Thursday, January 03, 2013

Tobias Breitschädel: "I got better fast"

Originally a runner, a double victory in the ISF World Schools Orienteering Championships 1993 in Belgium seemed to open the doors to a successful career. But injuries came one after another and, four knee operations later, his ambitions of in Foot Orienteering were completely destroyed. Then in 2006 he changed to MTBO and the big goals reappeared. Meet Tobias Breitschädel, the new World Champion of Sprint.

We all know that “time is money”. With Tobias Breitschädel, two single seconds were enough for a taste of gold. A nail-biting wait at the finish, that's for sure!

Tobias Breitschädel (T. B.) – Certainly! To tell the truth, waiting in the finish while you are currently leading a World Championship race is not nice, especially when lots of competitors ride the same speed as you do and you are watching them on live tracking. Marek Pospisek's brutally fast sprint to the finish line nearly made my heart stop beating, but I managed to punch the finish control faster than him. But compared to last year, when I had to wait more than two hours to be sure about my bronze medal, this gold was quite "pleasant" to wait for.

For someone who hadn't expected to win a race in the World Championships, this was really a “dream goal”. So after winning the race, we could see Tobias pinching himself, scarcely believing that his dream had become reality. But “the show must go on”...

T. B. – Very tricky was the fact that, the next day, there was another race. I was totally divided between celebrating and really enjoying what I had just achieved, and proper preparation for the Middle Distance on the next day which, actually, was supposed to be my “target race”, where I thought I'd have the biggest chances. In fact, this preparation really kicked me out of enjoying the gold in an appropriate way. Even our first ever medal in the Relay (bronze) was covered with the preparation for the Long Distance. It might sound a bit weird - “suffering on a high level”, we call it in Austria -, but when you take the things seriously and you do everything to reach good results, you don't have the time to celebrate a medal within a WOC week.

Tobias's first World Championship was five years ago, in Nove Mesto Na Morave, Czech Republic. Since then it has been preparation for “the big moment”: a time full of hard races, fun times and some frustration. At the end, the question is: How do you prepare to be a world champion?

T. B. – In my opinion, there is no recipe for how to become a world champion. Maybe the only thing that all champions can tell you is that you have to be ready when it counts, and not be afraid of losing. To be ready means having the best possible physical and mental shape at that specific day or period. That's what you learn during the years: How your body reacts to different kinds of training and how the months, weeks, days before an important race should look like. In my particular case, my time came when I found out that I am actually a better biker than runner, regarding my physical abilities. I got better fast but my biggest advantage was my orienteering skills from Foot-O, which helped me a lot. This was crucial in the gold medal race, which I didn't find very difficult. But if you ask me what is most important to prepare a world champion, I would say two things: “never give up” and “do it 100%”.

Looking back at this season, absolutely nothing pointed to the gold medal. A tooth injury culminated in an operation and an absolute training ban for almost three weeks, Tobias was extremely frustrated seeing his condition going steadily downhill. And he couldn't do anything about it.

T. B. – I missed the World Cup races in the Czech Republic and after that it was too hard to get back in shape because nothing “fitted” anymore. After the World Cup in Poland, I fell in a very deep hole motivation-wise. Work, family and training got hard to coordinate and extremely stressful. Honestly, I even wanted to stop my career. During a training session alongside the River Danube I couldn't define my goal for 2012 any more. World Champion? It was anything but realistic. I believed then that my Middle Distance bronze medal in 2011 was the peak of my career. I had no goals to fight for anymore. I actually stopped my bike and wanted to turn back home to let it be and then, suddenly, my goal popped up: four diplomas in Hungary. That's it. It sounded realistic, so I got new motivation and power not to give up, to subordinate everything to that goal and to “do it”.

This was a historic title for Austrian MTB Orienteering. For orienteers in general but especially for an Austrian MTB orienteer, it's impossible not to think of Michaela Gigon and in her seven gold medals. And Tobias certainly doesn't put aside the possibility that this is the first of many titles.

T. B. – I hope so, I'll do my best. I know there will be ups and downs but in the end, at least, I want to say that I have tried everything to win more medals and titles. But it was not only my title that was special; also the Relay medal together with Kevin Haselsberger and Bernhard Schachinger was historic for us, the first one ever for Austrian men at a World Championships. Our goal now is to win the gold in the Relay. We have the potential and the will to do it!

[Photo by Tobias Breitschädel]

Joaquim Margarido

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