Calculating Crone looks for control in Colombia

Today we feature the sixth in a series of pre-event stories ahead of South Africa’s campaign at the 2013 World Games in Cali, Colombia. South Africa will be represented... Read more

Today we feature the sixth in a series of pre-event stories ahead of South Africa’s campaign at the 2013 World Games in Cali, Colombia. South Africa will be represented in nine different sporting codes. MARK ETHERIDGE looks at the sport of orienteering, which features a mixture of brawn and brain.

Like many of the codes in Team South Africa at the World Games in Cali, Colombia, orienteering will be represented by a one-man show in the shape of Michael Crone.

The previous Games in Taiwan saw Nicholas Mulder and Tania Wimberley contesting the specialist sport and this time Wimberley’s back in the fray, but in a manager/coach capacity.

Twenty-two-year old Crone is a relative newcomer to orienteering, a sport where one learns to think on one’s feet while negotiating all sorts of terrain with the help of a map and checking in at mandatory checkpointsÔǪ all at the fastest pace possible.

Currently a fifth-year medical student at Wits University in Gauteng, Crone only started orienteering four and a half years ago. “Alex Pope, a friend of my brother, introduced me to orienteering in my first year of varsity. He’d been doing it throughout high school so I just thought I’d try it out.”

One thing led to another and a year later he was part of the SA junior team to go to Denmark. In 2011 he was at World Championships in France and also in Switzerland last year.

“Denmark was my first overseas orienteering experience and it was a shock to the system. In France I suffered with the difficult terrain, focusing mainly on the sprint distance but had a terrible race.”

With adversity comes experience though and Crone was back in Europe to learn more of the skills of his trade. “I was lucky enough to spend four weeks there before the championships and I was able to race often. I learnt the areas for the qualification event well and managed an 11th place.”

The first 15 qualified for the final and Crone was ecstatic. “I didn’t have a great race in the final, only managing 43rd spotÔǪ my main preparations had been for the qualification so I didn’t know the area very well for the final.”

Each continent gets a place for World Games and Crone will be Africa’s representative in Cali.

Crone, right will be in action on two occasions, in the sprint and middle distance events. “I do both the sprint and the middle because they are both actually like sprint races at World Games (the middle is just a bit longer).

The sprint course is around 4km and has 20-metre of climb, very flat so it should be an all-out sprint. The race is in a residential area with a gridiron street pattern and some parks among the houses. There’s also a hospital and a linear park running along the river (the park has a cyclocross course). The middle distance is more of a park area with thicker vegetation.”

During the sprint event, competitors will be faced with 20 controls, hidden in the most unlikely of places while the middle distance  features a further 13.

With the World Games in mind Crone has made some adaptions to previous years. “I was training at Wits but the athletics coach didn’t quite understand the exact nature of the training that I needed and after two years with him I had a good idea of what kind of training to do.”

He also consulted with a British coach who had a book published on the particular skills of training for orienteering. “Physically I’m stronger and faster than I was last year, now it’s just important to complete my mental training and have a good idea what to expect.

“I think I’m expected to beat most of the guys from outside of Europe but it’s still a tough field. Apart from the continental champions, the rest of the field is filled with the best-ranked orienteers in the world and this field is a far more difficult field than the one I faced at World Champs.”

In a qualification race at world champs each country only has one place but at the World Games Switzerland will have three representatives and most of the other elite orienteering countries two. As mentioned earlier, it’s a one-man show for South Africa.

And his expectations for Cali? “Well I’d love to come in the top 25, but anything can happen. There’s also the possibility of a bad race but that’s not something I want to think about at all.”

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