Violet Feliciano was the big surprise of the Spanish Orienteering Championships CEO 2013. In her first season in the Elite class, the athlete from Alicante achieved two individual titles and a second place in the Relay race. These results were the perfect pretext for a very interesting conversation that you can see here and now.
In the end of the Spanish Championships, you got back home with two gold medals and one silver medal on your chest. Did you expect this?
Violeta Feliciano (V. F.) - I was really surprised, because I didn’t expect to come home with such good results in my first year in the Elite class, and even less in the Sprint and Middle distances, which were the two races I least believed in. Actually, my main goal was the Long Distance because it has always been my favourite distance, but I made a big mistake at one control and lost a place in the podium. Although after this first race I felt a little demotivated, I knew I was fit and if I ran more self-confident, I could do much better and even be in the top three. Eventually, this change of mind wasn’t bad at all... (laughs)
Where is the secret of such good results?
V. F. - Like in any sport, I guess the secret lies in the effort to train every day and in the will to improve. I wasn't very happy with my results as a Junior, so this year I decided to change my way of seeing orienteering and I setted less demanding goals. I didn’t want any pressure or having to prepare for any Championship in particular, I just wanted to enjoy running and that was what I did. I started to care more about my diet and started feeling good with training. Of course, I also have to thank my coach Jesús Gil, who has prepared all my trainings and helped me to achieve these good results.
It was particularly exciting to watch the end of Relay race and the way you comforted Alicia [Gil], who had just lost the sprint for Anna Serralonga. Can you tell me, really, what did you feel at that moment?
V. F. - This year I knew it would be very difficult to win the Relay because my teammates, Alicia and Esther Gil, for some reason, hadn’t been able to train enough and weren’t very well physically, but even so we wanted to do well and win. When I saw Alicia and Anna punch the last control so close I remembered my first Relay in Elite class, in 2010, where Catalonia also beat us for a few seconds. It's one of the things that make this sport so exciting, that everything can always happen and nothing is decided until the end . Although I would have liked to win, I'm very happy with the effort that my teammates made and I'm very happy too for the Catalan Berta, Annabel and Anna.
Now that you're starting in the Elite, can you tell me how everything's happened?
V. F. - I started pretty soon, I think when I was eight, at school. At first, I also did other sports like basketball, football or athletics, but immediately I became more interested in orienteering. Just 10 years ago I went to my first Spanish Orienteering Championship and I remember that I bet with my father that, if I won, he would give me a videogame console. I don’t know if it was the will to win the bet, but finally I won the two races and when I came home my father had to buy the video game console. Since that day he hasn’t bet anything with me any more. (laughs)
What do you find in this sport that makes it so special?
V. F. - Orienteering is an amazing sport, where body and mind are closely linked. Having a good physical shape isn’t enough, but also good skills with the map are required. This makes it so exciting, because a few seconds of mistake or a bad route choice can make the difference.
Can you mention the best moment of your career until now? And the worst?
V. F. - I’ve got a lot of good memories from all these years doing orienteering, but regarding the physical shape, my best moment could be now. And I'd say I did my worst seasons during my last two years, as a Junior.
How can you get the time for your studies and, nevertheless, being in such a good shape?
V. F. - I study German Translation and Interpretation at university and I'm in my second year. That’s a degree that requires much time and work because it has a very practical approach, so I haven’t got much free time apart from time I spend in trainings. Moreover, the classes are always in the evening and therefore I only have time in the morning to do all my class works and to train. I’ve been training alone for more than two years because the training group of my club always trains in the evening. It's a bit hard to train alone, especially in winter, but if you’ve got will and motivation, it isn’t so difficult. Same with time management, if you want to get something you have to find time from anywhere to combine all.
When you look around you and you see Anna and Marc Serralonga, Biel, Pol and Ona Rafóls, the “Spanish Bomb Kids”, Annabel, Esther, Roger Casal and many others, how do you feel amongst this Elite?
V. F. - I have to say that this year some of the best Spanish orienteers have gone abroad or aren’t in their best shape for several reasons. I think this also affected the Championships' level in the Elite class, especially in the case of women class, who unfortunately are always fewer in number, but still I'm very happy to be competing with the best Spanish orienteers of the moment, because they have always been my reference and now have become my rivals.
Is there an athlete that you follow as an example, of which you are a fan?
V. F. - I consider myself quite lucky for growing up in a club which has brought on great orienteers like Esther Gil, Roger Casal or Antonio and Andreu (Bomb-kids), from whom I’ve learned a lot and I have always had as a reference. I think that they and many other Spanish orienteers have become where they are thanks to the effort and will to improve, despite the limited resources that we have at our disposal. That has a great merit and I think that all of them are the best example of how to become a good athlete.
Because of your studies, I know that you will fail the WOC. How do you feel about it?
V. F. - The fact that I'm not going to the WOC is something that I decided earlier in the season. This year I wanted to give priority to my studies and learning the German language because I think it’s very important for my future. I have a contract of employment in Austria for the beginning of June, so I won’t be available for the dates of the WOC. It’s a pity that I can’t go to Finland because now I feel quite good physically, but it's my first year as an Elite runner and I still have many years to go to a World Championship.
I can't resist asking you the following, since within a couple of days Portugal receives the first stage of the Iberian Championship and we cannot see, among the entries in the Elite class, the overwhelming majority of great athletes from Spain, including Violet. When the two federations agreed to take forward the new model, putting an end to Selections, what did they do to the Iberian Championships?
V. F. - Sincerely I preferred the Iberian Championship model we had before, because it was much more exciting than now. It's a shame that now Spanish and Portuguese federations can’t afford to select national teams because it has reduced excitement to the competition. Although this new model also has advantages, such as the Championship being decided in two different terrains, or any participant having a chance to win. I think that the main problem of this new model is that people consider this event as a competition of the National League like any other and if you live far away, as in our case for example that we live in Alicante, we have to consider our assistance because the next week we have another competition of the National League, which also takes us a long way from home.
With the Spanish Championship overcome and without a goal in sight to the WOC, how will the rest of the season be?
V. F. - My main goal this season was the Spanish Championship, but within two months we also have the Spanish University Championship, where there is also a high level and I’d also like to get good results. Beyond that, there are some National League races before summer. Then I'm going to work to Austria and later I’m going to Munich to do an Erasmus semester in September. So from now on, I will have to start looking for a German club to keep on competing there.
All orienteers cherish a dream. Will you share yours with us?
V. F. - Well, now I don’t have any goal because as I said, this year my priority is to improve my German, but next year, when I come back to Spain, I hope to keep on competing in the Elite class and start thinking about the next WOC.
[Photo: Germán Giménez]