus Ivory (INT) M14

Getting up at 4am was maybe a bit early, but it was worth it. I was excited to be going to Estonia for the World Schools Orienteering Championships! The Scotland team was quite small; there were 5 from my school (George Heriot’s, Edinburgh) as the school team, 5 individual boys and 5 individual girls from S2-3 (S4-6s had exams so couldn’t go). We were to fly to Tallinn and spend the afternoon there and then get a coach to Otepää on Monday for the events.

This wasn’t the start of everything, though. That was a damp day at Faskally for the qualifier, where my school won by 2 minutes over Aberdeen Grammar. We then had to fundraise for it – we held a number of bake sales at school events, at the Scottish Sprint Champs and at Arthur’s Seat for EUOC Big Weekend. We were also given some generous support from Interlopers and ESOC (thanks guys, you are all legends).

We got to Tallinn at midday so had the afternoon to look around the city. Alastair decided to do some busking in the popular squares, so naturally we did some highland dancing along with him. (I hope we didn’t terrify too many locals!)

After passing many, many trees, we finally arrived at Otepää, the event host town for the week. At first it seemed like we were missing out, as the Italian and New Zealand teams were staying in the modern, round hotel in the centre of the campus where we had most of our meals, but we soon realised our little lodge tucked away behind the trees, and complete with a ‘swimming pool’ (a pond!), was much better. A few of us did brave the cold and go swimming, but not for long (brrrr), and the hot showers inside were much needed afterwards.

Tuesday was our model event day – we got a map with a few controls and a large OOB area (used the middle) and we could go around however we liked. We also had the Opening Ceremony in the evening. The Scotland team, all clad in kilts, with a piper (Alastair) and our recently bought team mascot (a pink flamingo dressed in kilts and Scottish flags) must have been quite a sight! I got to carry the flag which was quite exciting, and afterwards I think the flamingo got into every picture we were in!

Wednesday was the first proper race: the long-distance event. This was my first experience of international starts. First, we were taken to quarantine, a yard with some footballs and stuff an hour or so before so we couldn’t see others’ maps. We were then allowed out 45 minutes before our start to go to the start, and try the warm up map on the way. Then we had to hand over our accreditation at the call-up, and away we were, into the nice forest for half an hour. I managed to make it to 4th place on the M2 School, with Euan Tryner from England in 1st, and Ewan Musgrave 6th in the M2 Select. In the afternoon we got to go up the huge ski jump, which was very impressive compared to any in Scotland.

It seems the weather is just as unpredictable as in Scotland – after being sunny the whole week and in Tallinn too, it decided to rain heavily for the cultural day. This was fine for going to the Tartu Ahhaa science centre, which had lots of messy water exhibits anyway, but was slightly annoying for our 2-hour landmark game – orienteering our way to the EMÜ University using an iPad and answering questions on the way. There we had first the cultural stalls and then a performance from each country. They included some Finnish dancing, Italian football, 40 English Morris dancers, our excellent ceilidh dancing and many others.

On Friday it snowed! Snowed in the morning, much to the Brazilians initial delight and then horror, and then lightly hailed while we were running the middle race. The middle was a similar area, marshier but faster running and finishing in the Tehvandi Stadium, the location of the long finish and opening ceremony. Euan Tryner once again got a well-deserved 1st in the M2 School and Ewan Musgrave was 4th in the M2 Select.

Saturday was the most important race of all – the friendship relay! I was grouped with a Belgian girl and a French boy, and we had to divide up all 49 controls around Otepää, meeting up at 3 specific controls. It was great fun, and magically nice weather again so even better. It was also swapping day – most people traded their kit with other nations after the finish – Swedish tops and New Zealand jackets were in high demand! I swapped for a Russian and a Chinese top, and a Polish hoodie.

We had the ‘sock party’ in the evening. In reality this just meant we had to take our shoes off in the hall, for the closing ceremony and team awards. Then though, an Estonian dance club came to perform, and then a band came to play. Great end-of-week party!

Going to Estonia was a great experience; I got to meet lots of international orienteers and compete in a world event. Thank you so much to Blair and Lorna Young and Jon Musgrave for organising it and looking after us while we were there!

Iris MacMillan (ECKO) W14

In April this year, I was given a once in a life time opportunity, to travel to Estonia with the Scottish team and compete in the World Schools Orienteering Championships, alongside 23 different countries.

I had to be selected for this of course, and went to two selection races at which I placed 1st and 2nd.  I was delighted to hear that I was one of the lucky few to be given this opportunity, and set to work fundraising.  I baked cakes and sold them at local Orienteering events, babysat, worked at a café and also wrote to local organisations asking them if they would like to sponsor me.  My hard work payed off and, by the end of the year I had raised enough money!

Day 1 – 28th April

We arrived, bleary eyed at Edinburgh airport, at 5am.  Standing just inside the departures entrance, was my team, I knew a few of the girls from a training weekend we had participated a few months before so was glad to see them.  In total, there were only 15 of us going from Scotland, 5 girls and 5 boys as well as a school team consisting of another 5 boys all from the same school.  After checking in our bags, we said goodbye to our families and headed towards security. 

We arrived in Estonia around midday at the small airport in Tallinn.  It looked roasting outside, but as we stepped off the plane, we realised it was anything but! After dumping our bags at the hostel and going out for lunch, the time was around late afternoon.  We all walked up to the ‘old town’ and looked at the amazing architecture.  We then walked to a park and did a short Orienteering course to blow out the cobwebs.  Tallinn was gorgeous and I enjoyed Orienteering around it.

Day 2 – 29th April

After a good night’s sleep and a swift breakfast we all climbed aboard a bus, it took us to the docks, and because we were such a small team – none of the seniors had come because it clashed with exams, so we were only half a team – we had to share the bus with a team from Sweden! They had taken an overnight boat across to Estonia and we were all very envious.

We drove for about 3 hours to a small village called Otepӓӓ, where the event would be held and also where we would spend the week.  As Otepӓӓ was so small there was not a hotel that could hold all 23 teams from around the world so we were staying in different places.  Luckily, the Scottish team was given the keys to a small chalet in the woods, it was very close to the event assembly and dinner was only a 10-minute walk away.  Some teams were staying up to 20 minutes away, and we were glad for the simple little cottage.

After settling in we set out to explore the wood around the resort, the area where the event was being held, made friends with some New Zealand orienteers, had dinner and then went in to town.

Day 3 – 30th April

The day was dedicated to one thing, training.  We got to know the area and also went through the start procedures.  The forest was very dense and I got used to running in it, taking the paths instead of battling through un-runnable woodland.  I also liked stretching my legs and getting a feel for the forest.

The coaches took great care of us, making sure we understood the starting orders and felt comfortable with everything, they always made sure one of them was there when we finished our race.  The run-in was on the athletics track just 15 minutes’ walk from where we were staying, so we could go back for a hot shower afterwards.

In the evening we had the opening ceremony, the Scots made a grand entrance, all marching behind one of our teammates, Alastair McCartney, who was playing the bagpipes.  We all dressed up in our kilts and even brought a pink inflatable flamingo which we dressed up in a kilt and plastered it in Scottish flags.  The opening ceremony was great and I was taken aback by the sheer scale of it all.  A couple of important people gave a speech and then they introduced us to these amazing dancers who danced to this cool Estonian music.  There were so many of them!

Finally, an Estonian competitor carried the torch of ‘the ISF Schools Orienteering Championships’ and lit the flame.  All the dancers danced off behind him around the running track (this was being held at the athletics stadium) and it was truly magical.

Day 4 – 1st May – The Long Distance Race.

Anticipation.  I was running around midday so had quite a while to wait for my start.  Around half 11ish me and my friend, Charlotte, walked up to quarantine which was held in a big square with buildings on all sides.  We were only allowed to leave quarantine 45 minutes before our start in order to get there and do a reasonable warm up.

I was there with plenty of time to spare and focused on keeping my mind clear.  My start time was at 12:44 but we all had a 5-minute call up, by this time I was pretty excited and felt ready to go! I had a reasonable run, made a small mistake at number 3 but recovered well, in the end I came about 20th overall, 1st Scot! There were about 75 people in my class so it was a pretty good result. 

Day 5 – 2nd May

Today was the rest day, the day we could make friends and see other countries’ cultures.  The Estonians were the hosts so they had organised the whole day.  We started off in a science centre where we spent the morning looking at all the different exhibits.  To take us to the hall where the cultural ceremony was taking place, they had set up an orienteering quiz around the city.  Our team set off gallantly but it was chucking it down and our team became more and more miserable.

We made it to the event centre and after wolfing down a quick lunch, we set about packing our table (each country had one) with ‘a little taste of Scotland’ everyone was mesmerised when we started pouring cups of Irn Bru, they had never seen anything like it! We also put out samples of shortbread, toffee, oatcakes and tablet for people to try.

My favourite table was probably the Belgians as they had really good chocolate! After scoffing our faces, we rushed to the changing rooms to get into our kilts.  Every team did a performance from their country and so Scotland did ceilidh dancing to the pipes! My personal favourite was the Brazilians who did really good dancing.

Day 6 – 3rd May

Today was the middle distance race.  We were all much more relaxed going into today’s race as we had been through the start procedure previously and knew what we had to do.  It was freezing outside and small snowflakes were falling from the sky.  My start time was around 12:50, so I left quarantine about half an hour before.  As it was so cold in the courtyard, all the teams where sharing a big gymnasium with radiators.

Me and Charlotte had a lot of time to spare so we decided to have a kick about with a couple of Belgians and Brazilians.  Before long some Russians joined us and it ended up turning into quite a big game.  I had a very fast race and ended up coming 12th! The course was more straightforward and shorter than the day before so it suited me much better.  Sadly, an English girl managed to beat me by 1 second! All the results were close but we gathered in the evening to give our congratulations to the winners with the flower ceremony.

Day 7 – 4th May

The final day.  This was a day I had been looking most forward to as it was the friendship relay.  Depending on your previous results, you were put into teams of three with people from other countries.  It was very hard to find our teams as there were another 400 people doing the same thing!

Eventually I found out that I was to run with a Spanish girl and Lithuanian boy.  The organisers tried to balance the teams out by putting 1 very good person, 1 medium and 1 not very good person in a team together.  I was the middle person so we decided that I would be collecting the medium difficulty controls.  We were given a map and it had all the controls that we had to collect marked on it.  It also had different ‘gates’ where all three of us had a to pass through together in order to continue with the course.  It was a lot of fun and I loved waiting for my team and running through the gates together.  At the final ‘gate’ before the run-in we all had to wait and then run down the run-in together holding hands.  It was an amazing feeling and a great experience.

In the evening we all took the bus to where the English were staying at a very posh sports centre, and all piled into a big hall where we had the team prize-giving and the closing ceremony, followed by a party.  The party was great and they got in some really good street dancers who were really cool.  Afterwards there was a massive rave and some good music.  We ended up getting back quite late as there was a problem with the bus drivers.  Me and my friends ended up being taxied home by the ISF president who was very nice and told us some funny stories, he also asked if we had enjoyed our stay and what were our favourite parts.

We got back to the chalet around half 12 and then had to rise again at half 5 to get the 3-hour bus journey to the airport and then the plane back home.  Looking back, it was probably the best week of my life.  I can’t thank you enough for giving me this opportunity.