A World Masters champion in 2015, Ross Brighouse believes the format of the orienteering competition at World Masters Games 2017 can provide a perfect tonic to the sport.
Orienteering – which combines the twin elements of endurance running with map reading – is often performed competitively on a cross-country terrain. However, the recent introduction of a sprint race into the programme, to be held at city centre venues on the Auckland Waterfront and University of Auckland in 2017 is an innovation Ross supports.
“Often the orienteering takes place quite separate from the other events and we don’t get that interaction,” explains Ross, who has 40 years experience competing in the sport. “At the 2013 World Masters Games we were based in the mountains 150km away from Turin, but with Auckland (World Masters Games) organising a sprint around the Auckland city this will give us that interaction and make it more entertaining for the orienteering community.”
Ross, a Waiuku dairy farmer, was first introduced to orienteering by a friend aged 30 and was immediately hooked by the unique intricacies of the sport.
“I found it challenged me both physically and mentally,” he explains.
A two-time former national elite champion and three-time New Zealand representative at the World Orienteering Championships, Ross later graduated to masters competition and has competed in numerous World Masters Orienteering Championships striking gold in the 55-59 age category at the 2002 event in Australia, as well as in the M70-74 class in Gothenburg in 2015.
“It is good competition,” he says. “I’ve enjoyed the comradeship and the fact that I have made so many great friends from around the world and visited many exciting places.”
Ross, a member of the Counties Manukau Orienteering Club, celebrates his 70th birthday in October and intends to compete in the 70+ category in both the sprint and long-distance races, to be held at Woodhill Forest, at the World Masters Games in Auckland.
But what are his personal expectations for the event?
“The best possible result I can,” admits Ross, who runs three or four times per week to maintain fitness. “I aim pretty high, but whatever happens, happens.”
But what qualities does Ross feel is needed to excel at orienteering?
“You need to be able to interpret a map and some people are better at picking it up than others,” he explains. “If you want to be competitive you also need a reasonable standard of fitness, but you don’t need to be hugely fit to get a lot of enjoyment from orienteering. In a way, I compare the buzz of orienteering as similar to golf. In golf you have 18 holes while on an orienteering course you have anywhere between 12 and 25 controls. Every time you hit the ball in the hole for golf you get a bit of a buzz and in the same way every time I find a control I get a bit of a buzz.”