From Faaborg to Crystal Lake...An Orienteer Compares
the Sport in Denmark and Illinois
Last spring a 22-year-old elite Danish orienteer Ulrik Hjort Lassen
briefly visited Chicago and attended the Veteran's Acres and Busse
Woods meets while he was here. Club Secretary Dave Macaulay had
a grandmother who came from the same part of Denmark, and he struck
up a conversation with Ulrik.
Similar to most Scandinavians, Ulrik began orienteering when he
was only 5 years old. He was initially accompanied by his parents
in the woods and first competed alone at age 7. At age 8 he did
his first O-Ringen in Sweden, a famous week-long event that annually
attracts up to 25 000 orienteers and is covered on TV and in all
Ulrik belongs to the Faaborg
OK (orienteering club) named for a town
of about 5000 people in central Denmark. In many European countries
it is common for sports programs to be run by separate clubs, not
by schools and colleges. As a result, youngsters are recruited into
various sports clubs early and are developed as team members all
through their life; participation in sports does not end upon graduating,
as it does for many people in the U.S.
In Denmark, Ulrik would normally go to an orienteering event once
a week in the spring and fall, and train with his club after school.
There were three orienteering clubs on his Danish island, none more
than an hour's drive from his home, so there were many opportunities
to orienteer. Instead of taking the summer months off, serious orienteering
families and clubs traveled around Scandinavia and competed in various
In addition, junior orienteers (ages 10-21) annually attended four
orient-eering camps. Three 3-day camps were held in the winter and
one 8-day summer camp was held, usually in Norway or Sweden. Ulrik
says these intense training camps were "really good" because
they offered full days of orienteering drills in the woods with
opportunities to socialize and make friends in the evenings.
Ulrik became quite competitive as a junior and earned a spot on
the Danish Junior National Team for two years and participated at
the Junior World Orienteering Championships in France and Bulgaria
(where he ran while injured) and became the Danish national champion
"a few times." As a result, Ulrik lived and trained in
Norway for two years in order to develop his running and technical
abilities alongside the world's best orienteers.
Ulrik's orienteering has taken him to Sweden, Norway, Finland,
Lithuania, Latvia, Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain, Tjechia
(Czech Republic), Bulgaria, New Zealand, Australia, and now the
United States. This spring Ulrik worked and lived on a farm near
Elizabeth, Illinois (southeast of Galena). After finding the CAOC
web page he came to the May 19 Veteran's Acres event in Crystal
Lake. He easily ran the quickest time on the long course, wearing
only shorts. Ulrik says he was surprised by the thick, thorny underbrush
on most Chicago area maps. Scandinavian woods do not have as much
underbrush, bugs or poison ivy, so it is common for orienteers to
wear shorts and a tee shirt in the summer.
Ulrik said that our event was similar to a normal "training
event" in Denmark. By that he meant that in Europe such an
event would not be a timed competition but would be more focused
on improving orienteering skills.
After talking with Ulrik, Dave became motivated to find some serious
orienteering training. He is exploring the opportunity to attend
various Scandinavian orienteering camps this summer and then compete
at various week-long meets including the World Masters Orienteering
Championship (July 13-17) in Halden Norway and the O-Ringen (July
20-25) at Uddevalla Sweden.