The Queen of orienteering ends her fantastic career at the very, very top – again winning all three individual World Championships titles. Simone Niggli had tears in her eyes when she announced her retirement from orienteering a week before the World Cup final – and she gave the spectators on home ground in Baden, Switzerland tears in their eyes at her final showdown when she managed to win the last fight in her career – the overall World Cup 2013.
Q: Congratulations on being awarded “The Orienteering Achievement of 2013″ – for the 5th and final(?) time! What an incredible season – and what an incredible career! With so many great results to pick from – what do you think was your biggest achievement this season?
I think there are two main things I want to pick out: Firstly the WOC week in Vuokatti. I really managed to be on the top in this important week and to use the necessary skills in the different disciplines. To be the best in Finland was just amazing! Secondly I’m very proud of my results at the World Cup Final in Switzerland. There was a lot of pressure and media attention around me, especially after my announcement of retiring. Nevertheless I ran in the same way as in a “normal” race and I was very happy with my performances and the World Cup victory.
Q: As your international orienteering career is finished now, it is also natural to ask which three achievements in your career you value highest – it might not even be the gold medals?
It is a very difficult question. As every gold medal is something special it’s hard to pick out one. I would like to point out some other achievements: my first victory in Venla with my first Scandinavic club Turun Suunnistajat 2002. I remember my fight on the last meter against Hanne Staff, another big orienteer! 2004 I won Venla with Ulricehamns OK, I went out as 4th and came back as the winner. With my present club OK Tisaren we became 2nd at last years 10mila, a fantastic result with a young promising team. With these results I want to show my stations in scandinavic clubs. I have a lot of nice experiences and memories from these clubs which I will never forget!
Q: Can you name three key persons who were important for your achievements in 2013?
Vroni König-Salmi as my personal coach and also coach of the Swiss girls. She helped me a lot with the set up of my training and was a big support even in the periods when it didn’t work too well during winter. My husband Matthias was always a key person in my life. Without him I wouldn’t achieve all the big results! Last but not least my three children Malin, Anja and Lars. They are the biggest joy in my life and they gave me a lot of energy.
Q: You have won countless WOC, EOC, NOC, national championships and big relays – can you name anything within orienteering that you have not won which you have tried to win?
Actually I can’t ! Or perhaps… I’m really motivated to win 25manna once ;-))
Q: Big achievements is one thing – but to get as far as you have, I guess it is important to have fun with what you are doing as well. What is the most fun you have had during orienteering the past year?
It was the 3-months trip with my family in Sweden and Finland. On the one hand I got a lot of nice trainings and competitions in beautiful terrain, on the other hand we had fantastic weeks with the family. I always loved to orienteer in different countries, especially in Scandinavic countries, and I will always do!
Q: What do your days look like now in the winter when you don’t have to put in all that training anymore? Do you still get out running nearly every day?
The big difference is that I don’t have to! I still love running and therefore I train nearly daily outside. But there is no plan or goal behind these trainings: I don’t plan how long or how fast I will going to run ;-) For me it’s a relief not to feel the pressure to achieve something in the next season, I can just enjoy.
My days are still well-stocked with my children and the work with media and sponsors which increased a lot the past few months.
Q: A tricky question in the end: There will be opportunities for many others now that you finished your career – who do you think will be the most successful women orienteers in 2014?
I don’t want to pick out one girl because there are a lot of strong runners out there. Personally I really hope for a comeback of Helena Jansson – and watch out for the Swiss Girls!
Q: Any final words to your fans out there?
I’m really honored and glad that I got selected for the “Achievement of the year” for the last time. I take it as a reward for my whole fantastic career and thank you a lot. During all the years I felt appreciated by the fans and the other athletes which is very important for me. I do love orienteering and therefore we meet soon out there in the forest… perhaps a little bit slower but with the same enthusiasm!
Jan Kocbach / World of O