Athlete Interview with Ethan Penck

Brodie Nankervis2022 Archive, Athlete Profiles, High Performance

This month Brodie interviewed recent Junior World Orienteering Championship (JWOC) debutant Ethan Penck. Ethan hails from South Australia, representing the Southern Arrows and this year had a successful domestic season which led to a place in the Australian Junior Team. During this years NOL season he impressively made the open men’s final of the knockout sprint, taking on several WOC representatives. Ethan has recently finished up at JWOC 2022, and Brodie was keen to find out all about it!

Hi Ethan, firstly congratulations on your JWOC performances, can you tell us about your week?

Cheers Brodie, 

Well, much like the Easter and Gold Coast competitions that were held earlier this year, my performance was quite average initially and improved with each event. The individual sprint as some may have seen, was going quite well for me until control 17 where I lapsed in focus. I look back now and realise that the mistake was inexcusable, but I cannot deny the struggle I endured throughout the transition from the technical Carapito town into simple bush, whilst running up hill with 35 degree temperatures at the close of the race. Honestly, it was one of those moments where I was so shattered that I forgot how to orienteer. To top that race off, I managed to roll my ankle over a rock going to the last control which unfortunately contributed to my fate in the selection process for the sprint relay. The sprint relay was another average performance from myself, making a horrible route choice error for the second control and then managing to run directly past number 6 to lose at least 45 seconds. I was quite happy with my persistence at the end of the race however, where I managed to catch up and stay ahead of a Belgian on the same hill that wrecked me in the individual. Finally, the urban sprint relay was by far my best event for the week. I started off strong coming through the spectator control in 4th and then dropping down to 23rd afterwards due to a couple of hesitations, collisions with others out on course, route choices, and fitness. I was super stoked to have finished the week with a good run and it has left me excited with the possibility of returning in November to race in the bush. 

A great week of racing, it sounds like you took a lot away from it. So where to next?

Well there is no chance I am slowing down, that’s for sure. In the time from now until I try to return in November, I will be continuing to improve my fitness and ensure that I get as much bush training as possible. After running on the practice maps in Portugal, I have a really good idea of what to expect. Warren raved about the similarities between what we were seeing and Aussie bush the entire week before our races began. He, like all of us Aussies who will be trying to come back in November, are super excited to run in the bush. I will be attending Oringen in Sweden, and will be going to the Aus schools competition in Victoria.

Exciting times, a lot of orienteering still to come! So tell us about how you got into orienteering and your development? 

I have been orienteering since I was able to walk, my dad always wanted me to orienteer. I must admit, growing up and playing multiple team sports like soccer and cricket, made it difficult to motivate myself to compete in solo orienteering events. I also struggled with the fact that Dante Afnan would always beat me, but he was and still is my longest friend in orienteering. I really only started getting into the sport when I was 15. Making the schools team for SA each year was a major highlight of my schooling life. I believe that my drive to orienteer better was fuelled by my competitiveness and desire to socialise with competitors after our races. The fitness and exercise that also came along with the sport was an excellent bonus. Today, I surround myself around orienteering friends on a weekly basis because they are always the most down to earth people I have met. This is still only the beginning of my story, I am looking to improve myself all the time and in any way possible.

What would be your advice to a junior orienteer wanting to make it to JWOC and international competition?

Like any high-level sport, you really have to invest yourself and make sacrifices. I gave up soccer last year in order to train efficiently and ensure that wouldn’t accidentally injure myself in an avoidable way. I also made the decision to attend as many NOL events as possible to ensure that I had a greater chance of placing well and allow the selectors to see my commitment. Whenever you race, give maximum focus and do not ease until you have crossed the finish line. Orienteering is brutal but rewarding when you give it your all.

That is some great advice, your level of commitment is obvious! Ok lets get into the quickfire round. Favourite JWOC 2022 race?

It definitely has to be the unofficial rural sprint! Although it was brutal in the sun, and the distance was tough to sprint, I had tonnes of fun running next to top class competitors for the first leg.

Best terrain or map?

Well, I am always a fan of the sprint races, so my favourite map that we ran on whilst in Portugal was Beselga. The streets and buildings just seemed to be so much tighter, making it very difficult to take the right gap at intersections. 

Best orienteering experience?

Surprising all the Aussie spectators at the run through control on the urban sprint relay when I was coming 4th.

Race food, what do you eat the day before competition?

Well I am not a fussy eater, so I will eat anything. I do however find it much nicer to go to bed on a satisfied stomach, not full. I always avoid unhealthy meals the night before a race. 

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

Going bald after my cricket club reached their donation goal for Movember last year. Apparently no one in the Aus and NZ JWOC team could believe me.

Thanks Ethan, enjoy the rest of your trip and goodluck in getting to Portugal later in the year! Where can people go to follow along?

Cheers Brodie. Follow me on Strava to keep updated with my training progress. I also have Instagram @ethanpenck