This month Brodie sat down with Olivia Sprod, South Australian elite orienteer who is on the rise, with an impressive NOL season in 2021. Olivia has had her fair share of Australian representation in the past, racing at JWOC in 2014 and 2015, then WUOC in 2018. Recently she has broken into the senior women ranks, being selected in the 2021 WOC Merit team. Liv has recently moved to Spain, and we are sure we will see her on the world stage again very soon!
Hey Liv, firstly, how is Spain?!? Can you tell us a little bit about where you are at the moment and what you are doing?
Sure thing! Where I am today started from a plan in January 2020, with the intention to move overseas. Unfortunately, my timing with world events wasn’t great… so I spent last year trying to find work and a way to keep the dream plan alive. Happily – and with much paperwork – I moved to Spain in September this year.
I’m currently living on the Mediterranean coast in a town called Elche, teaching English in a primary school. I work in a government run program to get native English speakers into schools. It’s great! Spain is fantastic. To most Europeans, my town may look standard but I’m loving the old buildings – it’s so different from what we have in Australia. The weather mostly feels like home and I’m enjoying the Spanish language and lifestyle, so far so good!
I must say I am feeling quite jealous now! Lets take it back a little, can you give us a bit of background to how you got into the sport and your journey to where you are now?
I did my first Orienteering course in 2008 at a have a go day in Belair National Park. What hooked me was the fact that this was a sport where I could beat the boys (they ran too fast and got lost) and 13-year-old Olivia thought that was pretty great. Since then, I’ve traveled with teammates and friends to annual Schools Champs, then on to NOLs annually. Sadly, these days I don’t have much luck beating the boys in my age category.
My approach has always been slow and steady. Running was never my advantage in orienteering, so since 2018 I’ve been working on that. Minimising injuries and enjoying other interests in life (work, uni, hobbies) has helped me to see my strength grow steadily. I worked up a good routine towards the end of 2019 and I think this was my key to having a successful 2020 sprint NOL round. That kept me motivated to keep training through the various restriction changes of 2020. So when 2021 came around, I was in a good form for the NOL season. It has taken me a few years to get top placings in the Women’s Elite class but it’s certainly satisfying and I’m feeling happy.
Since the NOL season this year, I had a full-time job with long hours so my running routine completely went out the window. In Spain however, I’ve found a good local running group and am keen to keep up the steady sessions. My sights are set on WOC in Denmark this year and am already excited to see friendly Aussie faces back in Europe in 2022 – my fingers are crossed for everyone hoping to travel!
It’s been great to see you in the top positions this year, looking forward to seeing what you can do in the future! Alright, lets move into some quickfire questions:
Top tip for aspiring young (or old) orienteers to improve their orienteering?
Just keep going. Sometimes races can suck, but never give up because you don’t know what’s around the next hill and what you can learn from completing a tough race.
What do you think is the best thing about orienteering?
Simply running through a forest. It’s a wild feeling and I love it.
One piece of advice you would tell yourself 10 years ago?
Have confidence in what you are doing and how you do it, because the path you’re on is a good one.
Favourite orienteering area in Australia and the rest of the world?
In Australia I love orienteering on the East coast of Tassie. I have fond memories of the Bicheno sprint map with a wild storm making waves crash over the rocks and controls.
As for the rest of the world, my favourite orienteering area would be in Finland, but it’s hard to choose. Although I haven’t experienced many areas of Finland, I had a great time training at the Fin5 Events before WUOC 2018 (even if I did run off the map on one of the days…) The forest is truly magical. The maps can be found here http://cal.worldofo.com/?id=9751
What is better, sprint or forest orienteering?
This is a tough question Brodie. I’m naturally drawn to forest orienteering but there’s nothing quite like the rush of a sprint. Especially technical sprints. Still, I think I have to say forest is better.
What is one thing that most people might not know about you?
I have a brother.
It’s a simple one but funnily it seems to surprise many orienteering friends because he’s never been to an event.
Thanks Olivia for your time chatting today, where can people go to follow your progress:
Strava: I’m a sucker for puns so you’ll have to excuse the name; Liv Sproductively
However, I’m not one for posting much on social media, so don’t expect frequent updates. Strava in particular due to my lack of modern GPS watch syncing ability. My trusted Garmin is from 2014 and I’m not giving up on it until it gives up on me.