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.