Niamh Cassar

Niamh Cassar

has burst onto the Orienteering scene in NSW, winning the W16A Middle Distance Championships in notoriously difficult granite terrain near Armidale - in her first year on hard courses.

After taking more than 2 hours in her first State League event in W16A (at Collector in March), she rebounded quickly with a 90-minute effort the next day on the tough Snows Hill map.

Within a month came her breakthrough - knocking over three State Schools' representatives from NSW and Queensland. Then she took out the ACT Sprint Championships and one day of the QB III Carnival (missing the overall title by less than a minute).

So, who is Niamh? Where did she come from? Why is she orienteering?

First some biog data...

Name: Niamh (pronounced Neve) Cassar.

Club: WHO (Western & Hills - Sydney, NSW).

Age turning this year: 15

School: Northholm Grammar School.


What is your sporting background? What successes did you have? What was the highest level you reached in those sports (e.g. Sydney West athletics representative)?

I have played a number of sports including netball, touch football and tennis but my main sport has been athletics. I have been a member of my local Little Athletics club since I was 5. I enjoy running and jumping, but not so much the throwing events. I have competed at zone and regional levels as well as NSW multi events and NSW cross-country.

How did you come to start orienteering?

My mother suggested Orienteering when I was becoming bored training for the 3000m in Little Athletics. She had remembered doing it when she was at school.

What were your first impressions of the sport?

My first ever experience was the SHOO summer series. I really enjoyed it and couldn't wait to do it again, without my brothers.

How did you go in that first event?

I participated with my brothers and we mispunched as we couldn't find the first control!

Why did you decide to stick with O?

I really enjoyed the challenge of progressing to harder and longer courses.

This is your first year doing hard courses. How tough has it been?

The first hard course I did was very difficult, and I ended up spending a lot of time lost in the bush. Now that I have done more hard courses I am improving and really enjoy bush courses.

We notice that you've been having quite a bit of success this year (won the NSW Middle Championships). What have you done to improve?

I have been lucky that a lot of people have helped me, from advice before I start, to finding me lost in the bush and giving me advice along the way. I try to go to as many events as I can and at each one I am learning new things. I have also made a lot of mistakes, which has helped me learn many important lessons - such as slowing down and being more careful with my navigation, so I don't have to run as far.

It's well documented that a lot of girls drop out of sport in their teenage years. What role does sport play in your life? And what do you gain from it? What message would you give to teenage girls about exercise in general?

Sport plays a very large role in my life as I love to run and keep fit. I train almost every day and find it very enjoyable. It is also a good break from school work and chores. I really like the girls I compete against, and we have a lot of fun at competitions. I recommend doing sport whether you do it competitively or just for fun.

What do you like most about Orienteering?

I really enjoy the feeling when I find a difficult control. I also love that Orienteering always has me thinking rather than just running, so I can never be bored no matter how long I spend out on a course.

What are your goals/dreams/hopes in the sport?

I hope that one day I can go to Finland to compete there, as their terrain is very different to what we have here in Australia. I would also like to represent Australia one day.

How do you feel about making the NSW Schools Team?

I am really excited I made the Team. I have never been to South Australia. I am looking forward to travelling with the Team, learning a lot and doing my best.

We wish Niamh all the best and will be keen to see how she goes at the Australian Schools Championships in South Australia.