This month Brodie sat down with Aislinn Prendergast, seasoned senior elite from Victoria who has been representing Australia for over 14 years, including an impressive 35th in the WOC Long distance in 2012. Aislinn remains a dominant force in the senior women category, so Brodie was keen to catch up to look back on Aislinn’s great orienteering career and find out what aspirations she has for the future.
Hey Aislinn, thanks for your time for a chat, can you tell us about your very first competition running in the green and gold?
My first time running for Australia was at JWOC in Sweden in 2008. It was an amazing experience getting to experience the “orienteering heartland” and I remember on that trip I also got the chance to run in my first Jukola which absolutely blew my mind. It was really challenging to adapt to the terrain which was so different to what we are used to in Australia, but we had a great couple of training weeks and lots of help particularly from Dave Shepherd and Jo Allison who hosted us at their Swedish clubhouse and set us a number of trainings. I got to run in the 2008 JWOC terrain again at Tio Mila in 2017 and still thought the terrain was pretty tough!
What a great first experience, it obviously set you up for many years racing on the international stage. What would you say have been the best experiences along the way, give us your top 3?
Wow, this is a really hard one! There have been so many good experiences over the years.
I think #1 has to be running Jukola in 2018. I maybe didn’t have the best results but getting to run both first leg in Venla and then the morning mass start in the men’s race was really special and is definitely something all orienteers should experience if they can.
#2 is probably the same year, running the European Champs in Ticino, Switzerland – such an amazing spectacle and atmosphere amongst stunning scenery.
And #3 would be my first WOC in France in 2011. Again, I didn’t make the final so it wasn’t what I’d hoped from that perspective, but it was such an amazing introduction to the senior ranks – a really great team and such amazing terrain.
Amazing, a good reminder there are many great opportunities for racing in Europe! So, what is next? What do you hope to do in 2023 and into the future?
In 2023 I’m firstly hoping to have a really successful Oceania in Tasmania in Jan, particularly in the Long Distance. It might be a challenge with those Kiwis being a bit of an unknown in some cases (not to mention the strong Aussie girls), but I don’t think it’s impossible to come away with the win and I’m working hard to try and get there. Following on from that, I am hoping to run in the Long Distance and potentially the relay at WOC2023 in Switzerland. I’ve run in the Flims-Laax terrain before and it’s really challenging but also amazing; I think (hope) the vert may suit me! My best result at WOC is 35th so I’d be stoked to go top 30.
Beyond 2023, I think I’ll probably be focusing mostly on the forest. I’m definitely not one of the young ones anymore but I think I’ve got a good couple of years in me yet! I think I’ll try to get to a few more forest WOCs and maybe (if I get the chance) some more World Cups on alternating years.
Awesome to hear you have high aspirations for the future, I’m sure you have many years left on the international scene. Ok, let’s take a step away from orienteering, what else goes on in Aislinn’s life?
I’m an engineer and I work for Melbourne Water in the Water Quality team which means spending a bit of time out on some really lovely sites around the East of Melbourne (some of which are also decent trail running spots!). I’m also doing my Masters’ in Water Engineering (really slowly). As well as orienteering I try to do a bit of trail running and also love my cycling (Road, Mountain and Gravel – both doing it and watching it). I am a big AFL fan and also love live music (mostly metal, love a moshpit) and watching British comedy panel shows. I live in Heidelberg in NE Melbourne with my partner Kyhil and we have a beautiful pooch called Cyril.
You sound busy, but it also sounds like you have the balance just right! Alright lets get into the quickfire round:
Favourite orienteering map in Australia? From anywhere in the world?
I think I might be betraying my roots by not saying a Victorian gold mining map (though Petticoat Gully is very close to my heart) but honestly the maps I enjoy the most are runnable granite and I think Boboyan Divide in Namadgi might be one of the most fun maps I’ve run on in Aus. Favourite maps in the world is tricky (I rarely get the chance to run on the same map twice!) but I think, just for the sheer fun it provides, this has to be Woodhill in NZ North island.
Most interesting/weirdest orienteering experience?
Nothing too crazy comes to mind but I did a couple of Indoor races in the UK which were really odd – running around finding controls amongst desks and classrooms. It would have been really fun to do the recent IKEA indoor race at O-Ringen. I can’t say I really got the hang of it…
What sport would you be doing if you weren’t an orienteer?
Ahh this is a toss up, to be honest. I would probably say trail running. I do a lot of it anyway and I love the community, the places you get to run (usually beautiful) and there’s not many better feelings than finishing a real epic trail run in really gnarly conditions. But I would also love to try my hand at some more cycling racing – I’ve done a handful and really enjoyed them.
What’s on top of the bucket list?
There are too many cool places to visit and too many cool things to do, I’m not sure I can pick. I’d love to one day do Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, ride the Paris-Roubaix route or bikepack across Mongolia.
One piece advice you would give to a developing junior orienteer?
Take your opportunities! Getting to orienteer in a whole range of different places on a whole range of different terrains will absolutely build your confidence and embed your techniques. And even if a map doesn’t seem very exciting, just getting out and practicing your nav can be valuable.
Thanks Aislinn for your time chatting today, where can people go to follow your progress:
AP – https://attackpoint.org/log.jsp/user_3689 (username kido)