May Athlete Interview with Vanessa Round

Brodie NankervisAthlete Profiles, High Performance

Last month Brodie sat down with Vanessa Round, accomplished senior elite from South Australia who has been representing Australia since 2005, including an impressive 23rd in the WOC Middle distance final in 2018 and top 10 finishes in JWOC and World Cup races. Vanessa has had a few years off from senior representation but has had a successful comeback this year to be named in the Australian team to compete the World Orienteering Championships in Flims, Switzerland in July. Brodie was keen to find out more about Vanessa’s return to elite racing and find out what aspirations she has for the future.

Hey Vanessa, thanks for your time for a chat. Let’s start with what has been happening in your life since we last saw you representing Australia at WOC in 2018?

After WOC 2018 I moved back to Australia with my partner Tobias, after 6 years living in Europe and doing lots of orienteering. I was sure I was finished with Elite level racing and pretty much stopped training. We moved to Melbourne for my work and in 2020 I became a mum to beautiful twin boys, which started a whole new chapter of life. After 6 months of COVID lockdowns with our newborns, we moved back to my hometown Adelaide, to be closer to most of my family. Since the boys were born I really appreciate what my body can do and I became motivated again to get fit again.  

Sounds like somewhat of a journey, it’s great to see you back. What has the comeback been like? What have been the biggest challenges but also the biggest motivators for the return?

It’s feels surreal to be making a comeback! really doubted myself and it wasn’t until winning the races at Easter that I knew I still had my terrain strength and racing ability.

The challenge is juggling family, work and training – being a parent to toddlers is really full on! It’s hard enough keeping on top of the basics, let alone finding time and energy for training.. and the sleep deprivation! I feel guilty when I take time away from my family for running (or work) so I’m lucky to have such a supportive partner. But getting out for a run gives me such a boost and I really appreciate and enjoy it more than I ever have before.

My biggest motivation is simply the joy I get from running and orienteering, and I love the thrill of navigating top speed through the bush! I also feel like I have a newfound strength and my years of racing experience on my side.

I’m sure there are some orienteers out there who can relate but great to hear you are feeling stronger than ever. Returning to Switzerland to race must be exciting? You also had a great result at European Championships in Switzerland in 2018, what are your aspirations for this years World Championships?

It’s especially exciting as Switzerland is like my second home. I know how beautiful and difficult the terrain around Films is and what high quality events the Swiss organize – it’s going to be great! 

The first hurdle is to qualify for the middle distance final and then my stretch goal would be to improve my 23rd place from 2018. I’ve never had a really satisfactory Long Distance race at WOC before, so I’d really like to better the 39th place I got at my very first WOC in 2008. I’d also love our women’s relay team to get a top 10. But the main aim is to let the navigation dictate the pace and not make any significant stuff-ups.  

Sounds like you have some challenging but achievable goals in place, goodluck! Have you got any plans for future years? What’s next after WOC?

After WOC we are staying in Switzerland with Tobias’ family for a couple of months, so I’m really just looking forward to cherishing that time together after a very busy last few years. I’m not making any other plans at this point – I want to keep as strong and fit as I can but don’t feel like I can justify heaps of travel for orienteering, so will just take the opportunities as they come. I’m really looking forward to racing at Easter in SA next year – don’t miss it! 

I am sure the SA Arrows will be keen to have you racing hard on home soil! Now, tell us a little bit about Vanessa outside of orienteering? What keeps you busy?

The main thing which keeps me busy nowadays is being a mum – our twins are almost 3 and they amaze me every day! We love being outside so spend heaps of time in our veggie patch, the community garden or up in the Adelaide hills. Also lots of making food with the veggies we grow. I work 80% as a climate scientist at CSIRO – my work is mostly about modelling future climate change so we know what to prepare for. The direction we are heading in is really scary, so when I have time I try to advocate for all the things we need to do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and turn this around.

An important role, glad that you can still juggle this with all your other commitments! Alright lets get into the quickfire round:

Favourite experience wearing the green and gold?

Running to 6th place at the 2007 Junior World Orienteering Champs in Dubbo, Australia. Home ground confidence and an Aussie crowd!  

Most interesting/weirdest orienteering experience?

Maybe getting spooked by a family of wild pigs on a training camp in Slovenia – I panicked and scaled a spindly sapling while the junior girls I was shadowing just looked at me like I was crazy!

What sport would you be doing if you weren’t an orienteer?

I did have a stint with paragliding a while back, so maybe I would have stuck with that?

What is your favourite food? And drink?

The first mango of summer and fresh coconut water.

One piece advice you would give to a developing junior orienteer?

Really work on improving your technique and make your navigation as reliable as possible – take time before and after every run to focus on your goals and learn from how you went. Get a coach to help you.  Also don’t underestimate the importance of the mental aspect of orienteering – in my experience, getting the right state of mind and learning how to stay focused is the most important thing for race day.

Thanks Vanessa for your time chatting today, where can people go to follow your progress:

I’ve had my training log on Attackpoint since 2006: username “007”