Imogen, Year 8, had the adventure of a lifetime when she represented England at the 2019 World School Orienteering Championships in Estonia this month. Below is her first-hand account of her week racing across Otepaa and being immersed in a fascinating new culture.
"Last week I competed in The World School Orienteering Championships in Estonia, having been selected to represent England. There were teams from 23 countries, including many European countries but also from as far away as China, New Zealand and Brazil! I had an absolutely amazing time, met so many new friends from across the world, raced in wonderful terrain and it was a really fantastic trip. The week began leaving from Birmingham Airport very early on the Monday morning in our England kit ready to take two flights which would end up in Tallinn (the capital of Estonia). It was then a three-hour drive to Otepaa, where the event was based.
We stayed in small dormitory houses next to a beautiful lake with the Spanish, Austrian, Belgium Flanders, and Finnish teams. The event centre was based in a stadium and you could clearly view the finish from it. We then met with our coaches for our age category, I was in the U15 girls and we had a coach called Jane Halladay who made our trip the best it could possibly be! We then went out into some of the terrain with a model event map so we could get used to the terrain we would be racing in and the start procedures. After training we jumped in the lake - it was really lovelyl! We returned to the event centre where the opening ceremony was to take place and finally the World Schools Orienteering Championships 2019 flame was lit.
The following day was the big long-distance race. We had to wait in quarantine for three hours before our race without phones or any electrical devices. My course was 5km and 33 minutes. The terrain was different to England as there were lots of ridges and forest floors covered in branches so could be very tricky to run at times. I had a very good run and came 10th out of 70 in my age class (Women under 16) and the first British runner which I am very happy with!
Wednesday was the cultural day which included many different experiences. The Tartu Science Museum was great fun and very interactive, we also did a very rainy orienteering course around the city in groups where we had to answer questions at every checkpoint. This led us to the University of Tartu where the cultural celebrations took place. Every country performed a national dance or song. We did Morris Dancing which was a very funny and difficult experience! Every country also established a store where they provided food or traditional items which you could go and try.
Thursday was the middle-distance race which was a similar set up to the long distance and finished in the stadium. Over both races I came 8th place overall and I am really happy with my result. I achieved the best result of all British female competitors!
The final day involved a friendship relay with mixed teams of three people from different countries and ages. It was a very fun but crazy experience. The week concluded with a massive prize giving and farewell party which was absolutely amazing (although I got a bit crushed in the mosh pit at the party)!
Overall the week was an unforgettable experience and I learnt so many new things, not to mention all the overseas friends I made during the week."