Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Give me a map and I'm Magic!

Some years ago I've envied a sticker that a friend had in it's car with this phrase that I always liked a lot.

Having in it self some mysticism it's very meaningful and describes the essence of Orienteering - the map! All the rest is just a complementary accessory to this enchanted object.

The map is magic for it's achievement potential but also for the immeasurable amount of information that it contains. If instead of using this pictorial way of representing the terrain we choose to write it in words it would take several volumes to host all the information included in a simple map.

It would be a cyclopic task to try to write down the complexity of an intricate terrain or a mazy of stones and rock faces of a mountain area with all the relations of direction/distance and respective height.

And all this information is available to the initiated in this witchery with a simple glance. There is no need to look for the correct page we just have to follow our thumb.

It's truly magic to be able to go strait to "that" stone in the middle of other thousands of identical ones!

It's sensorially magic to move in high speed in nature knowing exactly where we are on the map (it still is when we don't know)!

It's comfortingly magic to be at an unknown terrain and feel at home in the cosiness of the map!

It's meltingly magic to share the smile on a child’s face when she manages to match the map with the terrain!

If information is power each of us is a titan with a map on the hands and shiny eyes!

As a mapper I feel really privileged for being a builder of enchantments and I dare to go further and rephrase it to: Give me a blank paper and I'll give you magic!

Luís Sérgio

PS: When I wrote this “daydream” I was a professional mapper, but since February I have embraced an enterprise management challenge. Anyway Orienteering and mapping still makes my heart tic faster...

[You can see HERE the original article]

Monday, April 16, 2012

XX CPOC Orienteering Trophy: A big party in the heart of Lisbon

The 19th of May is being prepared to became a party of Orienteering. Precisely on that date, CPOC – Clube Português de Orientação e Corrida is committed to harness the best that Lisbon has to offer, with what many consider to be its strongest point: Orienteering on the urban environment, particularly in the discipline of Sprint. This is the starting point to, with the help of Luís Santos, know more closely the program of the XX CPOC Orienteering Trophy.

Welcome to the XX
 CPOC Orienteering Trophy! This is an event included in the Portuguese National Cup 2012, with a course belonging to the National Scholar Sports Championships and the fourth stage of the Trail-Orienteering National Cup. CPOC’s main goal is to provide all athletes with the best challenges that the city has to offer on the discipline of Sprint, in two stages: one in the morning, with the technical challenges of a "downhill" that will lead participants through the streets of Alfama, from Castelo de São Jorge to Praça do Comércio. Later in the afternoon, Parque Eduardo VII, with the expanded Amalia Rodrigues garden, will be the stage of all emotions.

Luís Santos, President of CPOC and the main “course setter” of this 20
th CPOC Orienteering Trophy, recalls that "there weren’t any events of the National Cup in Lisbon since CDCE organized a one day event in Monsanto, on the remote year of 2002. Also the map of Alfama was only used in local events, particularly in BaixAnima, leaving good memories to who participated, such as the map of Parque Eduardo VII. For this reason, although they are emblematic places of the city and country, they are also practically unknown to the general orienteers and promises delightful surprises. These maps, however, "are now posted on the website of the event, so that everyone is on equal terms", says Luís Santos.

A well-oriented day

Revealing a bit of what is the
“script” of the 20th CPOC Orienteering Trophy, Luis Santos explains that "everything will start in a very special place which is Castelo de São Jorge" and leaves an important advice related to the mandatory use of the bib: "Federated athletes may go directly to the Castle, where they will receive their bibs, while non federated will have to collect the bib at the Arena (Praça do Comércio)". As for the best places to park, the ideal is the area of Campo das Cebolas, especially due to its proximity to the Arena and Arrival. "To those who are worried about the distance to the Castle, although it is always up, Praça do Comércio is less than 1000 meters away from the entrance of Castelo de São Jorge," explains Luis Santos.

Portuguese Orienteering Blog knows that the Praça de Armas is the only place allowed to move freely inside the Castle, because the remaining space will be used in all the courses, an initiative coordinated with EGEAC, the managing entity of the space. As the arrival will be at Praça do Comércio, all courses will include authentic circuits of "downhill" through the streets of Alfama, with the arrivals area installed in the symbolic Praça do Comércio. In the afternoon, as stated above, the Orienteering caravan moves to Parque Eduardo VII. Again, Luís Santos suggests parking "in the various locations indicated on the website of the event, in the north of the park, where we will install the Arena." Starting at 16 p.m., the emphasis will be placed in a totally different map and the show will prevail in a little-known but immensely beautiful garden in Lisbon, Jardim Amália Rodrigues.

Trail-Orienteering is also part of the party

The event will also have a course included in the fourth stage of the Trail-Orienteering National Cup, starting at 15 p.m. Despite being dedicated to people with reduced mobility, moving in a wheelchair, the event is open to all athletes and contains surprises certainly very interesting. Among these surprises, everyone will discover a method for inclusive excellence in which, though unique in their differences, all orienteerers are equal. In a race where the presence of DAHP - Center for Adapted Sports of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
 Service from Hospital da Prelada is already a certainty, the organization's ability to mobilize the users of the Rehabilitation Centre of Alcoitão can make all the difference, making this an unforgettable journey to the Adapted Sports in Portugal. In addition, Luís Santos also confesses that one of his greatest joys would be "to see many of the participants at the main event also participating in this initiative."

Finally, a last minute new is the fact that 20
th CPOC Orienteering Trophy includes the National Scholar Sports Championships 2012. Luís Santos added that "in parallel, we are finalizing the agreement with the responsible of the National School Sports Championships to gather the events, with two additional races that will take place the next day (Sunday) in Monsanto."

Come out and have fun!

We would like to add also that the event is open to everybody, with a service of baby-sitting and
technicians available in the start area for introductory Orienteering briefings. All event information can be found on http://www.cpoc.pt/eventos.php?ev=20Trofeu. There, you will also find a short presentation video of XX CPOC Orienteering Trophy, whose viewing is strongly recommended. In the meanwhile, take a look on this film and enjoy the charm of Lisbon.

Lisboa, from Figen Kurt on Vimeo

[Translated by Luís Santos and Ana Porta-Nova]

Joaquim Margarido

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hana Bajtosova: "The level of competition is getting higher"

Hana Bajtosova is, in the last years, one of the names of reference on Mountain Bike Orienteering. Twice medalist of Sprint at the MTBO World Championships (2008 and 2009), Hana is preparing carefully this season, with the highest goals in her mind. The Portuguese Orienteering Blog met her in Barcouço, during the 5th edition of “Ori-BTT Rota da Bairrada”, spoke to the great athlete and presents now some of her dreams and ambitions.

How did you meet Orienteering?

Hana Bajtosova (H. B.) - I met Orienteering when I was about 15 years old, through the Scholar Sport in my School, in Bratislava. Although I was not very strong physically, I was very good reading and interpreting maps and I was often selected for the national youth team. That's how I participated for the first time in a major competition, the European Youth Orienteering Championships. After my first participation in a Junior World Orienteering Championship, I was disgusted because I asked to the national coach about what I needed to qualify for the Elite team in the next World Orienteering Championships and he replied that I should wait a couple of years and make previously the World University Orienteering Championships. I confess I lost my motivation and I did not know what to do.

It was when Mountain Bike Orienteering appeared in your life, I presume.

H. B. - Yes. We were in 2004 and my coach, who is also the coach of the Slovakian MTBO National Team, made me the proposal of trying the Mountain Bike Orienteering. The Slovakian Team had undergone a major refurbishment, many athletes had left the team for issues related to motherhood and I ended by saying to myself: "Why not?" The World Championships in 2005 were in Slovakia, there was a place waiting for me at the Team and the challenge was enormous. I did the first tests, I stayed in third place in one of them and I won the other and everything seemed to indicate that things could result. I ended up winning a place in the Team that I keep until the present moment.

You never left the idea of representing Slovakia in a World Orienteering Championship. So, the last year, it was a pleasant surprise to see you reach the 29th place in the Middle Distance of the WOC. What can you say about it?

H. B. - In fact, 2011 was like a dream coming true. The Championships were in France and I had an opportunity there. I continued to feel more comfortable technically than physically and the WOC in France was particularly challenging in a technical point of view. I knew that I had nothing to prove to anyone, but I wanted to show to myself that I had the value to reach the Final A in a World Orienteering Championship. I think that, in terms of physical training, everything was very well done. I almost put my Mountain Bike aside and all the time was applied towards preparing the World Orienteering Championships. What really costed was the mental part. It was very hard indeed, but I achieved my goals.

To be a good competitor in Mountain Bike Orienteering, is it essential to have a good experience in Foot Orienteering?

H. B. - I don't know. I think that it may help, but it's not absolutely necessary. Personally, as I began in Foot Orienteering, this is something that always gives me a great pleasure. In winter, for example, if you can't do Orienteering on Bicycle, you make Foot Orienteering or you simply run.

Recently, you've been in Portugal. Why Portugal?

H. B. - Because the weather is fine, it's hot. And because the terrains are excellent. I came to Portugal in 2007 and then in 2008 to a ten-day stage. It is true that, since then, I realize that this is a good place to train. There is a huge variety of interesting terrains and I come here because it is an opportunity to train with map. I could do it in France but, in one hand, the terrains have less quality and I already know them, which reduces the quality of training. And then, it's good to get a bit out of France and to stay away from this crisis.

You spoke about 2007 and 2008, but you didn't mention 2010 and the MTBO World Championships held in Portugal. The memories that you keep from these days, aren't they the best?

H. B. - It is true that I started working in 2009 and I really didn't know how to manage my work, the trainings and the competitions. Otherwise, in Montalegre, my shape wasn't the best and the results have not appeared as I would like them. Last year, in Italy, the things have run a little better and this year I feel that everything is going very well.

In 2008 and in 2009 you won the title of Sprint of the World Championships. What memories do you keep from those magical moments?

H. B. - I keep a particularly strong emotion of the gold medal from Israel in 2009. It was, perhaps, the best course I have done in my whole life. It was a perfect Sprint in which I finished with an advantage of almost 40 seconds for the second place and the third ranked player was almost two minutes behind me. It was something really amazing. I never went back to do a race like that.

But can the result be repeated and will we see you earlier this year, again, in the highest place of the podium?

H. B. - I would like, of course, but it will be very hard because the level of competition in Mountain Bike Orienteering is getting higher. It will largely depend on the physical shape at the time, but specially on the situation related to my work and how I'll be able to manage my trainings. I train on average twice a day, with a break, usually on Mondays. They are physical trainings, and sometimes, on weekends, I can train with map. These are usually very intense workouts and I do them joining the French team.

And why the French team?

H. B. - I live in France and there you are the reason. And then, in Slovakia, there are no conditions in order to organize high-level stages. To train in the Czech Republic should be a possibility, but they have a very strong national team and they are very closed. Exceptionally, I can train with the French National Team and I feel like family with them. Actually, the French Team is my team, even more than the Slovakian Team.

Did you follow the changes that are configured in the Mountain Bike Orienteering in order to make it more competitive, fairer and media friendly?

H. B. - Yes, and I share the opinions in regard to some changes. Looking at the female categories in the World Championship, I think the qualifying series in Long Distance have no reason to exist. If we talk about the qualifying of 60 athletes to the finals, so all the athletes are qualified. Maybe with the limit of 15 athletes classified in each series, we should have a more interesting solution, putting more pressure on the athletes and making the series more competitive. On the other hand, I think the question of the runability off the tracks should be allowed, but with the two wheels of the bicycle in the air, as it happens in Portugal, for example. This forces the athlete to choose to run with the bike on their back or continue ridding and do a longer lap. But cycling everywhere, in the trails or out of them, I don't know... I don't like the idea.

Is Mountain Bike Orienteering getting older?

H. B. - I don't think so. There are great values in the Mountain Bike Orienteering from all over the World that are showing their potential now and they are very young. I'm talking about Marika Hara, Susanna Laurila or Gaëlle Barlet, for example. I think there are many young people reaching the top and the competition is much harder now than it was five years ago.

For how much longer are we going to see you doing Mountain Bike Orienteering?

H. B. - I have no idea. This year I'm here, certainly, and then we'll see. I'm getting married this summer and I intend to raise a family, so things have to be weighted according to the circumstances. This can cause radical changes in all situations, but about one thing I am sure : I want to keep doing Mountain Bike Orienteering for many, many years, even if it isn't at a high level. And, if possible, I intend to convey this to my children. Who knows, they might become champions in the future.

Joaquim Margarido

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Esther Gil: "I feel I am a reference to women"

Launched in Spain three years ago, the project "Mujer y Deporte" (“Woman and Sport”) begins to show some wonderful results. This is the main theme of a conversation with Esther Gil, a major reference in Orienteering in Spain and one of the biggest names behind the project.

Being a woman and being a competitor. What special significance does this reality have to you?

Esther Gil (E. G.) - I am a lucky person to have been able to enjoy Orienteering and specially the high-level Orienteering.

In individual sports, Orienteering is one of the modalities which reveals a higher percentage of women competing. How can you explain this?

E. G. - It can be explained because the physical factor is not the main aspect neither it is essential to carry out the activity. This means that anyone, regardless of the income, can complete a route. On the other hand, the runner competes in the forest, in an environment without public watching. Apart from that, generally speaking, women in the Orienteering are not as competitive as men, do not show the same level of exigency. In many cases the aim is to enjoy, accompany the family, etc.

In your personal case, how did you find that Orienteering and what made you so "tied" in such a solid way?

E. G. - Orienteering is part of my life since I remember. My father introduced me to the sport when I was a child. In the category Youth I began to devote more time to the sport because I knew there was a long way to go, I had a strong wish to win and the environment of Orienteering amused me more than the Athletics and Triathlon.

Your involvement with the sport goes beyond the competition and the "Mujer y Deporte" is a good example of this. Why did you feel the need to move forward with this type of initiative?

E. G. - To some extent, I feel I am a reference to women in Orienteering in Spain. That was what people who were interested in involving me and my contribution in this project made me believe. During the "Mujer y Deporte" journeys, the fact that the director is a woman and the monitors are also women makes the participants feel more identified, believe more in themselves and in their margin for improvement.

What is the program, basically?

E. G. - I intend to initiate women in any sport, making them see that we can also practice it, like men. This is an initiative of the Sports Higher Council of Spain and Orienteering is one of the modalities in this project. For us women, it is a good way of promotion, so that more women can join the sport.

We seek an involvement at a personal level of each participant. There are several groups of different levels, but above all, there is a close contact between the participant and the monitor. The communication before, during and after exercise is very important, trying to make every woman improve their weaknesses, learn to identify all the elements and be able to adapt them to the reality on the ground. We often find women who already have practiced Orienteering for long but no one ever explained to them how to read a map. An important part of the program is that, during these days, they feel very relaxed, since we have responsible people to stay with the children, to promote activities for them, etc. Participants can be completely quiet during exercise.

After three years of implementation, what are the results?

E. G. - There are women who are federated and also caused other women to federate. Many repeat the course or encourage other women to learn a lot in a few days.

What's new for the fourth edition, scheduled to Alicante, in late August and early September?

E. G. - There is still a huge range of things to accomplish. This year we will place a greater emphasis on analysis of the races. In addition to the variety of exercises, each of which are addressed different techniques, we find that women start having huge gaps in this important basis which is the theoretical knowledge. As I mentioned before, many have a history of numerous tests carried out but cannot analyse their journeys and take the necessary conclusions from this analysis. Therefore, prior to training and analysis that is subsequently made is very important.

Before that we will see you, of course, involved in major international competitions. Do you want to share with us your major goals for this season?

E. G. - My goals for this season are still hovering in the air. Last year it was possible to prepare myself for the World Cup because it was not working. The comeback to work and the requirement of more exigency is stopping me from devoting myself to training. For now, I confess I do not know in which competitions I will participate.

How do you assess the current time of women Orienteering in Spain?

E. G. - I think the Elite level is progressing slowly. There are more women practicing Orienteering, but not at the highest level. I think the Spanish Federation has a wrong approach in this regard.

Finally, do you want to leave a vote for the Spanish orienteers and, in general, for all women who have embraced the sport of the forest?

E. G. - Throughout all these years we practiced international orientation, I have been realizing that we do not know where to find our limits. Fighting for something you want to achieve can bring you big surprises.

Joaquim Margarido