Orienteering World Cup 2005
Orienteering World Cup 2005
Surrey Hills, England
Orienteering World Cup 2005
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Heather Monro is back to her roots

BY ERIK BORG

Heather Monro
Heather Monro is a big hope on home ground when World Cup starts in Great Britain

PHOTO ERIK BORG

Last autumn Heather Monro (33) returned back home to the UK and this winter she has trained better than ever before. This year at the end of April, the 2005 World Cup series will start in the forests where she started her orienteering career.

I was born and bred and learnt to orienteer in south-west London, about 8 km from the sprint final area and 40 km from the long, middle and relay areas. My family moved away from London 15 years ago so it really feels like coming back to my roots!

Heather is a big British hope when the World Cup in orienteering starts on Friday, April 29. Heather has been among the best in the world for the past decade. In 2000, she finished as number three overall in the World Cup. Heather lived in the established orienteering town of Halden in Norway from 1994 until moving back to the UK last year. She benefited greatly from training and competing for this inspirational club, but in recent years had to overcome a series of injuries.

Ironically after leaving "orienteering's Mecca", the move to Britain may be the boost that my international career needs just now, she smiles.

Help at home

Things have gone very well since last autumn and Heather Monro has been able to make the most of the facilities offered by the English Institute of Sport (EIS).

I am working on an almost daily basis with their expert coaches, physiologists, medical staff and career advisors. It is the first time that I have ever felt part of the great British sporting family and I train alongside Olympians in different sports. The level of expertise is very high and the service is outstanding. The EIS coaches convinced me that after many years of top level orienteering, I wasn't going to get any better training in the same way as I always have, so I have taken a totally new, heavily periodised approach to this season's training. I have trained well and been completely free of injury for the first winter in 5 years. The effect remains to be seen, comments Heather.

All the injuries and years with training didn't take away your motivation to continue?

I've been going for many years and have had lots of injuries. Exactly that is partly the key to my continued motivation. My best season was in 2000 and since then I have had injury problems every year, until now! I am very excited about the prospect of being back in the kind of shape that I had in 2000. Moving home to England and working with the EIS has also been a renewed source of inspiration for me. So much so that I am considering postponing retirement for a while yet, she adds.

Heather is now living in Durham, an old university town about 20 km south of Newcastle in the north-east of the UK England. It's about 450 km from where the World Cup is being held.

Brother is the race speaker

What will it be like to run the World Cup on home ground?

I am so excited about the World Cup races. The World Orienteering Championships (WOC) in 1999 on home soil was such a wonderful experience, largely due to the atmosphere created by the home crowd. I am hoping that as a more mature athlete I will be able to make even more of this opportunity. Clearly there is an added 'pressure' of being on home soil and I have had to prepare for this. My brother is one of the main speakers for the event, but I am getting used to that. In WOC '99 it was my home club organising the starts, so I have good experience of how it feels. I know the terrain will be very good, so I am really looking forward to it. It has been really fun preparing for the races, travelling to Surrey and reacquainting myself with all my favourite places from 15 years ago! Now I am looking forward to a week where we in British orienteering can be really proud of our achievements, as athletes, organisers and supporters.

Yes, I did it!

What's your goal for the season?

I only ever aim to produce my very best performance on the day of the race. I cannot do anything about how my competitors perform. I have had a better winter of training than ever before and I hope that my best performance on the day will be better than my best performance previously... your readers can look up my results from previous World Cup years and read what they like into that! I just want to cross the finish line with the feeling of 'Yes, I did it!


Orienteering all day

BY ERIK BORG

Heather Monro is training hard to achieve good results and is also working hard to make orienteering a more popular sport.

I am employed by the British Orienteering Federation as one of the team of Regional Development Officers covering the whole of England. I work in the north of the country on a part time basis (approximately 50 per cent of normal hours). My job is very closely related to a government initiative to forge links between school sport and sports clubs, says Heather.

During the time I was in Norway (10 years) orienteering in schools in Britain really took off, however there are still few young people making the transition into the mainstream sport and that is what my job seeks to address. I work closely with orienteering clubs and schools and have been met by plenty of enthusiasm. Orienteering is still a relatively small sport and cannot compete with premier league football for media attention. Nor do we have the terrain and resources that the Scandinavians have. Many children do not have access to woodland or suitable orienteering areas in their home environment, however we are making progress and many urban recreation areas are being well used. The job is ideal for me with my teaching background and flexible enough to combine with training.

Heather Monro

PHOTO: PIRJO VALJANEN

What could the World Cup mean for British orienteering?

I really hope that it can mean a lot! The World Cup organisers have had an extensive development project running in connection with the races, so I hope that all their hard work bears fruit. WOC'99 was a technical success, however it was a long way from the media centres in London and by bringing the World Cup to this part of the country and working actively to promote it I hope we will manage to raise the profile of the sport. There is also a lot of hard work going into attracting and keeping young people in the sport and having the World Cup is undoubtedly a bonus for them.

What is it like being a top athlete in orienteering in Great Britain?

It's very different being in the UK, particularly where I am living, compared to being in Norway. I am sure that I would not have got as far as I have without having spent the time in Halden that I did. I have that experience to take with me now and I am finding training OK. I no longer have world class orienteering terrain and training opportunities on my doorstep, but I have a car and can travel to some pretty good maps in different parts of England. And it has been motivating and inspiring to come home to the Great British sporting family, concludes Heather.

This article is reproduced with kind permission from the April 2005 edition of the IOF O-zine. The full electronic magazine can be downloaded from http://www.orienteering.org/ozine0504.pdf

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