London Olympian Martin Dent swaps to orienteering to boost Canberra Cockatoos
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London Olympian Martin Dent swaps to orienteering to boost Canberra Cockatoos

Martin Dent navigated his way to the Olympic Games five years ago, but the marathon champion has traded the streets of London for the unforgiving terrain of orienteering.

Canberra's Dent retired from his professional marathon career after the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014 and decided to test himself with a new challenge.

Former marathon runner Martin Dent is now competing for the Canberra Cockatoos.

Former marathon runner Martin Dent is now competing for the Canberra Cockatoos.Credit:Jay Cronan

It's safe to say Dent's sea change from running into a packed Olympic stadium to attempting to navigate his way out of thick scrubland hasn't come without its challenges.

The ex-Olympian has obviously got the running part of orienteering down pat, but the navigation side of his game still has a long way to go.

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"It's definitely another level when you're navigating whilst running flat out and trying to not fall over," Dent said.

"I have my moments where I'm going along pretty well then all of a sudden you're not quite sure or you're not as confident that you're in the right spot."

Switching out flat cement roads for relatively unknown running conditions has been another challenge the 38-year-old has had to overcome during his progression into the sport.

"Running on a road it didn't really matter where in the world you were its was always pretty much the same where in orienteering often you don't realise what it's like to you're in the middle of the race," Dent said.

"Sometimes it can be pretty full on when you're pushing through some thick bushes and you just hope you're heading in the right direction."

Dent and his Canberra Cockatoos teammates have made orienteering look easy this year, going undefeated at the national league and all but securing their seventh title in a row.

The squad will all be chasing a spot in the national team when they travel to Bathurst for the Australian championships on Saturday.

The Cockatoos are on track to repeat their successes from the national orienteering league four years ago when three teams won their respective divisions.

The Junior Men's team has no stars, but its strength is it has more depth than in recent years with many who have come through the junior development program now displaying the required consistency for success in the national league.

The return of British represeentative Charlotte Watson for four more races will boost the senior women's team's prospects of claiming their first title since 2013.

The senior men's team will be without their leader, David Shepherd, whose season has been blighted by recurring injuries. But the team, under the leadership of Tomas Krajca, are not only expecting to win overall, but are hoping to extend their string of unbeaten races this year.

Victory on Saturday would give them seven consecutive titles and 20 titles in the 24-year history of the national league.

Although Dent says it's unlikely he'll win a spot in the Australian team, he's keen to revive an international career.

"It would be pretty cool to represent Australia in a different sport. There is a sprint event and that's the only event I'd be an outside chance of qualifying for. I probably need to improve a little bit more and get away with not making any mistakes."

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