World Schools Orienteering Championships by Louis Macmillan
From the 22nd to 28th of April I travelled to Palermo, Sicily for the World School Orienteering Championships to represent Lochgilphead High School and Scotland in the M2 selected category (boys in S2/3). I was one of 700 people from 27 different countries running in the championships, so it was an amazing experience meeting people my age from all over the world. The Scottish team was great to be a part of, and although I was the only athlete from Argyll, I knew most of the team from running alongside them in the Scottish Junior Squad.
The orienteering was held in the north of Sicily in a forest 800m above sea level, and it was completely different to what I was used to running on in Britain. I mp’d the long distance somehow but I got 4th place in the middle distance. I felt like I easily could’ve been on the top 3 with the mistakes I made, but it was cool to be on the mini podium (4th, 5th, and 6th) and at least come away with something and I was happy to be one of 4 Scots to get a podium finish.
We had two rest days in between the competition, the first one of which featured a mixed relay around the streets of Palermo. This meant being randomly matched with two people from different countries, I was paired with a girl from New Zealand and a girl from Portugal. Every team was given the same map with all the controls and between your team, you had to punch them all. The twist was that there were three controls you had to meet up at and punch together. Everyone was given time to work out who was going to get what (luckily my team spoke English) and then there was a mass start in the middle of the square. The first control was absolute chaos because it was on a tree at the corner of a car park, so there ended up being people climbing over cars to get to the control. I’d been sent to get the furthest away controls which meant I ended up running down some really dodgy alleyways, where people would start stroking you or you’d be engulfed by a cloud of smoke where some people had decided to have a BBQ. Our team ended up doing really well and we came 3rd out of 200 plus teams.
As I was the only piper in the team, I was asked to bring my bagpipes with me to lead the team at the Opening Ceremony, which was held in the city centre of Palermo. Everyone paraded up one of the main streets of the city to the arena in their countries, carrying their flags. The pipes easily drowned out the noise of the drums and chants from the other countries. Most people had never seen bagpipes before and the mayor of Palermo thanked me in his speech at the opening ceremony later.
The other day was filled with a tour of the city in the morning and a cultural programme in the evening. Every team laid out a table with pictures, postcards and food from their country, so you got to wander around and see all the different cultures which was really cool. Afterwards, every country had to perform a cultural dance or routine, so we did Ceilidh dancing and I led the team for the Gay Gordons and Dashing White Sergeant on the pipes. All the other countries loved it and loads of people wanted photos with me when I came off the stage.
The whole week was an amazing experience I will never forget, and I hope in the future I will be able to run abroad again. Thanks to Lochgilphead Joint Campus, Loch Eck Orienteers and Mid Argyll Rotary Club for sponsorship and to the Jura Passenger Ferry for helping me fundraise.
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21st May 17 by Ross Lilley