Monday, April 01, 2013

Davide Machado: IOF's Athlete of the Month

Our Athlete of April, Davide Machado, is one of the upcoming stars in mountain bike orienteering. He trains with the High Performance Group in Portugal; a special group of elite athletes from various sports who are subsidised by the Portuguese government, to help improve their performance and ensure yet more excellent results. Read more about Davide’s training, and about the goals he aims to achieve this year.

Name: Davide Machado
Country: Portugal
Discipline: MTB Orienteering
Career highlights: World MTB Orienteering Championships - Long Distance 5th (2011 and 2012), Middle Distance 11th (2012), Sprint 6th (2011), Relay 8th (2012); European MTB Orienteering Championships - Long Distance 29th (2011), Middle Distance 34th (2011), Sprint 45th (2011), Relay 13th (2011). 12th in the overall Mountain Bike Orienteering World Cup 2012.
IOF World Ranking position: 11th

It was at the Portuguese Middle Distance and Relay MTBO Championships 2009 that Davide Machado realised that Mountain Bike Orienteering would be his discipline for the future, the one which could make his dreams come true. Why? In particular because the results achieved in these two competitions put him in the 'selection working group' for the World Championships. The possibility of facing, eye to eye, the best in the world and competing against them, coupled with the fact that the Championships were to take place in Portugal, provided extra-special motivation. Davide Machado took the opportunity with both hands, willing to prove to those who bet on him that they were not mistaken.

Discovering for himself the physical strengths needed for MTB Orienteering, and linking that with his already good results: that was the recipe that has made Davide Machado what he is today - one of the greatest experts worldwide in this demanding and spectacular discipline.

When I set my goals, I like to achieve them”

Davide Machado was born in Póvoa de Lanhoso, a city in the Braga district in northern Portugal. Like any child he had a bike and enjoyed playing on it, but wasn't really interested in cycling. He was never the kind of kid who took his bike out in the morning and appeared back with it only at night, much less someone who imagined that one day he would be at the highest competitive level on a bike.

The connection to Orienteering began at the age of 12 through the 'Scholar Sports' scheme. The first results, very encouraging by the way, were in FootO. One of his successes was in 2004 when he represented Portugal at the World School Sports Orienteering Championships ISF (at Bütgenbach, Belgium). “A high point which settled my devotion to this sport”, he says.

How far Davide Machado could have gone in FootO is something that will never be known. Of one thing he is sure: “When I set my goals, I like to achieve them”. Hence his belief that he could have achieved some good results in FootO because, as he says, “with the right effort, you can achieve anything”.

Erik Skovgaard Knudsen, a complete athlete, phenomenal”

MTB Orienteering first came into his life at the end of 2006, and Davide Machado immediately saw in it a great opportunity. From that point on, his enthusiasm for this discipline grew as that Foot-O declined. “Actually I do very little FootO these days, indeed I probably won't run a race this year”, he says. But there's an health reason for this; he has injured his Achilles tendon and his doctors have advised him not to race, especially in hilly terrain, if he wants to avoid having an operation. “On the other hand”, he explains, “although it can be done, it's not very advisable to have intense work-outs both on foot and on a bike; an expert in mountain biking should focus attention primarily on the bike”.

The fomat he likes the most is Long Distance. The reason, as he explains, has to do with the fact that “it's a distance with a more physical component, and that suits me as I am a strong physical athlete”. But confessing his liking also for Sprint races, especially urban Sprints, Machado acknowledges that these are “faster races, more technical, and I’m still learning the technical part”. Looking at his results, you may well think he has few technical shortcomings. He says this is “all part of the learning process and development of the athlete”.

Davide Machado has one person he regards as a model, an idol. He is the Dane Erik Skovgaard Knudsen: “a complete athlete – phenomenal! I was behind him on two legs in the European Championships in Russia, and I saw how amazing his physical and technical capacities were, achieving error-free map reading and exceptional control of the bike at the same time”.

There's no free time for anything else”

In late 2010, following his 7th place in the World MTB Orienteering Championships Long Distance in Montalegre, Davide Machado joined the High Performance Group. This is a special group of elite athletes from various sports who are subsidised by the Portuguese government, to help improve their performance and ensure yet more excellent results. Davide Machado moved to the High Performance Centre in Cruz Quebrada, near Lisbon, where he now lives. For him as an athlete, the change was “very positive, enabling me to have additional support in training and recovery, such as medical care and help with nutrition”.

The mornings are spent at university where he’s studying Business Management. All of his time is spent on studies and training. “There’s no free time for anything else”, he admits. It’s easy to understand why, as in 2012 alone he cycled approximately 17,000 km and spent over 600 hours on training and competition.

I like Poland the most”

The 2013 MTB Orienteering season has as its highlights the European Championships in Poland and the World Championships in Estonia. His goal is clear, and the same for both competitions: renewing his High Performance status, which in practice means getting a top-8 position in at least one of the eight events that he faces. But the sooner he achieves this goal, the better: “I want to do it in the European Championships, so as to be free from increased pressure in the World Championships. Last year I only achieved it in the last race of the World Championships, and I want to avoid another situation like that”.

And although the ambition of being amongst the top eight has a clear purpose, it should be recognised that getting a medal is not out of his thoughts. His modesty leads him to say: “It’s not that I don’t want it – in fact I really want it very much! I’m working on it – but I know that, like me, there are many other athletes who are struggling to make their dreams come true and working hard to get there, so this is something that depends not only on my own willpower”.

European or World Championships? Poland or Estonia? “Personally, I like Poland the most”, says Machado and explains why: “I believe that in Estonia the terrain is flatter and more technical, while in Poland it is more physical, so here the courses will be tougher and hence my chances are higher in Poland. If I reach the goal of getting in the top eight, then of course I will try to do even better at the World Championships”. About one thing, however, he has no doubt: “In competitive terms they will be two very similar events and the technical and organisational quality will both be very high, as these are two countries with a bright history in MTBO”.

Goal: IOF World Ranking's top ten

The best memories of Davide’s career are from previous World Championships, and he sees his 5th place in the 2011 World Championships’ Long Distance as the greatest moment so far: “When I finished I was in 3rd place, and today I can still feel that euphoria of waiting for the three athletes still in the forest, wishing them to fail”. To stay or not to stay in the medals, that was the question. There were moments of tremendous excitement, the most significant of his career until now, and he was happy to settle for what he believes was “a very good result, after all”.

And because both the European Championships and the World Championships count for World Cup scores, and the final World Cup round will take place in Portugal, it is inevitable to end with the question: “What about the World Cup in Portugal next October?” Davide Machado doesn’t hide his ambitions: “I’ll gather all my strength for what will be, for me, the highlight of the season. I want to exceed everyone’s expectations and give Portugal and the Portuguese a lot of joy”. The keys of a great result could be “the kind of terrain where the competition will take place, which I love, and our cartography, something which I am already familiar with”. This apart, of course, from the home-ground factor, always important in terms of motivation.

After the World Cup finishes the season, Davide Machado will look back and remember that he finished last season in 11th place, only three points away from the top 10. He has been as high as 7th the IOF World Rankings at one point, but the truth is that things didn’t go well at the end last year, to be precise in the final round in Estonia. This year everything will be different: “I really hope to have a good campaign, and reach that goal of being in the IOF World Ranking’s top ten at the end of the season”.

Athlete's question

Question from Stanimir Belomazhev, Athlete of March: - Do you have another sports passion apart from MTB orienteering?

Davide Machado: “Besides MTB Orienteering I love MTB cross-country. I started practising it as a complement to the physical training for MTB Orienteering but now, even though it is secondary, I take things a little more seriously. At national level I’ve got some good results in 2012, e.g. third place in the National Championships, and this year I hope that things go even better. It’s a sport that’s improved enormously in recent years, especially because of the growing number of athletes who practice it, and being an Olympic sport it creates more impact on society and this makes it a little easier to get some support, especially in terms of materials”.

And Davide’s question to the Athlete of May, the Paralympic Trail Orienteer Evaldas Butrimas, Lithuania:

- How do you see TrailO’s future? What are your goals in this sport?

Joaquim Margarido

[See the original article at Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]

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