“We have to talk, we need to talk ...” In spite of the annual encounter with Alessio Tenani, during the Portugal O' Meeting - unforgettable the final day of the 2010 edition -, the interview never made it out of the (good) intentions. It was now... and it was good. The Italian athlete, 34 years old, shows up at his best, opening the doors of his/our world. He takes us into a trip along the season that has just ended and designs the next one, with the eyes on the World Championships... in Italy!
Tiago Romão's Sprint course set, at Monsanto, Portugal, has just achieved the title of “Course of the Year 2013” at the World of O contest. Was this also your choice?
Alessio Tenani (A. T.) - Actually it wasn't. I voted for some other courses I ran during the last year, such as the World Cup races in New Zeland, or the 25 Mannakorten in Sweden. Anyway, I really liked this evening sprint! Since I had some problems due to a fall during the Middle distance in the morning, I didn't run it at full speed. So, I enjoyed the landscape even during the race. Tricky old cities are my favourite terrains (my first choice was Subiaco, in Italy: http://www.alessiotenani.it/allegati/subiaco.jpg), so Monsanto is on my list of favourite places where I ran during 2013.
During the last years, you've been “faithful” to the portuguese event. What is special in Portugal O' Meeting and in Portugal?
A. T. - This is an easy question: the quality of the events, the atmosphere, a multidays programme, the fact that it's a world ranking event, the costs, the food, the scenario, the level of the competitors. I think we should organize something similar in the South of Italy: we have several regions with nice maps and places to stay over the winter, with both forest and sprint maps, and the opportunity for many touristic activities. Clubs are getting bigger in these regions and the Federation is supporting this growth. I guess that in a few years we will be able to offer some good training camps there: not only for a few runners, but something that Scandinavian Clubs can enjoy regularly.
Next March, we'll have both the World Cup in Turkey and the Portugal O' Meeting at the same time. What will your choice be? Do you believe that most top elite runners will do the same choice as you?
A. T. - We were discussing about the World Cup participation last weekend, when the Italian National Team training camp was held: we are going to skip some rounds of it, since the format is still "rich nations friendly". For 2014 I have planned two long training periods during the winter (Tenerife in January, Andalucia in February) but I think that the final decision about running or not in Turkey will be taken by our Federation in the next few days. I guess top runners will be running the World Cup, since all results will bring points and a sprint relay will be held too.
Let's talk now about the season of 2013. The World Orienteering Championships – in which, I believe, would be your biggest goals – turned out to be a failure. Was it a WOC to forget or to remember?
A. T. - Every race has to be remembered, always. Sometimes, a failure teaches you more than a victory. After a good winter, with some nice results in New Zealand, Portugal, Turkey and Slovenia, I had some problems during the spring, and I was not able to run a satisfying WOC: I was not in the right shape, both mentally and physically. The relay was the only ok race for me, even though we were not able to compete for a diploma place. By the way... I'm going to run my 1000th race soon, and I can say that each one has taught me something.
Concerning the rest of your season, which was the best moment? And the worst?
A. T. - Best moment: Wellington, World Cup #2, sprint qualification. I had a 15 seconds late start because of a problem with the start watch: I was able to calm down in a few moments and I ran a perfect race. Worst moment: Alta Badia (Italy, WRE). I was forced to stop after five minutes because of a foot problem.
Can I ask you to tell me something about your two “families”, the Pan-Kristianstad and the Italian National Team?
A. T. - Wow, what a nice question! I think that being in both a Scandinavian Team and in the National Team is a perfect combination: you can focus for bigger relays (Tiomila, Jukola, 25 Manna and some more during the spring) and for major elite events, such as the World Championships, the World Cup and so on. After some nice years running for IFK Umea, I passed to OK PAN Kristianstad in 2011, after the WOC in France. It was a step forward, with more pressure about results and schedule, and I like it. The Scandinavian Teams are always focused and well organized with a main board, UK, Elite Committee and every time you can learn something to import to your Italian Club, such as training systems, observation races, daily schedules, club meetings. As Italian Team, we are very much like a Tower of Babel...We have members living in Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, North and South of Italy... Speaking Russian, Italian, Swedish, German, South Tyrol... But all of us share the same passion and are trying to reach the same goal.
Looking at orienteering in general, what were the biggest achievements in 2013? Simone Niggli, of course, and...?
A. T. - I have to choose a friend for the first place: Marten Bostrom. We were together in China last Autumn, competing in some WRE events there. After these events he planned to have foot surgery... So in the last morning in Beijing he woke up early to have one last run before coming back home. In a few weeks he was ready to come back and after some months he has become a World Champion. Place 2 and 3 are for the Hubmann brothers... Daniel and Martin. Yes, “go hard or go home”... As Cicciolina said (laughs).
I talked about Simone Niggli. We all know that she said goodbye to the Elite competition – at least on a regular way – and there's a couple of top elite runners ending their careers, namely Thierry Gueorgiou. When it happens, in your opinion, who will be the next “king” and “queen” of the orienteering world?
A. T. - Hmm, it's difficult to think of someone other than Tove Alexandersson as the next queen. And I'd say Matthias Kyburz as the next king... Even though we are already talking about two princes.
And what about our sport, its rules, its visibility... Are we going in the right way?
A. T. - In my opinion, something is going in the right way for the visibility: our sport is becoming more TV friendly and I could say it's a step towards the right direction. It was a big discussion about the new WOC format, but I think that the sprint relay will be exciting to run and to watch and it could be good. We will see! About rules... What to say? It's difficult for an Italian to be happy about the World Cup format.
Let's now look at the next season. What is your main goal?
A. T. - 5-12 July: Burano, Venice, Trento, Campomulo. The WOC week, in few words.
Are Portugal and the European Orienteering Championships in your thoughts to achieve a special result?
A. T. - Yes, they are. That week will be a good test in every distance, and these races are going to be decisive for our team selection on the road to the World Champs. I expect seven great races, the best concurrence ever, a very nice week of orienteering. As always, in Portugal.
Just to finish our interview, now that we're a few days away from turning the page of another year, I ask you to leave a wish for 2014.
A. T. - Be happy to run towards your goals, believe in yourself... Because if you do not believe in yourself nobody else will. And I wish that 2014 will be a year to remember... For something good.
[Photo: Alessio Tenani]