Saturday, December 28, 2013

Vera Alvarez: "Work is the secret"

Leading figure of the Portuguese orienteering, Vera Alvarez is the Orientovar's guest for today. Joining the national Absolute title, the titles of Sprint, Middle Distance and Relay, and also the victory at the Portugal O' Cup overall, the athlete has achieved an unprecedented feat in the history of Portuguese orienteering and talks about her achievements. But there is more, much more!

You left for the Absolute National Championships in the lead of the Portugal O' Cup's ranking and you have 'absolutely' confirmed a victory that was more than deserved. Did you manage, with this “icing on the cake”, to achieve all the goals that you had set at the beginning of the season?

Vera Alvarez (V. A.) - At the very beginning, when I set my goals, I focused my attention on the preparation for the JWOC. This year, at the Portuguese O' Cup, I wasn't sure what to expect and I was a little afraid about the results, but I knew that winning was a possibility. In the end, I guess that I must to be happy, the luck was by my side and paid off my efforts with the results in the National Championships. I was able to stay, both mental and physically, very confident and I won the Sprint, the Middle and the Relay (with the precious help of Mariana Moreira and Susana Pontes). However, I got injured two weeks before the JWOC and it was absolutely impossible to run the courses at the level I wanted to, staying too far from my main goals. So, I can't see my victory in the Absolute Championships as the “icing on the cake”, but just a good sign and encouragement for the next year.

How motivated were you, facing the last stages of the Portugal O' Cup, and how did you see the conquest of the Absolute national title?

V. A. - The whole season was quite different from what I was used to in orienteering so far. And different for better! Since I was 14, and even competing always in a class above my age, I felt alone in competitions and didn't need to make a great performance to win. To overcome this fact, I always attached myself to the international participations, trying to do more and better. This year, I did not need to do this, clearly feeling that competitiveness, as well as the defeats, along this season, further motivated me to evolve as an athlete. The times I didn't win, I got an extra motivation to train and work, making sure that the situation wouldn't repeat. So, I faced the Portugal O' Cup stages much more seriously this year. As for the Absolute Championships, this was a title that I already felt in the previous years that I could win, but I always had problems: several times, I could not attend the Champs, I've been disqualified in the qualifications, I always performed badly in Finals... until last year, when I screwed everything close to the Finish and I ended up 26 seconds from the title. This year I wanted to reverse this, once and for all, so this was a victory with a special flavour.

Throughout this process, this winning combination, where does the secret lie?

V. A. - Secret... Well, I wouldn't call it a secret. To get the results you need to practice and, without work, there is no success. Of course, I can't deny that all the family support that I have, as well as the experience acquired in the recent years, always help a lot. However, these factors by themselves do not determine the success. I can perfectly feel that I do more technical mistakes when I'm not in a good shape. When I'm in shape, all this reverses: I am focused, determined, confident that I will make a good race and many times it happens. Work is the secret and all you need is the will to achieve it.

Do you want to tell us something about your daily routine?

V. A. - Doing my studies in Medicine, I need to devote much time to the books and this year was even more complicated, not only because I have classes every day but also because I spend more than two hours per day in displacements. My class schedules vary widely, depending on the day of the week, but they are mainly in the afternoon. Thus, on a bi-daily training, I run very early in the morning. If not, I limit myself to study until it's time to go to classes. At the end, I come home at around 7 p.m. and I go run at 8 or 9 p.m. After the training, I come back to study until I go to sleep, usually late. In all this process I feel that it would be very different if I had some teammates for training, because to run alone every day is something that I don't especially like.

2013 was, clearly, an atypical season. Just by realizing that none of the top three ranking in the Portugal O' Cup Men Elite was present at the World Championships, we can realize that the things were, at least, strange. How do you evaluate the 2013 season of the Portuguese orienteering?

V. A. - Not being taken with the same commitment from all the athletes, the Portugal O' Cup ranking clearly cannot reflect the value of national athletes. We continue to work to get the best shape in June and July, when the World Orienteering Championships are held, and to rest in the summer holidays. Taking this into account and not forgetting the frequent injuries that many athletes suffer along the season is natural that winning the Portugal O' Cup is not the main goal for many of us. This season, several athletes who could have given a different turn to the rankings, were absent for various reasons , and we cannot rely on the ranking to evaluate 2013. Therefore , I rely on the excellent results of the WOC to say that this was a good season to the Portuguese orienteering, at least in the men's class. The women class is more difficult to assess, but I think that we can see on it a certain evolution.

The truth is that Portugal wasn't represented by any female athlete in the World Champs, in Vuokatti. Do you see this as a disinvestment in the female elite category or is this only a temporary situation?

V. A. - Orienteering in the male sector is much more competitive and that is something that nobody can deny. It is the same worldwide. Still, I do not agree that we are undervalued because it's not our fault that this happens and we try to do our part. The situation, though also caused by cyclical conditions, left us unhappy .

And overall, which is for you the highest moment or the personality of 2013?

V. A. - Simone Niggli, again and again. Her 'goodbye' was absolutely great!

The highest point of the season in Portugal is usually the Portugal O 'Meeting. This year, however, we'll have in April the European Championships, monopolizing all attentions. Would you like to tell us about the two events, in the first case because it is an organization of your club and in the second case because you will represent Portugal at the highest level, for the first time?

V. A. - Although, for academic reasons, I'll not do my contribution to the organization of the Portugal O' Meeting as I intended, the CPOC [Clube Português de Orientação e Corrida] is doing an excellent job and I am sure it will be an event to remember. The essential is made: some fantastic maps! As for the European Champs, it's a great opportunity for me to make my debut into the Elite. The EOC in Portugal will be 'super' and I hope to represent Portugal in the best way.

What are your other goals for the next year, both personal/professional and in sports?

V. A. - The academic level this year will be (is being) rather complicated. Thus, my main personal goal is to finish all my subjects as soon as possible in order to devote more time to training. I need much time to study, but wanting to increase the training load it won't be easy... In orienteering, this will be my last season as a junior and the JWOC will be my main goal. Internally, my goals are always to win everything I can, if I'm able to do so. Therefore, all the National Championships and the Portugal O' Cup ranking are inevitably included in the goals.

Finally - and because we are close to turning the page of another year – I ask you to make a wish for 2014.

V. A. - Health! You just give it the value it has when you don't have it (or when you spend the day studying diseases...). I also wish the absence of injury to all of us. Good 2014! :)

Joaquim Margarido

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