Sunday, June 17, 2012

WTOC World Trail Orienteering Championships 2012: Diary (IV)

June 8th. Terrible sleepless night. The wind and rain, I mixed them in my dreams with maps and compasses. And gigantic plastic bags to shelter Ricardo.

1. Terrible sleepless night. The wind and rain, I mixed them in my dreams with maps and compasses. And gigantic plastic bags to shelter Ricardo. I go out to have breakfast and it seems that my worst fears are not confirmed. The weather is less harsh than I thought and, at least for now, it does not rain. Only the wind blows hard, putting a note of winter on this second Thursday of June, at the threshold of summer.

2. The World Trail Orienteering Championships are about to start. I lay one last look at our stuff, confirm the starting times. Ricardo is one of the first ones to leave, when it's 10:09 a.m.; I will leave at 10:44 a.m. We have a long day ahead.

3. The trip to Tentsmuir is made in the company of the Hungarian team. We travel in silence. And in silence, after our arrival, we would refer to the coziness of a warm tent, filled with Japanese and Americans. We look at the IOF flag, shaken by the wind. We try to guess its direction. Has someone brought a compass?

4. With Anne Braggins, I confirm that Ricardo will be assisted in moving in his wheelchair during the race. The Director of these World Championships welcomes me with a smile and I reply to her curiosity that we already won our medal and that the amount of knowledge that we collect every day is golden. She tells me about her "staff", about the many unavailable ones and working in minimum. They have a very closed “staff” of about ten people, other ten very near and they are, in total, 72 people working in this organization, 50 of which are here full time. I see this as a message. Portugal prepares the European Trail Orienteering Championships in 2014 and we can't delay much longer the start working.

5. I travel by mini bus to the start. Almost there, a fright: I forgot the control card in the backpack. Irish is my traveling companion and soon he reassures me by saying that I won't be the only one to forget it and that the organization should have more cards at the starts. Indeed!...

6. I hit the first two timed controls and spend 15 seconds only. The World Championships couldn't have started in a better way. As the race goes on, I start to realize that all athletes have their own strategy of addressing the various points. Marit Wiskell doesn't move too far away from the decision point, yet Lauri Kontkanen circulates around the points, just like Ivo Tilsjar. Remo Madella almost goes around the whole forest to check his answer in point 4. As for me, I don't know wether I must stay or go. I go!

7. The race runs fine to me. Although I take as right the answers given in three or four points only, I feel that perhaps I got more than fifty percent of correct responses. I do not mistake a lot. Out of the 22 points that made this first day race, I hit 11. Actually I hit 10, since there was a voided point by the organization and in which I had given a correct answer. I don't feel frustrated, it was a great experience, though my desire to be among the 50 best in the world has gone completely downhill.

8. Ricardo is inconsolable. After the excellent performance at the Model Event, the seven earned points leave him "on the verge of a nervous breakdown." I tell him that, like me, he has everything to learn and nothing to prove. But I understand his disappointment, his grief. He tells me that tomorrow he will take revenge on this result less successful. But how? He did what he could and tomorrow he'll do it again, because this Trail Orienteering thing is not something you learn in 24 hours.

9. We take the early afternoon to get to know a bit of Dundee. It is a friendly tiny town, with a good pair of commercial streets, pedestrian only, museums, galleries and a commercial space of excellence, right in the center of the city. An adapted public transport network leaves me very pleasantly surprised. Among the works that revolve the entire waterfront of the Tay, the RRS Discovery, the first ship to be built specifically for scientific research, unfolds, imposing. This is where we board now and, under the command of Captain Scott, reach the South Pole, on that distant January 17th, 1912.

10. The Trail-O Meeting today is marked by the announcement of a voided point, the very first one. The complaint came from Finland and was based on the incorrect placement of the flags. In Trail Orienteering, everything has to be right and, incidentally, there was a tree "out of place". But the negative aspects do not end here. It is considered that the map is not up to a World Championship level, the course setter offered several “bingo” points, as Lauri Kontkanen would call them, and the paralympic athletes had seen their courses very hindered not only by the inadequate assistance of young people without preparation, but also by the poor placement of some points in terms of their visibility. On the second day things were to run much better, but the stain in the Championships, that one, there is no way to make it disappear.

11. Lying behind us the hardships of the first day of course, we have dinner at the table of the Polish. Ágata Ludwiczak is a paralympic athlete who has a complaint. The assistance given to people in wheelchairs, by kids aged 14 and 15 years, was not the best. Of course this was a fantastic experience for the young people, it is obvious that they constituted a resource of unquestionable value to the organization. But if the disadvantage of progressing in a wheelchair is a fact, here it became even more evident. Ágata thinks that they should have participated in the Model Event and, in a wheelchair, they should have done the race pushing each other. The idea is brilliant, and in similar situations, we should put it into practice in Portugal. For Ágata, the ideal is that the youngsters are replaced by the military: Tall, strong, in uniform!

Joaquim Margarido

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