Monday, July 09, 2012

Lauri Kontkanen: "My aim is to win in Vuokatti"

Five participations in WTOC, three individual medals, three team event medals, Lauri Kontkanen is one of the best trail orienteers ever. Born in Kontiolahti 26 years ago, now living in Jyväskylä, he's a student (Physical education) and mapmaker since 2002. And it was exactly by the maps that we started our talk.

In which way being a mapmaker represents some kind of advantage for you?

Lauri Kontkanen (L. K.) – Maybe a fast “map image” formation is an advantage on timed controls. Otherwise, I don’t see that many advantages compared to the others. It depends so much on courses and maps. A map with excellent accuracy is better to me.

For those who think that trail orienteering is for old or disabled people, you are the evidence that they are wrong. Why did you choose trail orienteering?

L. K. – Trail orienteering is a very nice and challenging sport and you can improve all the time. To find the right solution, to get the way to solve the problems, this is amazing and it’s the essence of competing.

How did you start doing TrailO?

L. K. – I was asked to be a course planner to WTOC 2006 in Joensuu, Finland. I started to compete after WTOC by myself and here we are now.

Can you tell me about the development of trail orienteering in Finland?

L. K. – TrailO in Finland has developed all the time, especially during the last couple of years. On the previous week we had a course planner training day. There were, in total, fourteen new and old course planners together. It’s important to have good course planners who can use OCAD and so on. Last winter we started to coach each other by arranging coaching seminars. Also we have done lots of “event analysis”, which means that we analyze how to solve problems in each competition. Improvement has given us quite many WTOC medals during the last years. We don’t have much promotional campaigns at schools, only in some few places. But we planned to develop this, already in the next year.

What is your opinion about WTOC 2012?

L. K. – I think we came back to “bingo” controls (luckily only 4 controls on Day 1). Map accuracy was not as good as it should be, at least comparing with the last four years in WTOCs. So I didn’t fully like this. The flags were too tight to each other and I think these weren’t the best Championships.

TrailO or TempO?

L. K. – I like them both. About TempO, it will depend on what kind of rules they will make it but, anyway, I like it. In a traditional way, TrailO has to be slower and you don’t have to hurry up, so… Both are good to me.

The next World Trail Orienteering Championships will be held in Finland. What do you have to offer?

L. K. – I believe that we will have a really good and demanding World Championships. The map quality is totally different and the course setting will be better than here. I believe that, next year, we’ll have the best World Championships ever.

How much longer are you going to do trail orienteering?

L. K. – At least for one more year. My aim is to win in Vuokatti. This time, in Scotland, I’ve got a gold medal in the team competition but I want an individual medal. So, there is something to do for the next year.

And Portugal, in ETOC 2014? Will you be there?

L. K. – ETOC 2014 in Portugal and WTOC 2014 in Italy sounds very interesting. If I am selected to the teams, I’ll be there.

Joaquim Margarido

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Ole-Johan Waaler: "It would be fun to have TrailO there"

The Portuguese Orienteering Blog invited Ole-Johan Waaler today to say something about his experience and feelings in trail orienteering. Born in 1942 and living in Porsgrunn, he shared with us his ideas about our sport.

When we take a look at the history of the participation of Norway in the World Trail Orienteering Championships, we can see that, since 2004, the name Waaler is on it. Ole-Johan, Lars Jakob, Kjetil... Please, tell me what does it mean to the Waaler family, to belong to the Trail Orienteering family?

Ole-Johan Waaler (O.-J. W.) - Being involved in the trail-o-family means a lot to us from Waaler family. We participate in all competitions in Norway and we're also frequent guests at competitions in Sweden. This has given us many good friends in both countries. And we have been fortunate enough to be participants or team leaders in all international championships.

How did you start in Trail Orienteering?

O.-J. W. - I tried trail-o for the first time at a Come-and-try at the O-ringen in 1990. I did quite well and thought it was very fun. But we were very active in the foot-o at that time. Next attempt was in Norwegian O-festival in 2002. This year I participated in another competition too. In 2003, I tried myself in several competitions and Lars also tried. The following year we participated full time and also Kjetil was with us.

Four participations until now, a third place in 2007, in Ukraine (Open Class) and – I'm sure – a bunch of beautiful stories to tell. Can you mention a couple of impressive notes about your presences in the WTOC until now?

O.-J. W. - WTOC 2007 is, of course, the best memory I save from these championships. I was in 7th place after the first day and when I saw the list of those that lay before me and behind, the goal was to keep that place. And it was very exciting, most of the best ones had missed a lot. But even worse was that the scoreboard was picked down, they had used the wrong program. But after a very long wait, it was clear, it was bronze. Another great memory is when Kjetil, Lars and I took a silver medal in the team competition in the ETOC in Latvia in 2008. On the same year was organized Trail-o for teams in the Tiomila. There, we won with the same team. And since it was only held once, we are the only winners of the Tiomila Trail Orienteering.

Talking about WTOC 2012, I can see that Norway was away, for the first time, from the podiums. How did you see your results?

O.-J. W. - There are many countries with many good players so you must be skilled and lucky in both days. I see that our athletes missed the records where there were several flags placed in the same detail. In Scandinavia, we have moved completely away from such items, one of the reasons may be that we have little training on these tasks.

The best and the worst of WTOC 2012?

O.-J. W. - On the good side, I will mention the accommodation, organization and terrain. Besides, TempO was good and TrailO on the second day was good too. But, on the first day, TrailO could almost be done without map reading and it was a shame as it was a great terrain that should have been better used. And also the Guidelines: trail orienteering competitions demand skills of map reading and terrain interpretation at all levels.

How do you see the present moment of Trail Orienteering in general? How can we get more people to practice Trail Orienteering?

O.-J. W. - TrailO will never be a great sport, but it is quite clear that we should be many more. There are many good map readers that finished with foot-o still very young and that could be good in Trail Orienteering. We must make an effort to get more of these. This is the Elite Level. For anyone who does not have this background and must start at the very bottom when it comes to map reading, we have several classes at the simpler level. Here it might work better with different organizations that have a disability.

In July, we'll have a new President in the International Orienteering Federation. Would you like to leave a message for him?

O.-J. W. - The British candidate was an assistant under WTOC and spoke warmly of TrailO. To him I say: Keep it up. The Danish candidate must make a greater effort if he is elected. The Danes would, in fact, not have the TrailO in the union. TrailO in Denmark is organized by the Danish handicap league. To him, I would say: Make sure the TrailO will be treated in par with FootO, MTBO and SkiO.

TrailO or TempO?

O.-J. W. - Both. I think both are equally fun, even if there are different challenges. In the long run, I believe that countries can have different layers in TrailO and TempO. Even now, I see that some have better talent for TempO. But do not make the tasks of the TempO too difficult, TempO should be done at full speed.

Portugal, ETOC 2014. What kind of event can we expect, knowing that Portugal, at the moment, has no experience in Trail Orienteering? Are you curious?

O.-J. W. - I have been at the Portugal O' Meeting six times, in different parts of Portugal. And every time I come home and I said to the others: “It would be fun to have TrailO there”. I have only good experiences at the Portugal O' Meeting, good organizations, good terrains and good maps. I'm sure this ETOC 2014 will be a positive experience for the participants. I will do my best to be one of the six from Norway, but age does not play on my side. Hopefully I can be a team leader, or just a supporter.

Joaquim Margarido

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Martin Fredholm: "The perfect sport for me"

He is one of the few athletes that has competed in all the nine WTOC editions. Started in 1998, World Champion in 2006 and second place in 2004 and 2008. He is 35 years old now, lives in Uppsala and he's still a student at KTH Royal institute of Technology. There you are, in brief, some biographic notes of our today's guest, Martin Fredholm.

What does Trail Orienteering mean to you?

Martin Fredholm (M. F.) – To me it is an exciting type of Orienteering. The map reading and the terrain interpretation are really a perfect test. And you don’t have to run, because I have always been good at Orienteering but never been good at running, so this is the perfect sport for me.

How did you start?

M. F. – I started in Foot Orienteering when I was young. But when I got older and the courses got longer and since I don’t like running too much, I lost interest and stopped with Foot Orienteering. Many years later my mother helped organizing a TrailO-competition and thought that this would be a perfect sport for me. I tried it, my first competition was a night competition, I liked it and I have competed ever since.

You belong to a family of trail orienteers, your father and mother are very involved in this sport and their excellent work is recognized everywhere. How do you see this?

M. F. – Me and many others do appreciate all the work they have done and do for the sport. But I don’t get much influence from them regarding the actual orienteering because almost all of the time I’m better than them. But it’s nice to compete in equal terms; you don’t have to care with ages and gender, or ability in movement. This is the beauty of this sport. Alias, in Sweden and the other Nordic countries we only have one class. We don’t divide it in Paralympic and Open class because we feel that the fundaments of trail orienteering are that everybody should be able to compete on equal terms. So, it should just be one single class. This is supported very strongly by the disabled competitors in our countries. We do have more than one class in competitions in the Nordic countries, but the classes have different skill levels and have nothing to do with physical ability (Paralympic and Open). In Sweden we have Elite-, A-, B- and C-classes. One major difference between the classes is that zero-controls are only allowed in the Elite- and A-class and must be very clear in the A-class.

Please, tell me something about the development of TrailO in Sweden

M. F. – For the last ten years we have had between 35-45 competitions each year. About five of these are night-competitions and about five are TempO-competitions. Currently there are about 160 competitors on the ranking list, fourty of them competed more than twenty times last year. To get on the ranking list you have to participate in at least 2 competitions. During the O-Ringen, the big 5-day competition in Sweden, on the rest day the foot-orienteers have the opportunity to do a TrailO course. This has been very successful and appreciated and more than one hundred foot-orienteers have tested TrailO each year. We have been in contact with handicap organizations and promoted TrailO but it has been proven difficult to recruit new competitors, since there are such a wide variety of other sports available.

What skills do you think that are essential in order to be a good trail orienteer?

M. F. – You need to be very good at reading a map and trying to match it with the terrain. These are the fundaments of trail orienteering. Looking at the terrain and creating your own picture of it, you have to try to compare it with the map and, hopefully, they are coincident. If they are not, then you have to try to figure out why it happens, how the mapmaker has seen this terrain. There is no secret, that’s it.

Can I ask you what was the best and the worst of the World Trail Orienteering Championships 2012?

M. F. – The best part was that this terrain is very suitable for TrailO. Unfortunately, I don’t think they have used it in a correct way. They could have used it much better, making orienteering problems instead of placing all flags on the same feature and just letting the center of the circle decide which flag is correct instead of using the terrain, using map reading skills, that’s what I think TrailO is. We had this kind of controls in the Nordic countries 10-15 years ago but now we have what we call orienteering controls. An example of an orienteering control: If the control is a spur, the alternative flags are placed on spurs nearby or on formations that look like spurs but are unmapped.

And what about your performance?

M. F. – I must be happy with my performance on the second day, but on the first day I didn’t do as well as I hoped to do.

TempO or TrailO?

M. F. – They are a little different but both have their merits. I’m not going to choose one of them, I like them both.

Is trail orienteering moving in the right direction?

M. F. – The short answer is yes.

We’ll see Portugal organizing the European Trail Orienteering Championships in 2014. What do you expect of this event?

M. F. – I hope it will have good and challenging competitions. It will be nice to visit a new country for me. Since Portugal is quite new to TrailO it is important that they gain as much knowledge as possible. The best way to do this is to participate in TrailO-competitions. My advice is that the planner(s) and controller(s) visit for example Sweden or Finland and take part in TrailO-competitions there.

For how long are we going to see you doing trail orienteering?

M. F. – I’ll continue doing it, that’s for sure. Hopefully I will make the selection to our team, so I will compete on the next years in World Championships and European Championships. But this is not for sure, because we have many good trail orienteers in Sweden and it might be hard to qualify for the team.

Joaquim Margarido

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Roberto Munilla: "The best is always what you can learn and improve about trail orienteering"

Our invited today is Roberto Munilla Velasco and he's from Spain. Lives in Pastriz (Zaragoza), is a Militar and competed in Dundee, after his first experience in WTOC in France, last year.

I'm sure that you will excuse my curiosity but, being Trail Orienteering almost unknown in Spain, how did you start in Trail Orienteering?

Roberto Munilla (R. M. ) - In the year of 2010 I helped as a volunteer in several associations for disabled people. Mario Vidal (FEDO's cartographer) knew it and he asked me to develop TrailO from FEDO, a modality which was strange to me at that moment. For various reasons, I thought that I wasn't the right person for this exciting project, but as Mario continued insisting, at the end I accepted that responsibility several months later, thinking of the great opportunity that could be opened to the Spanish disabled people who wish to practice this sport their whole life.

This is the second time that you compete in a World Trail Orienteering Championships. Since the last year in France until now, in Scotland, what evaluation can you do?

R. M. - In WTOC 2012, it was much more important to read the contours very attentively, with high precision, so the most important part of the races were played in very small details. We could also see some similar controls in France, but not as numerous as we could see here.

So, technically speaking, these World Championships were more demanding? Is that what you mean?

R. M. - Not exactly. It was almost the same, although the controls were different. The difficulty, the complexity, was maximum, but with different types of controls. I think that both World Championships were very demanding, very equal in this chapter.

Personally, were your results what you expected?

R. M. - I expected to do a little bit better than last year, once we don't have the chance to do trainings and races in Spain. But, after what I did on the first day, it was clear to me that it would be very difficult to do something better. Since last year, my level remains the same and I must be resigned by the same position.

After all you could see here and the experiences that this event provided to you, please tell me two or three things that would be useful to continue your job in TrailO in Spain.

R. M. - I could see that the work to organize an event like that should worry about the smaller details. They are small, in fact, but sometimes I think they are more important and they can affect the normal deployment of a race. If you don't have the chance to get an alternative way to find the solution for a problem, then it's a matter of luck. This is not Trail Orienteering. Trail Orienteering is something more complex and diversified than this. All the work around the organization should be carefully managed, so the athlete can feel safe during the course and, if there is an error, that is his fault and not because of a problem like the cartography, map reading, poorer viewing controls for the disabled competitors or something like that. I've also learned that if the quarantine is needed, it is more convenient to place it after the finish.

Did you feel that for yourself?

R. M. - A couple of times, yes. I cannot say that it was due to my insufficient knowledge and experience, or because there was some little errors or changes on the map. I think that we should have some better maps... Well, I don't know... I mean the map reading here, for example, was a little shorter than what would be normal to expect in a World Championships.

The best and the worst of the Championships?

R. M. - The best is always what you can learn and improve about Trail Orienteering. But also the relationship between all the competitors that we can see in an event like this. The worst part, I think that we can relate it with the problems that this organization had since April, with the storm, the felled trees that affected all the plans and the last minute changes in the maps and the courses. And, of course, a very small organizing team and, despite its goodwill, not very mature, showing some inadequacies in relation to several aspects.

TrailO or TempO?

R. M. - I think that they are two complementary disciplines. To get a good score in TrailO it is essential to answer correctly the timed controls, and the best training could be practicing TempO.
On the other hand, to be a good competitor of TempO, I think that you need to have an agile, lucid and very fast mind, more typical of the younger people.

I know you are starting now with TrailO in Spain and last April you held the first edition of the Spanish Trail Orienteering Championships. Can you tell me about this experience and what projects are opening to the future?

R. M. - When the realization of a event basically depends on a little experienced person and the facilities are few, the course to its end is long and hard. In spite of this, the 1st Spanish TrailO Championships were an important way of diffusion, and I would like it to wake up the interest to organize other courses in their cities, in each one of the participants. In fact, we have already started to organize the 2nd Spanish TrailO Championships. Afterwards, there have been a couple of collaborations with Portugal. One in particular is with Joaquim Margarido, implemented with success in Zaragoza, which is Adapted Orienteering to people with mental disability. The second could be the joint organization between both Federations of a course of TrailO during the Iberian Championships.

How can we get more people to do Trail Orienteering?

R. M. - With much dedication and patience we can work in two directions: from the Federation, helping, in the organization, the clubs interested in TrailO races, during other events in their calendar. And also proposing the realization of chats and courses where disabled people (rehabilitation centres, associations or hospitals) are assembled.

Portugal will organize the ETOC in 2014. What kind of opportunity does this represent to Spain? Are we going to see a strong Spanish team, in both classes, in Portugal?

R. M. - I hope it could be a turning point for TrailO in Spain, where we can experience the true complexity and difficulty of a TrailO course that will encourage them to continue participating in other events. I don't know what will be the level of the Spanish participants. It depends on the possibilities to train that there is in Spain before the ETOC.

For how much longer do you intend to keep on doing Trail Orienteering?

R. M. - Inside the FEDO my time is over, because since the last Spanish Championships and due to personal reasons, I have been resigned from my position in the Federation. My collaboration with the Zaragoza associations, promoting adapted orienteering, I desire that it could be much longer.

Joaquim Margarido

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Jana Kostová: "It is more about attitude, heart"

Jana Kostová is an athlete from Czech Republic. She is 37 years old, lives in Prague, is Assistant in a charity foundation and participated for the second time in the WTOC. You can see now what she has to say about herself and trail orienteering in general.

For how many years have you done Trail-Orienteering?

Jana Kostová (J. K.) – Let's say, more or less three years now. Intensively (laughs). I started doing Orienteering when I was child, five or six years old. Then, when I was twelve, I decided to play Volleyball instead, but when I got on a wheelchair, which was six years ago, I saw an opportunity to do Orienteering again and I took it as a chance. I had always missed it a little. So for me it was kind of a “return”.

What attracts you in Trail-Orienteering?

J. K. – It's an opportunity to get out and to interact with nature, in the forests, although today it was a little bit over the edge. For me it was really demanding. But otherwise it's a great opportunity to get outside, to spend some time in the nature. And it’s not time consuming - because actually in the Czech Republic we don't have trainings, so for me it means that I have to take the weekend off, for instance once a month, only. Which is perfect for me – I am otherwise busy with family, having three and half year old twins.

Where do you compete the most?

J. K. – I go to events mainly in the Czech Republic. Last year I went to France and to Sweden once and this year I only competed in the ETOC in Sweden and now the WTOC in Scotland.

How do you see the present moment of Orienteering in the Czech Republic?

J. K. – The competition is getting tougher and tougher, not only here but generally around the world. In the Czech Republic we have around 10-15 competitions per year, approximately, often trying to have two day events to make it more effective. It’s a really intensive experience. Course setters in the Czech Republic are getting better and better. Even during these last three years that I've been doing Trail-Orienteering I can see how much they all have improved.

And how about the number of competitors, is it improving too?

J. K. – Not really that much, I could say. There are people who could be really good at Trail-Orienteering (usually doing foot-o) but they're not really into it, unfortunately. Speaking about wheelchair guys, there are not that many that would see this sport as an opportunity and a challenge. They usually try to find something more physically demanding that involves more adrenaline. Still we have now around 15 people on wheelchairs who regularly attend orienteering competitions here. Then, there are few who can organise events here, and good events, but in my opinion we would need a few more to make it a good mixture of different styles, locations... and to enable those course setters to compete, too. The number of course setters here is almost the same during the last two-three years. Recently, two or three new names showed up, who could potentially join this little group but we will see.

What would you say to people to persuade them to come to Trail-Orienteering?

J. K. – That's a though one! (laughs) I really don't know, in Trail-Orienteering it is more about attitudes, heart. I think you can't really persuade someone just like that with a few words. I think you need to have it somewhere inside of you, you need to like solving problems and going out, you need to be kind of perfectionist… I can't see right now anything that would persuade someone who never saw it, who never tried it before. From the first sight it can seem boring, but it is not!

In these World Championships, what was the best and the worst for you?

J. K. – I generally liked both days, the courses, the controls and everything was really challenging. The worst thing was the second day's course – speaking about the path condition because for me (and my assistant...) it was really demanding, I had to work hard to get from one point to another, and that was one of the reasons why I thought about it a hundred times before I returned on the path to double-check some issues from a different angle. You know, my assistant was really helpful but I didn't want to make him work harder than it was necessary. For me it was one of the worst experiences in this matter, I really tried to avoid returning if possible ,which, on the other hand, put me to think ahead. But then you start thinking about the advantages walking people in the same category may have…

TempO or Trail-O?

J. K. – Trail-O, definitely. I don't have that much experience in TempO, I am not that good at it, so for me TempO is like a Model Event, it's like training for Championships.

And Portugal, in ETOC 2014? Do you expect to be there?

J. K. - I hope I will have an opportunity to go there. Portugal was always on my list of countries to visit. Unfortunately I didn’t have time by now to go, so 2014 is my time! Benfica Lisbon and Lisbon itself rings the bell and I liked a lot a book by Erich Maria Remarque, “The Night in Lisbon”, so you should do the ETOC in Lisbon… (laughs) Otherwise, I’m afraid I don’t know much about Portugal (apart from general knowledge like location, capital etc.) or your orienteering but I will be happy to learn. From events such as ETOC, in general, I expect precision in every aspect.

For how much longer are we going to see you in Trail-Orienteering?

J. K. – For many years, I hope! I would like to do it more and more. I don't have much time, but for me it's a really great thing to do, I like it. And there are still goals to reach, space to be better…

Joaquim Margarido