Exclusive Interview! Graham Gristwood Professional Orienteer

Fresh from his victory in the UK Cup competition at the 2009 British Orienteering Championships, British and World Champion Orienteer Graham Gristwood has kindly agreed to an interview with the CheapTents.com outdoor sports blog.

Orienteering World Champion!

Born in 1984, Graham Gristwood lives in the UK and Sweden. He is a member of the Great Britain Orienteering Squad and also runs for IFK Lidingö SOK.

In the Czech Republic at the 2008 Orienteering World Championships, Graham Gristwood, Jon Duncan and Jamie Stevenson won a gold medal for Great Britain in the Men’s Relay Event.

Graham Gristwood, Jon Duncan and Jamie Stevenson Gold Medal Winning Orienteers
Graham Gristwood, Jon Duncan and Jamie Stevenson Gold Medal Winning Orienteers

Graham Gristwood Interview

CheapTents.com: What inspired you to get into orienteering?
Graham: I started orienteering before I was old enough to understand, when my father started as a way to get a bit fitter. He used to carry me round, then when I was old enough to walk, then as I was old enough to do it myself, I ran myself. I loved the sport since I can remember!

CheapTents.com: What has been your biggest sporting achievement?
Graham: Summer 2008, when I was part of the Great Britain relay team that won Gold at the World Orienteering Championships! It was the first time that GB have won the relay competition, coming second in 1993 and third in 2003.

We (myself, Jon Duncan and Jamie Stevenson) went into the races as underdogs, but knowing that all 3 of us were in peak condition, and if we performed well on the day we had a chance of a medal. None of us dared to hope it would be gold, but as the race panned out, we all did our job, and one by one the other teams fell away until it was just Jamie appearing alone coming out of the forest. Running into the finish together, and the next couple of hours was the highlight of my sporting career, and possibly my life.

I am also very proud of my junior european record, with Gold, 2 silvers and 2 bronzes, and my individual 9th place in the World Champs in 2006.

CheapTents.com: What is you biggest weakness?
Graham: I don’t always manage to perform at my best in the biggest competitions. I have near perfect performances, but usually let one or two errors slip in which take it from being a great result to being disappointing.

CheapTents.com: When did you feel like you ‘made it’ in your field of outdoor sports? And do you feel like you’ve satisfied your goals?
Graham: I made the senior World Champs team when I was still a junior in 2004, and definitely felt out of my depth.

That 9th in the World Champs in 2006 in Denmark (when I was 22) made me realise that the dream of World Champs medals was definitely reachable, and even that it would be disappointing if I didn’t reach it!

CheapTents.com: What do you find most challenging about training?
Graham: Pushing yourself hard when the weather is rubbish, your training partners are slacking off that day, you are tired from previous trainings and you would rather just lie on the couch and watch tv, but those trainings are also the most rewarding once you get out the door. I don’t find it hard to motivate myself to train.

CheapTents.com: What has been your worst injury (if any) from outdoors sports and how did it happen?
Graham: In 2003 I severely damaged the membrane between the bones in my lower leg just above the ankle. I was running in rocky terrain and put my foot down a hole. My body tried to keep going, but my foot was stuck. I had about 9 months rehab and recovery including one minor surgery, and a few weeks on crutches.

Graham Gristwood Orienteer in Action
Graham Gristwood Orienteer in Action

CheapTents.com: What will be your most challenging event for next year?
Graham: In 2009 there will be 3 major championships, starting off with the Nordic Championships in June, which are being held in Finland. That will be a really tough competition taking on the scandinavians on on their own patch.

Then in July its off to Chinese Taipei [Taiwan] for the World Games (the equivalent of the Olympics for sports that aren’t but want to be included). That is only for 40 selected athletes, so will also be a really tough competition.

August brings the Orienteering World Championships, which are being held in Hungary this year, and we will be attempting to retain our title, and also hopefully win some individual medals!

CheapTents.com: Where would you like to be in 5 years time? Main Ambitions?
Graham: My main goal in sport and in life is to enjoy myself and achieve my potential. I hope that means that I will be successful and win medals, but realistically I want to be as good as I can be and not look back with regrets that I missed opportunities.

CheapTents.com: For other budding outdoor sports enthusiasts, what tips can you provide to help other compete at a higher level?
Graham: Almost without exception, the more you put in, the more you will get out. Make the most of the opportunities that arise, and don’t do things half-heartedly.

CheapTents.com: What are your favourite bits of gear, and why?
Graham: Orienteering is not really a gear heavy sport, it’s just a man, a map and maybe a compass. Apart from that I have favourite running tops (my current GB top, some Hilly kit), favourite running shoes (including Walshes). Recently I have bought a gps watch to analyse my performance and help monitor and record my training.

CheapTents.com: Any people or sponsors that you’d like thank?
Graham: Ultrasport, the leading orienteering (and outdoor) kit supplier in the UK has been supporting me for a few years now, helping me out with shoes, and other kit.
Since the world champs medal last year, I have been lucky enough to be supported by Walsh, who produce great trail and fell running shoes, as well as casual shoes;
Buff have also supported me with some cold weather gear – ideal for the outdoors!
Hilly Clothing have also started to support me in a big way. They predominantly produce really high quality socks for runners and outdoor enthusiasts, but they also have a range of clothing and accessories. It really is the best kit, and I train in it all the time now! They are also sponsoring the British Orienteering Championships this year.

CheapTents.com: Anything else you would like to say?
Graham: Orienteering is a fantastic sport which is on the up and up. Despite common misconceptions, it is a demanding endurance sport requiring high fitness, an ability to make complex decisions under pressure, and an ability to navigate at speed. Having said that, it really is a sport for all ages and abilities. Which other sports can you take part in as a novice 40 year old, a 12 year old schools orienteer or a 70 year old who has been orienteering for 50 years, and all compete in the same event (in age group categories), side by side with the top elite runners in the world?

There are clubs all over the country, and most are very receptive to newcomers providing help, advice and coaching when required. Check out www.britishorienteering.org.uk to find out what is going on in your area, and what your local club is.

Whether you are a walker, a runner, or you just like the outdoors and going to exciting beautiful places, orienteering could be the sport for you!

I also have a website with attached blog news page, at www.grahamgristwood.co.uk.

CheapTents.com:Thank you very much Graham, for taking the time to answer these questions and sharing your enthusiasm for orienteering with us!

Good luck, Graham, in the Nordic Championships, World Games and Orienteering World Championships later this year.

If you found our interview with Professional Orienteer Graham Gristwood exciting, then you will enjoy our interview with endurance runner Sam Thompson. Sam Thompson was the first person ever to run 51 marathons in all 50 states of America (plus D.C.) in 50 consecutive days!

Not Much Outdoor Gear Required!

All the outdoor clothing that you need for orienteering can be found at the CheapTents.com outdoor gear shop, including running shoes, baselayers, waterproof jackets, windproof jackets and softshells. We also stock Silva Compasses!

CheapTents.com Blogging Team


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