Swedish odyssey lifts Molloy’s performance

Spending a year getting her bearings in the orienteering Mecca of Sweden has given Lara Molloy a taste of the sport’s elite stage and made her hungry for more.

The 16-year-old Wellington Girls’ College student went on a 10-month exchange to Umea, in the north of Sweden, during 2014.

“It was a school exchange but I wanted to go to Sweden because they have orienteering schools. I thought I’d like to go to one of them but I had no contacts over there so thought it would be really hard,” she said.

“I got in touch with an exchange programme and when I was filling in the application I pretty much said I would like to be in an orienteering family to train as much as I can, and they sorted that out.”

The trip saw her spend five months at an orienteering school and compete in the biggest orienteering event in the world: O-Ringen.

More than 23,000 competitors  converged on Kristianstad in the south of the country for the five day event, which will have its 50th running this year.  

The winner of the elite competition took home almost NZ$15,000, but Molloy said she was there for the experience.

“People go from all over Europe and even some from New Zealand and I think they have something like 200 different courses.
I didn’t do too well over there because it’s so much more competitive, I think my best result was 56th in a grade of 180 or so but the experience was amazing.”

Molloy returned to New Zealand at the end of last year and was quickly back into her stride in 2015, winning the under-18
Oceania Championships before taking out the Wellington secondary schools’ competition with a round to spare. The solid form saw her become the only Wellington athlete selected for the national secondary schools team, which she missed out on last year.

“When I was in year 9 and 10 I was selected for the junior national team, but I was in Sweden last year so wasn’t in it but came back this year and was selected.”

The team will compete at the Australian Orienteering Championships in Ballarat from September 26, while Molloy is also eyeing up a strong finish at the New Zealand Secondary Schools’ champs on July 16.

For those who don’t know much about orienteering, Molloy describes it as ‘‘extreme crosscountry with navigation’’

“It’s generally quite high intensities, the short events are two to three kilometres, up to the longer distances for my grade,
which are about six or seven kilometres. 

“I quite like the competitiveness, the challenge of not just running but the physical and mental challenge of it.”

She started in year 6 when one of her school teachers encouraged her to come along with her older sister.

We were living in Churton Park at the time, there was a local event being run so we went to that and really enjoyed it and have
been hooked since.”

One day, she hopes to foot it with the best at O-Ringen, but knows it’s a long road to get to there.