Iris Macmillan's World Schools Orienteering Report
Here is Iris's report. She sounds as if she enjoyed herself very much! Thank you Iris for a very interesting and enthusiastic report which will hopefully inspire all EckO's up and coming juniors to work hard at their orienteering and benefit from this sort of experience.
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 2 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 paid off and by the end of the year I had raised enough money!
28th of 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 in a few months before so was glad to see them. In total, there was 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 Tallin. 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. Tallin was gorgeous and I enjoyed Orienteering around it.
29th of April
After a good nights sleep and a swift breakfast we all climbed aboard a bus, it took us to the docks, and because we where such a small team- none of the seniors had come because it clashed with exams so we where 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 where all very envious. We drove for about 3 hours to a small village called Oteppa. It was where the event would be held and also where we would spend the week. As Oteppa was so small there was not a hotel that could hold all 23 teams from around the world so we where 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 where staying up to 20 minutes away and we were glad for the simple little cottage. Before dinner we set out to explore the wood around the resort where the event was being held, we made friends with some New Zealand people, had dinner and then went in to town.
30th of 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 insead 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 15minutes walk from where we were staying and 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 team mates who was playing the bag pipes. 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 again) and it was truly magical.
1st of 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 walked up to quarantine which was held in a big square with buildings on all sides. We where 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 and focused. 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 over all, 1st Scot! There was about 75 people in my class so it was a pretty good result.
2nd of 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 water, 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 celidh dancing to the pipes! My personal favourite was the Brazilians who did really good dancing.
3rd of 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 where falling from the sky. My start time was around 12:50 and 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 my friend 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 straight forward 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 where close but we gathered in the evening to give our congratulations to the winners with the flower ceremony.
4th of 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 was 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 where staying, at a very posh sports centre, we 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 where 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.