At the age of 27, Hollie Orr could taste the sweet fruit of hard work. In the recent European Orienteering Championships, the British athlete performed greatly in a demanding Long Distance, finishing in the 6th place. In this interview to the Portuguese Orienteering Blog, she recalls the emotions of an unprecedented podium and speaks of herself, her past and present but also of a future that seems to open up right now.
I would start by asking you about yourself. Who is Hollie Orr?
Hollie Orr (H. O.) - I grew up on the North edge of Glasgow before going to Edinburgh to study Mechanical Engineering, I then spent two and a half years working in The Lake District. I have always loved sport and the outdoors but also like doing some art and creative projects, I like a variety in life and hate being bored.
Could you tell me about your first steps in Orienteering?
H. O. - As a family we were introduced to Orienteering by family friends when I was about 9. The first steps I remember in orienteering involved a picnic and a good play-park. My first big competition was Highland (WOC) '99, although I don't think my parents, never mind me, had much clue what was actually going on.
What do you see in this sport that makes it so special?
H. O. - I see something new every time, I think that is the simple beauty of Orienteering. Perfection is so hard to achieve in this sport and therefore there is that continuous drive for improvement. I think also friends and the community spirit involved makes it a great sport to be part of.
You've been improving day after day and we can see it, at least, since last WOC, in your home country. How important was to race in Inverness and what do you keep from the experience?
H. O. - Last year saw a cumulation of unfortunate events, and perhaps mixed with a little bit of stupidity, which resulted in WOC being a bit of a belly-flop for me. However, I had a great time watching friends and team mates perform well. I think the biggest pleasure for me came from seeing everyone in the UK, and especially those who I have grown up around, pull together and put so much effort into the event with such great results.
What means to you to be part of the British Orienteering team?
H. O. - I think the British team is in a really good place right now, the spirit in Czech was really good. We are challenging each other to be better and as a result the level is slowly rising each year.
We could see you performing really well in the Czech Republic, during the European Championships. Did you expect the 6th place in the Long Distance?
H. O. - No... I dreamed but I did not expect the terrain to suit my strengths so I was very surprised.
Can you remember the most impressive moment(s) of your Long Distance race?
H. O. - I think the two long legs defined my race, I really struggled mentally with the first one as I don't like being bored and half way through I had a minor panic inside that there was so long to go and that perhaps I had started to fast, but this really made me appreciate the next section of the course. The second one I realised pretty quickly that I had taken the wrong route choice and when I hit the track I had to tell my legs twice to get moving, I think winning that mental battle made sure I actually made the finish line.
Could you tell me about your other races?
H. O. - My other races did not go to plan. I decided to skip the Middle Distance as I had picked up some niggles in the Long and decided to focus on delivering one good race in the Relay instead of risking not being able to run. Unfortunately, we miss-punched in the Relay so I did not get to complete my race, these things happen, and we will be back to fight another day.
How do you rate the EOC overall?
H. O. - I thought it was great, the maps were good and the courses were really challenging. Nothing in the forest was compromised for the sake of the show, but equally due to the number of cameras in the forest and some well thought out arenas meant the show was also great. I think my onlybugbear is the recent trend, in striving to make courses as technical as possible, to have controls which are perhaps 'hidden' or 'ambiguous' in their surroundings. I worry that the definition of Orienteering is not portrayed to the public correctly when runners appear to 'find' the control only to return minutes later to 'punch' the control, however this is just a personal opinion.
The World Orienteering Championships is the next big challenge. Can you feel already some good vibrations about that?
H. O. - I am really looking forward to WOC this year. I am currently living in Halden where there is a great training set up and focus on WOC of course. I think the spring has gone a lot better than planned after a troubled winter so I am looking forward to putting in some more hard work and seeing what happens in summer.
What kind of event are you expecting?
H. O. - Of course it is going to be big, I remember being in awe in Finland by the sheer number of people and I have a feeling this year might rival that.
Tell me about your goals. Does your bet go to a particular distance?
H. O. - My focus is in the forest, I have no result based goal yet, I would like to focus on being as fit as possible going into the Championships and allow myself the time to focus fully on the orienteering and delivering a race I can be proud of, what ever result that might bring.
Would you like to share your biggest dream?
H. O. - Of course I dream of medals, that is why we are all here. Short term I dream of consistency and more results like that of EOC, but my biggest dream is a relay medal. I think to share success is the best feeling, to stand side by side with people you know have put everything you have into a race is very special.
[Photo: Iveta Malá / kade.cz/EOC2016; Hollie Orr is sponsorized by Icebug UK]