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26 April 2007


REPORTER: If Mark Twain once described golf as "a good walk spoiled", what would he think about orienteering?

MAN 1: It's just nice to be out in the forest, not just running around a track or running on the roads.

CHILD: I like this sport because I like maps.

WOMAN: I just like the challenge. Every time you pick up the map, you don't know what's ahead of you.

REPORTER: They call the sport "bushwalking with bite". Although there's little time to take in the scenery, even at a club event on Black Mountain.

MAN 2: There's an amazing amount of bush out there that you run in that you drive past every day and you don't realise how rough and rugged it is till you get out there, so...

REPORTER: Grant Bluett is Orienteering Australia's head coach. Recently, in Europe, one of his athletes, Hanny Allston from Tasmania, became the first Australian to win a World Championship.

GRANT BLUETT: Oh, well, I was watching the race live over the Internet, so we were there shouting for her the whole way. It was just... We had a whole house full of people watching it over the Internet and watching the GPS tracking and, oh, it was just amazing.

REPORTER: The coach is also pretty handy with beginners. So, Grant, orienteering, let's go. What do I need?

GRANT BLUETT: Alright, first you need your map, that's the most important.


GRANT BLUETT: That will show you where to go, show you the lie of the land, find your checkpoints. When you get to a checkpoint, you've got your card. Punch that so you know... so we know you've been to the right checkpoint. You've got your compass. That will show you where north is. So there's your electronic timing device. Put that in at the finish so we know how fast you've gone. And don't get lost.

REPORTER: No worries. Sounds good. I'm ready.

GRANT BLUETT: Good luck.

REPORTER: Maybe my compass is broken. I'm pretty sure this isn't on the map. What the...? I'm pretty sure this map's wrong. Oh, well. This is too easy.

Running through this sort of terrain is daunting enough. Add complex navigation to a series of checkpoints and it's a recipe for a search-and-rescue mission, no matter how experienced you are. Learning from the dreaded boo-boo, Hermann Wehner has been orienteering in events around Canberra for more than three decades.

HERMANN WHENER: I started orienteering in 1972. A friend of mine said, "Oh, you like the outdoors. "Why don't you come orienteering?" And I said, as I've heard hundreds of times since, "What's that?" Canberra's bush setting is uniquely suited to this sport. Few cities have access to such massive areas of natural forest a stone's throw from the CBD.

GRANT BLUETT: Most of the best orienteers, the lead orienteers from Australia, end up moving to Canberra at some stage, 'cause it's so much better for training to be able to live in a city and have a forest there.

REPORTER: This environment is the key to the future dreams of ACT Orienteering to host a major event like the World Championships.

BOB ALLISON: Well, I think it would be a terrific boost for us. We demonstrated in 2000 when we put on a series of World Cup races that we've got the terrain that will test the world's best and we've also got the organisational expertise and experience to do it.

GRANT BLUETT: Have a sprint race in around Old Parliament House and the museum - around there would be fantastic, and then we could have a relay race on Mount Ainslie finishing at the War Memorial, and we could have the more technical races out in Namadgi in the real wilderness forests.

REPORTER: ACT Orienteering's bid for the 2013 World Titles would coincide with Canberra's centenary celebrations and should be just enough time for a few newcomers to get serious. World Championships...2013. I'll be there. I'll be there.