Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Olga Vinogradova: IOF's Athlete of the Month

Our Athlete of December is a mountain bike orienteer with a short but impressive career so far – and with so much more to come in the next years! Olga Vinogradova, Junior World Champion from 2010 and winner of the middle distance race at the World Cup Final Round this year, says she found MTB orienteering in 2009, and realised that this was her sport. “In orienteering there is no limit to how much you can improve”, she says, and it is clear she is aiming to improve a lot: according to her diary statistics, she is doing more than one thousand hours of various workouts extra to what she was doing two and a half years ago.

Name: Olga Vinogradova

Country: Russia

Discipline: MTB Orienteering
Career highlights: World MTB Orienteering Championships – Long Distance 6th (2011), Middle Distance 4th (2013); Junior World MTB Orienteering Championships – Long Distance 1st (2010), Middle Distance 1st (2010); European MTB Orienteering Championships – Middle Distance 4th (2011), Long Distance 4th (2013); World Cup – Middle Distance 1st (event 10 in 2013). 6th overall in the Mountain Bike Orienteering World Cup 2013.
IOF World Ranking position: 7th.

With the December Athlete of the Month we say goodbye to 2013 by presenting one of the biggest rising stars in MTB orienteering at the present time. We meet Olga Vinogradova, close to celebrating her 23rd anniversary, a Russian athlete who is also passionate about weightlifting, photography and football.

In winning the penultimate stage of the 2013 Mountain Bike Orienteering World Cup, Olga Vinogradova was only the 13th athlete to join the list of individual winners of MTBO World Cup competitions. She joins her team-mate Ksenia Chernykh on this list, an athlete who has brought to Russia four gold medals and six silvers in the World MTB Orienteering Championships. Here is another who has a whole path of glory opening up at her feet.

So who is this Olga Vinogradova? A slender figure with very blonde hair, her smile always radiant and a camera constantly in her hands are her ‘brand image’. She confesses to be passionate about photography, but also – who knew? – about weightlifting and football. “You can probably catch me enjoying one of these things anywhere in the world, even during training camps”, she says. Actually there are a lot of things she likes. Modelling clay, workshops on various topics and dancing – “I love discos during banquets after MTBO competitions” – are just a few of her interests. And also to eat: “I eat everything. I like liquorice a lot, various cheeses, new meals with strange tastes, honey and fruit shakes, black tea with milk and sugar or green tea with herbs.” But what she really would like is “to stop getting ill after training camps, and to have a new bike”. And, most of all, “to get full control of my emotions”, she adds.

I had found my sport!”

For someone who likes skiing, running, playing football, foot orienteering and ski orienteering, deciding to specialise in MTB orienteering wasn’t an easy process. In Olga’s case we have to back-track to 2008 when, after very intensive training and a succession of footO competitions, she started to show some disease symptoms and she had to slow down. After recovery she tried to qualify for the Russian team for the Junior World Championships in Italy, but she wasn’t successful.

Alexey Kuzmin, School Sports Director in Moscow helped her to get a place in the national MTB Orienteering team to take part in the Junior European Championships in Denmark. “By some kind of intuition, he knew that I was strong enough to be on top there”, says Olga, and the facts are that in Denmark she came 5th in Sprint distance – and one and a half months later, in Israel, she was 10th in Long distance in her second race in the Elite class (the day before, on her debut, she was 22nd in Middle Distance). So at the end of 2009 the decision was taken: “Thanks to my coach, Vyacheslav Kostylev, I started to look closer into the techniques of MTB orienteering, which helped me towards winning Junior World MTBO Championship races in 2010 in Portugal. I had found my sport!”

In orienteering there is no limit to improvement”

But what does Olga find in this sport that makes it so special for her? The answer is simple: “In orienteering there is no limit to how much you can improve”. And she lists the good and the bad moments of her career until now: “Above all the victory this autumn in Portugal in the World Cup Middle distance. Also three years ago, again in Portugal, in the Junior World Championships when I won my first race (even though that day’s race was declared void). After that I won the next two races in succession.” She also believes that the World Championships Long distance in Italy in 2011 was a great race, although to include this race in the best moments of Olga’s career has nothing to do with the result (she took 6th position), but due to her feelings during and after the race: “I am happy with the quality of what I did that day”, she says.

But there were also bad moments, the worst of all “when Czech athlete Hana Dolezalova fell and seriously damaged her spine in the Long distance qualification at the World Championships in Portugal. I passed by when she was being taken to the ambulance.” One year later Olga also had a bad fall in Lithuania, fortunately without particularly dramatic consequences: “I will never forget those moments.”

Portugal a kind of talisman

Portugal seems to be a kind of talisman for Olga Vinogradova. Here she feels happy, here she has had the highest moments of her career until now – she plans to return again very soon – and here she experienced one of the most curious and comical situations in her life as a MTB orienteer. Let’s hear the story she has to tell us: “It happened when I won my first gold medal as a junior. During the awards ceremony, the Russian national anthem started to play, and I started to sing the words from the anthem of USSR (the anthem of Russia has the same melody as the USSR anthem had, but new lyrics). I looked at my team-mates who were singing in another way, and then I became confused and I forgot the words for both anthems! But with the help of the team I remembered them again and sang the ending. At the World Cup in October I did sing the Russian anthem!”


Olga doesn’t belong to a club and she trains alone. During this year she has been on training camps with Ksenia Chernykh, Viktor Korchagin and Nadia Mikryukova. While she is looking for a club in Europe, she tells that her ‘normal’ training runs to a “three days plus one rest day” scheme. And she gives an example of a training day: “Running in the morning, skiing or biking around midday and, in the evening, skiing or running or playing football. I also like going for a walk with ski poles (3-5 hours in the snowy mountains). I don’t repeat the same training or the same training routine on a regular basis.” On rest days she likes walking, reading, taking photos and editing them, learning (she is a student), and one hour of full mental relaxation. “Some times I go skiing or biking, but not for training. And I like to cook”, she adds.

To change this load of training into kilometres covered gives a “frightful” amount: “I don’t count kilometres, just training time and training load”, she says, noting that the principle is not the amount of training but the quality of it. “The most important thing is the purpose and goal of each training session”, she emphasises. According to her diary statistics, she is doing more than one thousand hours of various workouts extra to what she was doing two and a half years ago.

Poland, Estonia and Portugal

Besides Portugal where she won one of the races, Olga was in Poland and Estonia this year for the other World Cup rounds, and she shares with us a couple of strong impressions. “I can say that I enjoyed some good moments, especially when I had finished my courses” (laughs).  In Estonia and Poland she finished 4th twice. She was in the top 10 six times this year, compared with not a single time in the previous season. Olga comments: “I like the way I was stable this season. I had told myself that I could never be stable, and now I’m glad that I am failing in my predictions.” One of the most uncomfortable moments was at the Middle Distance in the World Championships, when she was bitten by a wasp. She was frightened, barely looked at the map in search of the best option, trying to ride as fast as possible and … “I was 4th then” (laughs). A thrilling moment was in Portugal: “I did the whole race with the rear wheel not fixed properly and I won.”

Portugal again. Have you changed after your win in Grândola? Olga’s answer is affirmative: “After Grândola I have become more confident. And my relationships with my friends and family have changed greatly.” Another question about an athlete that she follows as a role model, of whom she might be a big fan, and another interesting answer: “If you ask me to choose two or three from one thousand I will do that, although it is a choice based on their external appearance. I don’t have a role model among sportsmen because I don’t know about their motivation.”

A woman with ambition

Now that we know a little more about the past and present of Olga Vinogradova, it is time to look to the future. “The biggest goal of my life… is to develop myself and live”, she says, admitting that she has plenty of thoughts about it, but is unable to choose one goal in particular: “I have a lot of ambitions and all of them carry equal importance”.

The final message goes for those who always wanted to know about MTB orienteering, but are afraid to ask: “Try it! It is impossible to understand it until you try it. It’s the same with footO, how do we explain to others what footO is? I think the best I can do is to suggest you try it, and then you can start to tell others about orienteering.”

Text and photo: Joaquim Margarido

[See the original article at http://orienteering.org/in-orienteering-there-is-no-limit-to-how-much-you-can-improve/. Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]

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