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ATHLETE INTERVIEW WITH ALVIN CRAIG

Welcome to another athlete interview. This month Brodie Nankervis is joined by Alvin Craig, one of our best juniors in Australia.

He’s been running for a few years now, with some of his notable achievements being at the Australian Schools Orienteering Champs (ASOC) in 2019, where he was first in junior boys in both the Sprint and the individual. Then in the 2022 ASOC in senior boys, he came first in the Sprint and was the first Aussie in the individual forest race as well. He also was the winner at the Oceania Sprint Champs in 2023 in the Men’s 20 category.

This year he’s just been selected in the Junior World championships team to compete in Czech Republic in a few months time.

In this athlete interview:

  1. Living abroad in Sweden
  2. Running in Tio Mila and other competitions
  3. Alvin’s journey with orienteering 
  4. JWOC and future plans for orienteering
  5. Rapid-fire questions with Alvin

1. Living Abroad in Sweden 

It’s good to get you on, Alvin! I was trying to track you down a few months ago, but you were in the middle of a bit of a move over to Sweden. So firstly, how’s it going over there in Sweden? How long have you been there for and what are you up to?

It’s going great. I’ve been here for about 1 and 1/2 months. I’ve got a bit of uni work to keep up with but mainly just orienteering as much as possible, really.

You’re studying online, is that right?

That’s correct. 

It’s a pretty cool opportunity to be overseas while also studying at the same time.

Definitely. That’s something I consciously thought about when I picked my university course, that I’d be able to combine it with overseas travel. The degree I’m doing at the moment is computer science but I’m actually doing my elective course, so it has nothing to do with computer science.

How often are you getting out to do orienteering? Are you out in the forest a few times a week?

I’ve been trying to get out 3 or 4 times a week. Especially in the beginning when I just got over here, trying to get used to the terrain took a while to get used to because it’s quite different to Australia in the sense that it’s quite soft under your foot and you sink down a lot.

That’s really interesting. Are you doing some sort of session each time or are some of them just easy running through the forest?

There’s some more technique focused sessions and then some of them are just easy runs through the forest as well. I try to do even my easy runs through the forest in the terrain.

Do you feel like you’re starting to get used to running in the forest there and how does it feel compared to when you first got there?

I’d say I’m getting used to it a bit. When I first got here, I really felt quite slow through the forest. But then you sort of just get used to it. It’s a bit of a subconscious thing- getting used to the terrain, the obstacles of the terrain and the way the ground feels.

2. Running in Tio Mila and other competitions

Have you done any competition since you’ve been in Sweden?

I’ve done heaps! I’ve been going to the Swedish league, so the equivalent of the National League in Australia. I’ve also run a bunch of relays, including Tio Mila, one of the big ones, which was last weekend and then a few small ones as well.

Awesome! How was that experience at Tio Mila? What leg did you run?

It was amazing. I ran leg 8 for OK Ravinen’s second team. It’s really special, getting up in the middle of the night to go running through the forest. It’s pretty unique.

Were you out there in the dark or was it starting to get light when you were out there?

It was starting to get light, but I had to get up in the middle of the night and I still went out with a headlight.

Sounds like a fun experience. If anyone hasn’t experienced it before, it’s worth doing at least once, even if you’re not out there running at night. Just being a part of it is nothing like anything else I’ve ever done.

100%, even just the atmosphere is pretty crazy.

It’s that next level of excitement because it is overnight. It’s like this thing that you shouldn’t be doing because usually everyone’s sleeping. But you have to time when you go to sleep and get up and see how your team’s going. I know a lot of orienteers in Europe see it as one of the biggest highlights of the calendar. Pretty cool that you got to be a part of it.

Absolutely.

Whereabouts did your team end up?

We got 75th, I believe.

That is pretty good for a second team. Where was your first team?

Yeah, we were happy with our result. The first team came 17th if I recall correctly. They were second two years ago so I think they were aiming a little bit higher than that. But that’s what it’s like when the competition is so strong.

And you must have some pretty good depth, if your second team’s coming 75th.

It’s really a testament to Ravinen’s youth organisation, which is really good. Lots of trainings and all sorts of stuff, there’s a real focus on that. Trying to foster youth development and it pays off when people come up through the ages. They eventually end up as elite runners. Ravinen has a lot of runners who have grown up through the club and most of the current team has been with Ravinen a long time, as opposed to a lot of other teams that haven’t got that.

You’re referring to other teams getting people to run for them, paying them a contract or something like that?

Yeah, exactly. 

Great that Ravinen have such a good culture. That’s exciting!

What’s been your favourite race apart from Tio? Or maybe your best performance so far that you’ve had over there?

Probably one of the local races I’ve done, not one of the big ones. The Swedish league that I did, which was a big race, was the first weekend I got here and I was still jet lagged and tired, so I didn’t really run that well physically. Some of the local events I’ve been running at, I’ve run well. There have been good runners in those events and I’ve done pretty well compared to them.

3. Alvin’s journey with orienteering 

Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into orienteering or your journey so far through orienteering? I know it’s had its ups and downs and it’s an interesting story that maybe not all of us will know. 

Sure. I grew up in Sweden and was born into an orienteering family. So, I’ve been orienteering forever, really. I grew up doing club trainings when I was 8-10 and then I’ve been doing orienteering continuously for most of my life. I’ve had a few breaks here and there. I was in Sweden until I was 11 and then came to Australia in 2015. I kept doing orienteering and went to Aus champs with the school’s team for a few years. And then I had a bit of a break over COVID and I’ve sort of been on and off a few years. But now I’m back training for this season.

It’s great to see you back. Would you say that the school champs was something that kept you in the sport?

You obviously came from a strong orienteering family, but was ASOC something that cemented your love for orienteering or was it already there before school champs?

It was already there, but it also cemented it. I think it’s such an important event in the Australian calendar. We could do with more of it to be honest. Those types of events where you’re getting kids together and competing, I think it’s something that kept the interest for me for sure.

It sounds similar to what you were referring to with Ravinen before. Maybe it’s one of the closest things we have to that sort of environment where we’re encouraging all of our youth to reach their potential. It’s cool that we have it.

Yeah, I agree.

It seems like this year you have taken things to the next level. What made you want to push yourself? You’re over there in Sweden getting really stuck in to orienteering, is there anything that’s changed or anything that put you on this pathway for this year?

Training wise, not much has changed. I’ve definitely gone on a bit of a journey, I guess I’m more sort of mature now. With my training I feel like I’m a lot better at listening to my body and the signals it gives with training. For example, I got sick a lot more because I’d over-train when I was younger and push myself past my boundaries. Now I’ve just embraced being patient, listening to my body and what it’s saying. I’m trying to build slowly in terms of my training. That’s really the goal this year- to just keep building and gain some experience.

You talked about how you feel like you’ve matured over the last few years and it’s really cool to hear, because if you are wanting to stay in the sport, you’ve got a long future ahead of you! 

4. JWOC and future plans for orienteering

I mentioned that you are in the team for JWOC this year. What’s the plan over the next few months in the lead up to those championships?

I’ll be staying here in Sweden for a while, before I go to Jukola in Finland. After that, I’ll head over to the Czech Republic. I’m not sure when I’ll go exactly, but definitely before JWOC to try to do some training in the terrain before the races.

Do you have a particular focus in terms of discipline that you’re most interested in or are you sort of just keen to have a crack at all the races?

I’m keen to have a crack at all the races. Obviously, there are some races I probably enjoy more than others. I enjoy the sort of forest races more than the sprints. But it’ll be fun to run all of them and I don’t have a specific focus.

Nice. What’s after JWOC? What’s the plan for the rest of the year: come back to Australia or stay in Sweden for a bit longer?

I’m staying over for a bit longer. I’ll do Oringen and there are a few other races, so I’ll probably be staying around until late August. Then I’ll be coming home for the Australian Champs, where I am setting the school’s long distance.

Great to hear that you’re already giving back and contributing to the school’s carnival. That’s awesome. Do you have any aspirations for the coming years or are you just going to see where it takes you? 

A bit of both. Obviously you dream, so I do aspire for stuff, but at the same time, I’m sitting back and just seeing how things go as well. I’m not putting any sort of pressure on results or special goals. I really just want to keep building and see where it takes me. That being said, I would like to run some World Cups or something similar for Australia.

I think it’s important to have that aspiration to keep pushing yourself, but also live in the moment and enjoy the experiences that you’re having. I’m super excited to see how you go this year. I’m sure everyone will be interested to catch up with you when you’re back at the Australian Champs later in the year. 

5. Rapid-fire questions 

What’s your favourite discipline? Sprint or forest? Forest.

Favourite map that you’ve ever run on? Lunsen in Uppsala, in Sweden.

Favourite race experience that you’ve had in the past? That’s a really tough one. Probably youth Tio Mila. It’s a ten person under 20 relay in August during the night and it’s amazing. That’s probably my best experience ever.

What do you have for breakfast before an important orienteering race? In Australia, it’ll be weetbix with milk and some sort of frozen fruit. Here in Sweden I have porridge.

Whereabouts can people go to follow along this year? Well, I don’t really post heaps of stuff but if you want to follow somewhere I’d suggest following either Newcastle Orienteering Club or OK Ravinen, the Swedish club I’m running for. Also Orienteering Australia will be posting about JWOC so good to follow along there as well.

A big thank you to Alvin Craig for being part of our athlete interview series and having this interview with Brodie Nankervis! We hope everyone gets a lot out of this interview! 

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