Here is the remainder of the first email I sent to Dick Pound. His response was about 1/100th as long as my email and included the legendary phrases:
"I think perhaps you may be a bit over-sensitive"
"There is orienteering and Orienteering at a competitive level"
(Nice try, Mr Pound)
I then followed up by sending him a copy of the 2008 Canadian National Team calendar which I'm certain is a lot more persuasive than my email in convincing people that orienteering - I'm sorry, I mean Orienteering - is a Real Sport. I also gave a brief background of the career and non-sport accomplishments of the athletes in the calendar just to suggest that most of the parents would be fairly pleased with the way their orienteering kids turned out ;-) Here's the rest of the email...
Orienteering is in fact a highly competitive sport. You should come and try it some time ? I think you will find that elite orienteers are some of the fittest, most intelligent, and most competitive athletes you will ever meet. Orienteering is an individual cross-country running sport which involves map reading in unfamiliar terrain. At the start of a race (a staggered start to eliminate following) competitors are given a specially made highly detailed topographical map showing the location of a number of checkpoints which they must visit in a specified order. The route between the checkpoints is not marked and in fact the essence of orienteering is that competitors are free to pick what they feel is the ?best? route. The sport involves quickly recognizing the various route options between checkpoints (for example, over the hill or around it), selecting the best of these options, and executing this route choice while running through rough and physically demanding terrain. Winning times vary from 15 minutes to 90 minutes depending on the race format. Success in this sport requires very good fitness, determination, fast and accurate decision making, the ability to interpret the map and terrain accurately while on the run, and the ability to maintain intense concentration while under the stress of competition and the stress of running fast in rugged, physically demanding terrain. I know of no other sport that exerts such relentless high demands on a participant?s concentration, interpretation, decision making, and fitness.
To compete at the elite levels in orienteering demands a well rounded individual with excellent mental and physical ability. But not all orienteers take part at the elite level. It is a sport, unlike most others, in which all ages and abilities compete at the same competition (on different courses), so you will find children as young as eight or nine competing at the same event as their grandparents and as Canada?s elite.
Because of the set of skills required by the sport, I would also suggest that orienteering is in fact a sport that would be very good for parents to encourage their children to participate in. It teaches them navigation, decision making, independence, confidence, and it teaches them to enjoy the outdoors. It is safe and relatively inexpensive.
So, in many ways orienteering is just like rowing ? it can be done at the most recreational level which would involve simply enjoying the outdoors while getting minimal exercise, and it can also be done at highly competitive levels that require strength, stamina, determination, hours of practice, and fantastic mental abilities.
I applaud your efforts with WADA to address the issues of drugs in sport. But I would hope that you spend a little time to investigate the sport of orienteering? you might find the relatively drug-free environment a refreshing change from some of the other sports you seem to be more familiar with (though even orienteering has had its drug-related scandals).
I invite you to visit the World Orienteering Championships next summer in the Ukraine (www.woc2007.org.ua
) where you will certainly realize that orienteering is one of the most competitive sports in the world. And I also invite you to take part next July long weekend in a local, low key event, the annual Barebones orienteering weekend that will take place near Canmore ? perhaps even one race will be held at the Canmore Nordic Centre (www.barebones.ca
). You will be able to get a better appreciation for one of the world?s most demanding ? and most competitive ? sports.