A self-proclaimed “orienteering baby”, Nicola Blatchford cannot remember a family trip that did not involve a map, compass and running through the bush.
The 20-year-old’s parents, Karen and Russell, are long-time orienteering enthusiasts and their influence has led Blatchford to the world university championship in Hungary this year.
Blatchford spent time in Sweden last year on exchange and is keen to get back to Europe, where the sport of orienteering is so popular it has a cult following.
“It had always been a dream of mine to live over there and to have a chance to train with so many other people; it is so much bigger in Europe,” Blatchford said.
“The sport is not very common in Australia, I just tell people that I run now.”
But the sport is not just about running, and that is its appeal for Blatchford.
“There are so many aspects to orienteering; if you make a mistake on one of the control points then you have got to just keep going,” she said. “I think I am a much better navigator than what I am a runner, but that’s what’s nice, that there are so many aspects. You have got to focus and train on every little thing so you can improve every aspect.”
Being part of a family devoted to orienteering has helped Blatchford reach the world stage.
“It has been a huge help to be part of a family that likes orienteering because you have to travel so much, which is also a great part of it,” Blatchford said.
“I’m not sure I can remember a holiday that we went on that didn’t involve orienteering.”
Blatchford qualified for the world university titles through a series of selection races this year but her inclusion in the national team came as a shock.
“I think I was a little surprised,” she said. “I had set it as a goal but I didn’t really expect to be picked.
“It will definitely be a challenge over there, being such a big sport in Europe.”
The University of Newcastle communications student has competed at the past three world junior championships for orienteering but this year moved up to the open age group.
“One day I think I’d like to compete at the open world championships but I think I’ve got a few years of training ahead of me before that,” Blatchford said.