Our Athlete of the Month is the big home favourite at the upcoming World Orienteering Championships. Whole Finland, and several other countries, will be following her every step in the terrains in Vuokatti, Finland, in July. But what is the story behind Minna? Who is she, what does she do, and how does she train? Find out that and more in Athlete of the Month!
Name: Minna Kauppi
Discipline: Foot Orienteering
Career highlights: Nine times World Orienteering Champion (middle distance 2008, 2010, 2012, long 2007, relay 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011), two European titles (middle 2006, relay 2006), two times Junior World Orienteering Champion (middle 2001, 2002).
IOF World Ranking Position: 2nd
It’s almost commonplace to say that this or that individual needs no introduction, since the facts and deeds speak for themselves. This is for sure the case with Minna Kauppi, placed 2nd in the IOF’s World Ranking and whose nine gold medals in the World Championships reveal her enormous talent and engagement. Still, we asked her to introduce herself: “Who is Minna Kauppi?”
“My name is Minna, actually Minna-Mari, but the name is too long for my personality (laughs)”. Answer given, ice broken, a pleasant conversation starts. But before we get to orienteering, the main subject, Minna talks a little bit about herself, her life and her tastes: “I was born in Asikkala on 25.11.1982 and for the last 10 years I’ve been hanging around in Jyväskylä. I’ve got an older sister and an older brother and dad. I like to do all kinds of stuff. I love to make good food, go to concerts and just do something with my hands. If there’s something fun going on, I usually want to be a part of it. I also like many kinds of music, from classical to rock, and the same goes with the movies. Well, maybe I prefer drama and comedy. And happy endings!”
A couple of great memories
Minna started orienteering when she was eight and went to the local orienteering school with her siblings. She also skied and ran, but at the age of 16 she realised that she wanted to become an orienteer. “Then I decided to aim for a place in the Junior World Championships team next summer”, she says.
With Junior World Orienteering Championships 2001 and 2002 came the first big achievements, and an outstanding career was under way. A career from which she keeps a couple of wonderful memories: “The victory at Venla Relay  was something really special for me as we were a small and great group and had a mutual dream. On the other hand, maybe my Middle Distance win in the Czech Republic was something really great. I achieved a great performance in difficult terrain.”
“Sport is really important, but it’s never been the only thing to do and enjoy”
“And,” we would like to know, “what about the Athlete of the Year award in Finland in 2011?” Minna appears very pragmatic about that: “Well, as we all know, the Athlete of the Year award is always something very big but, on the other hand, the concept is somehow wrong as you cannot really compare one sport to another. Basically, the award was a really important thing for orienteering and, of course, my chances to get good deals also improved. I think it has also had an effect on people’s knowledge about orienteering. Many adults especially have started to orienteer during the past few years. But it always feels quite weird to get that kind of big award for just doing something that you enjoy.”
One day we can see her, fast and powerful, in her sponsored sports gear, and the next day we are surprised by her beauty and elegance in an evening dress at a fashion show. “How do you see the world beyond Orienteering?”, we are ready to ask. “For me the world beyond orienteering has always been important. I’ve also enjoyed practising my skills in other sectors of life. I’m already thinking of the future after orienteering, and I think it’s good to have an education and some experience and contact in other places, too. For me sport is really important, but it’s never been the only thing to do and enjoy.”
Today, Minna is quite well known and recognised in Finland and she has noticed that people are really interested in everything she does. The reverse of the coin of being well known is that, “sometimes, I also feel that I can’t do everything that normal people do because I’m being followed so widely; but I still always try to be the ‘normal me’ and show that athletes are also human beings and not just machines.” Minna leads the way: “For me it’s especially children I’d like to inspire to start doing sport and challenging themselves that way”, she says.
“The victory at Venla was enough for me”
Talking about her club, Asikkalan Raikas, Minna emphasises that it is “quite a small club, but we managed to gather a nice group of girls around me and my sister. First just a couple of our friends joined us, but later some other girls came along as well.” But times change: “Most of our women have now got families and jobs, so it’s more or less a hobby for them. Still, I don’t feel I want to change my club. The victory at Venla was enough for me even though Relays are always great”, she adds.
“I’m not uncomfortable at all to keep the control in my own hands”
It’s time now to take a peek at Minna’s training. A question: “What would a typical training week and month look like?” – and an answer: “There are no typical training weeks. Basically, I’ve been training about 13-14 hours per week during the winter but now the amount is getting lower. Typically there have been a couple of harder orienteering training sessions, some running technique and maybe strength but I also like to do a lot of running on aerobic level.”
Minna Kauppi puts the physical and mental aspects at the same level, but… “The brain doesn’t usually function if I’m too tired, so for me a good feeling is also important. And actually I enjoy more the physical side in training.”
Taking a look at Minna’s blog – http://www.minnakauppi.com/ -, we can see that her coach is “Me, Myself and I”. But things are not as simple as that: “First my father was the one I followed and I’ve also had much help from Pasi Ikonen later and even tried to have some normal coaching. Even now, I’ve got a bunch of people that I can consult, so I’m not so alone. We’ve got many Training Camps with the National Team, so there’s also the possibility to get some gen from the coaches. But I’ve learned to train by myself and to know my body and it’s been working well this way, so I’m not uncomfortable at all to keep the control in my own hands.”
“We should take the public into account”
Getting towards the end of our interview, there’s still time to talk about World Orienteering Championships, remembering the title of one article she wrote on her webpage, “I want to want”. “So what does Minna want from the next style of World Championships?” She answers: “I’d prefer that sprint races were arranged in separate places and maybe at another time of the year or even in another year. The terrains for the races should always be the best possible. But of course, we should take the public into account. It’s important that people can reach the competitions easily so that we’re not left in the shadows.”
One last question: “Will you enjoy orienteering just for leisure one day?” Minna replies: “Of course. Maybe I will just run in nicer terrain and organised training sessions, but I’d get lost if I did no sport at all.” And a final piece of advice from Minna: “Be wise, be fast and be happy.”
Evaldas Butrimas, Lithuania, Athlete of May, asked Minna: “What are your goals for the forthcoming World Championships, on your home ground?” Minna replied: “My goal is to be the best, which basically means that I want to win the Middle, the Long and the Relay. Of course, it would be nice to fight for the golden one in the Sprint as well, but I’m not sure if I’ll be on the start line for that”.
And Minna Kauppi’s question to the Ukrainian foot orienteer Oleksandr Kratov, who will be the IOF’s Athlete of July: “What other things apart from orienteering and competitions are you expecting or would like to experience in Finland during the World Championships?”
Text: Joaquim Margarido
Photo: Suomen Suunnistusliitto
Photo: Suomen Suunnistusliitto
[See the original article at http://orienteering.org/minna-kauppi-on-the-way-to-vuokatti/. Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]