Friday, November 29, 2013

"Course of the Year 2013": Tiago Romão wins with the Sprint course in Monsanto

After Bruno Nazario having seen his Long Distance course of the Portugal O' Meeting to be awarded with the title of best “Course of the Year” in 2012, it's now the time for Tiago Romão, one year later, to also achieve a prominent place. This time, his Sprint course setting of the Portugal O' Meeting 2013 won the popular contest promoted by World of O, reinforcing the image of quality of the Portuguese organizations.

I believe I'm right saying that, what moves a course planner is, in compliance with orienteering's spirit and rules, to meet the interests and joy of the athletes. Above all, is to realize that his/her work had expression in the satisfaction of each one of those who had the chance to try and compete. In this sense, what special meaning does the victory at the “Course of the Year 2013” have for you?

Tiago Romão (T. R.) - Even considering that results, in this sort of contests, are always relative, they are still very important to orienteering by the recognition and publicity to Portugal, showing the high quality and the great interest of our courses. On a personal level, it means the recognition of the hard work and commitment that I put in everything I do in orienteering, a recognition that ultimately comes from the outside.

Can you remember the early times when you faced the challenge of being the course setter of the Portugal O' Meeting's second stage, precisely that of Monsanto, the first trips to the terrain, to contact with cartography, the first drafts...? What certitudes and doubts were present in your mind from the beginning?

T. R. - From the first moment , the biggest challenge was making possible an orienteering stage with the dimension of the Portugal O' Meeting in an almost inaccessible village. The whole plan began by trying to make the course as accessible as possible for everyone. So, only the Elite class could go to the castle, for example, contrary to my initial purpose. Thus, I just created a mental idea of how to set the course taking full advantage of natural conditions. After all, the work involves, firstly, choosing and planning the most interesting options without being concerned about the precise placement of the control, in a second phase finding the best placement for each controls and then leaving for the end the adjustment and testing of the courses. Anyway, my idea was always to make not only a competitive and technical course but also to explore its “touristic potential”, so that the athletes could enjoy the wonderful village of Monsanto.

How do you evaluate the work done?

T. R. - In general I think that the main objective was achieved , particularly given the tight timings in terms of the Portugal O 'Meeting program. The few hours available of sunlight were a huge constraint, since it would be dangerous to take a night course on that place. I must admit that, if I set another course today , I'd do everything the same way as the number of athletes do not leave much freedom of action to change substantially whatever.

Do you prefer to set Sprint courses or do you have other predilections?

T. R. - I really like Sprint and hence to trace these races is always a pleasure. On the other hand I also like setting Middle distance courses a lot. Anyway, I feel always a great pleasure that people enjoy what I do and how to contribute positively to the quality of our events.

When you look back and take an overview of the many races you did throughout the world, can you enumerate the three courses that you enjoyed the most until now?

T. R. - Yes, the JWOC Sprint 2009, the Tiomila 2009 and the Long Distance course of the 2nd Arraiolos International Meeting, in 2011.

It is common sense to say that, with a team like Barcelona, for example, any Football coach is able to win the Champions League. In a place like Monsanto, would any course setter have a great chance to be equally successful or, indeed, would the things not work exactly like that, as the level of demand in this type of terrain is uncommon?

T. R. - The truth is that it is impossible to make omelets without eggs. In the case of Monsanto there were many logistical constraints and everything had to be taken into account immediately. It was very important to have a knowledge of the terrain and to avoid places that could be dangerous, either with rain or fog, as well as parts of difficult progression, specially in this area between the Castle and the urban quarter. After the urban area, given the quality and natural scenery, the course should have the maximum number of options that put the athletes into real challenges. I also tried to put some controls in places of natural beauty like the inside of a passage between two huge boulders, the castle's geodesic landmark or next to Lucano's tower, with its astonishing view.

Within the past three years, Portugal has had a significative number of courses distinguished among the 10 best in the world in this contest promoted by World of O. Can we say that we have a Portuguese school of map makers and course setters globally recognized or is it just a circumstantial matter, linked to the strong presence of foreign athletes in our winter international competitions?

T. R. - I think that our organizations are sometimes opposite, some very good and some very bad, regardless of the time of year. However, I think there are clubs organizing well whatever event and these clubs should be rewarded because they really care about the athletes and not just to meet schedule. On the other hand I do not consider that there is a Portuguese school of map makers or course setters, but a handful of individuals who are really interested in the sport and that acquired an important know how. Thus, organizations are the image of the quality of these people's work, which makes the organizational quality substantially lower when they are not involved.

One question that everyone would like to have answered - and you, probably, are no exception - has to do with the next European Championships, in Palmela. Personally, what do you expect from each of the courses in relation to the terrains, maps and courses?

T. R. - I expect very fast races in the forest and no big technical detail. As for the Sprint, I expect a very interesting course since the terrains are of great quality. Looking at technical issues, we know that some people with more knowledge and experience wish to compete or join the staff of the Portuguese national team, but still there are more people with knowledge that will certainly do a good job and a Senior Event Adviser that will ensure the IOF compliance with the highest standards.

Do you consider there is a “before” and an “after” Monsanto with this result?

T. R. - I do not consider that there may be such milestone because it was just a course that I liked a lot to draw and the result did not influence any perception that I have on it. At this moment I will always help in setting courses organized by my club, although my availability is somewhat reduced at the moment because of my academic activity.

Do you see your future in orienteering somehow connected to the mapping and course planning, or is it more in the technical and training area that you see yourself when leaving the Elite competition?

T. R. - First of all, I still see myself in competition for a long time, once my evolution process as an elite athlete still has a long way to go. But in the future I am more willing to, perhaps, create a club in a place where orienteering doesn't exist. I think the only way in which our sport can grow in Portugal depends on the existence of a larger number of clubs, and so I intend to give back to orienteering what it has given to me all these years.

[See here all courses and photos of POM's Sprint in Monsanto]

Joaquim Margarido

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