Cecilia Thomasson is one of the names that makes the history of the recent European MTB orienteering Championships, which took place in Poland. To the European title of Long Distance, the athlete joined the silver medal in Middle Distance, winning in one shot the first medals of Sweden in major international MTB orienteering competitions.
How did you start in MTB Orienteering?
Cecilia Thomasson (C. T.) - The first time I tried MTB orienteering was at two competitions in Mora, in the summer of 2010. Since I had been an elite foot-orienteer earlier, to compete in mountainbike sounded really interesting with the mix. The first day Tove Alexandersson beat me by one minute, the second day I beat her by one minute. I was really hooked then! But there were no more competitions in Sweden that year. I had to wait until the next year when Sweden arranged the World Cup event in Rättvik, which was my second competition! But I knew about MTB orienteering a long time ago, when I worked with Ingrid Stengård at a mountain lodge in northern Sweden, in 2003. Then, she told me about the sport and that it was quite big out in Europe, but at that time I lived another life.
What do you see in this discipline that makes it so special?
C. T. - It's the challenge of having high speed still having to read the map. I love to bike and the speed and flow that you get from biking. The mix is a perfect challenge for me.
After a couple of good races last season, we could see you in great shape in these European Championships and, after the silver medal on Middle Distance, you achieved the gold on Long Distance. How do you feel right now?
C. T. - I'm very very happy! I really can't understand that I was first and it's a unbeatable feeling that I want to feel again.
Can you tell me a little bit about your golden course?
C. T. - The feeling I had before the start was “today everything is possible, just take the chance if it's there!”. But it was a warm and quite easy course, so I had to focus on having a good pace and the navigation since I didn't feel very alert in the legs. In the end of the first loop I took a bad route choice and I thought that in the next loop I would have to do perfect navigation in that area if I wanted to be in a good position. On the last loop I got contact with Camilla Sögaard who came from behind. She was very strong and I couldn't get on her wheel. But I had read the last controls in advance and I knew where I should go. When Camilla did a mistake I overtook her and tried to push hard and it worked! I took the chance and I'm very satisfied that I dared to do it. I must say that Long Distance is not my favourite distance; it may be the distance I'm best at, but it's only because of the easy orienteering at which I'm stronger. I like Middle Distance best, because of the mix of long and short legs and that you need to be focused all the time.
How important could the gold (and silver) medal be to the Swedish MTB orienteering?
C. T. - I hope that it will inspire some people to try the sport! In Sweden we have a very strong connection to Foot-O and, in some way, I like the navigation part in Foot-O more than in MTB-O. When people try MTB-O they get disappointed because the navigation is too easy and their biking skills are too poor. When you realise that it's another kind of navigation and don't compare it to Foot-O I think people can appreciate it more.
And what about the future? What are your main goals for the rest of the season?
C. T. - I will try to have as much fun as I can in the rest of the season. I love to bike and to compete and as long as I have these feelings I will continue with this kind of living.
Would you like to share with us your biggest dream?
C. T. - It's nothing big actually. I want to be a good doctor in the future and make difference for the people I help. In sports I want to have fun and to do MTB orienteering is a quite healthy way of living your life, meet new people and travel. I think that the good results come with the happiness of doing the things you love.
[Photo: Cecilia Thomasson]