FORMER New Zealand orienteering star Tania Robinson today completed her comeback from an injury-enforced “retirement” to take her second national orienteering title in two days – reclaiming her Number One status by blitzing her rivals in the long-distance championship.
The Henderson 36-year-old professes to “love” Woodhill Forest – “it’s home ground….this is me. And today we had an amazing map – and a really cool course.”
Robinson took those positives – and turned them into an even more dominant victory than her win in yesterday’s middle-distance event: Today she ran 1h0m43s for the 8.6km course – almost 11 minutes quicker than second-placed Rebecca Smith (Rotorua).
The margin of victory, said Robinson, was “quite surprising.” After her win on steep farmland yesterday she was “quite tired” before today’s race: “But then the adrenalin kicks in….and you know everyone else is tired too.”
Another experienced hand, in the form of transplanted Danish orienteering star Carsten Joergensen, was happy to beat another Woodhill specialist, Darren Ashmore, to take the 13.3km men’s long-distance race by almost four minutes.
The 38-year-old, who has won a world relay title for Denmark, is now a resident Kiwi, living in Christchurch…and is well and truly into the traditional North v South rivalry: “There’s been a lot of talk about how well-trained all the Aucklanders were, so it’s always good to come from down south and give them a good go.”
These days, he said, the national champs are “very important to me: It’s the biggest race I can do. I was very stoked to win. Darren is always hard to beat here and the other local guys are very hard here as well.”
He reckoned he won despite “running a little bit too fast in places and making small mistakes. I think I maybe could have run a couple of minutes faster – well, orienteered a couple of minutes faster: I couldn’t have run any faster.”
Joergensen’s next competitive outing will be as a super-hero – running in costume to raise money for charity in the Christchurch Marathon at the end of next month. He’ll run as Thor: “All of the other good ones were already taken,” he explained.
Ashmore, who (like Robinson) is coming back after a break from top-level competition, was out to do as she had done – notch up his second title for the weekend, after a disappointing DNF in Friday’s sprint race.
Today he had “a few little misses” in navigating around the forest course, but conceded that even without them “I don’t think I would have beaten Carsten.
“It was that kind of terrain where you knew you had to concentrate really hard…but it was so beautiful and open most of the way, you also knew you had to run hard. So you were kind of running on the edge of your ability the whole time.
“It’s always a balancing act – but more so here, because the detail could really trip you up if you weren’t navigating well.”
Ashmore’s partner, 31-year-old Rebecca Smith (Rotorua) matched his runner-up spot, edging out new sprint champion (and rising star) Lizzie Ingham by just 10 seconds.
She was happy to salvage second – particularly since she’d made “a big blunder” early on in her run: “I think they key today was just to hang in and see it through to the end. At number five I thought I’d blown it!
“I wasn’t happy with my run technically – but everyone else has had bigger mistakes.”
Waimauku junior Thomas Reynolds – tipped as a “dark horse” for an upset today, as he regularly trains in Woodhill and is in good form as he prepares for the junior world champs – lived up to expectations with third place, 3m19s behind Ashmore.
He was just 18s quicker than near-neighbour Neil Kerrison (Helensville), who was on track to pip Reynolds until the third-to-last control: “I was starting to get a bit brain-fatigued – so I stood there in a bit of a daze, thinking ‘I can’t have made a mistake, I can’t have made a mistake,’ because I had been going quite well.”
Results: NZ Orienteering Championships, long distance – Woodhill Forest. Elite men: Carsten Joergensen (Christchurch) 1h17m28s, 1; Darren Ashmore (Rotorua) 1h21m23s, 2; Thomas Reynolds (Waimauku) 1h24m42s, 3; Neil Kerrison (Helensville) 1h25m0s, 4; Matt Scott (Christchurch) 1h25m42s 5; Brent Edwards (Rotorua) & James Bradshaw (Parnell) 1h26m03s, equal 6.
Elite women: Tania Robinson (Henderson) 1h0m43s, 1; Rebecca Smith (Rotorua) 1h11m36s, 2; Lizzie Ingham (Wellington) 1h11m46s, 3; Greta Knarston (Dunedin) 1h14m06s, 4; Rita Homes (Napier) 1h15m17s, 5; Lara Prince (Christchurch) 1h17m18s, 6.
For more information on the NZ Orienteering Championships, call…
NZ Orienteering Federation marketing & promotions officer – Mick Finn Ph 021 1868 933
Auckland Orienteering Club publicist Wayne Munro – Ph 021 955 099
WHAT? NZ Orienteering Championships
WHEN & WHERE?
Relays: Easter Monday (April 13), Woodhill Forest