Origins of the sport

The history of orienteering can be traced back to 19th century Sweden, where it originated as military training. The first large scale orienteering meet was organised by Major Ernst Killander in Sweden in 1919. The inaugural World Orienteering Championships took place in 1966 in Finland. It is now an annual event. The International Orienteering Federation was formed in 1961.

How it Works

Combining both physical and mental elements, the basic premise behind orienteering is to proceed from the start to finish of a course by visiting a number of control points in a predetermined order with the help of a map and compass. In order to choose the best possible route, orienteers will balance characteristics of the terrain against navigational difficulty and running speed, and the winner is the one who completes the course in the fastest time. One of the biggest challenges facing the competitors is to navigate and make quick decisions while running at high speed.  Traditionally orienteering took place in the forest over long distances but in more recent times the development of sprint races, often in city parks and streets has proved a popular innovation for the sport.  Today, use of electronic punching and GPS tracking has made orienteering a dynamic and visible sport. Besides foot orienteering there are also mountain bike, ski and trail (disabled) disciplines within the sport.

Format at World Masters Games 2017

Both long distance and sprint foot orienteering events will take place at the World Masters Games 2017. Age divisions will be divided into groups of five years from 35+ for men and women all the way up to 95+. A total of seven events will take place - the long distance events – model long, two long qualifiers and long final – and sprint events – model sprint, a single sprint qualifier and sprint final. Note, the model events are non-competitive practice runs where athletes run on a “similar” type of terrain to help familiarise them with the conditions.


Woodhill Forest located approximately 50km North West of Auckland Central will be home to the long distance events. The city will host the sprint events with the sprint model at the University of Auckland (Epsom Campus) located approximately 5km south of Auckland Central. The sprint qualification and sprint final take place in the heart of the city at Auckland Waterfront and the University of Auckland City Campus, respectively.

Expected number of competitors: 1000

Kiwi Legend: Patricia Aspin

Known as ‘Trish’ among her orienteering friends, the 69-year-old who lives on a farm in the Awhitu Peninsula has carved out an outstanding career in the sport for the past 40 years. The life member of the Counties Manukau Orienteering Club competed at an elite level up until the age of 40 and was a two-time representative for New Zealand at the World Orienteering Championships. She has enjoyed even greater success as a masters athlete, snaring three gold medals at World Masters Orienteering Championships in 1992, 2002 and 2009.  

Did you know?

Scandinavia is the spiritual home of the sport and the first non-Scandinavian male world champion was Swiss Thomas Buhrer in 2003, some 37 years after the inaugural World Championship event.

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