By Mark Etheridge
It’s bad enough that most of the South African team for this month’s 2009 World Games will be feeling disorientated as it is in the unfamiliar surrounds of Kaohsiung City, Taiwan.
So spare a thought for Nicholas Mulder and Tania Wimberley, South Africa’s two representatives in the orienteering competition, one of 10 sports that features SA competitors.
They’ll be doubly disorientated as they pit their wits against some of the world’s best “navigators”. Orienteering involves competitors navigating a cross-country course over various types of terrrain, with the aid of a map and compass.
Three types of event will be contested — sprint, middle distance and a mixed relay event. But with SA only having two entrants they won’t be able to make up a relay team (two men and two women).
Close on 40 countries (around 80 athletes), among them the top 13 orienteering nations from the 2008 World Championships, have entered the Games which run from 16-26 July and the South Africans will truly be up against it.
Both Mulder and Wimberley are from Johannesburg and are likely to find the extremes in temperature a shock to the system as Kaohsiung City in summer is a different proposition to a Johannesburg winter.
Competitors can expect daytime temperatures between 26-35 degrees Celcius, humidity averaging 76% and a distinct possibility of rain.
Mulder is currently South Africa’s top male orienteer and is coach of the SA team soon to compete in the Junior world championships in Italy.
Wimberley, 38, has already represented South Africa at world championships and was national champion in the longer event in 2006.
Says the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) employee: “Orienteering requires not only physical fitness, but mental stamina too. The technical aspects of orienteering need lots of practice, so it’s a bit like a good wine — your skills get better with age. It cuts across the age barriers and means that the youngest and fittest will not necessarily win. Its as much about finishing the event with the least number of mistakes than being able to run fast or far.”