Saturday, December 27, 2014

MTB Orienteering season 2014: A lot to celebrate!

Denmark, Sweden and Poland: three focal competition points in the Mountain Bike Orienteering season that has just ended. It was there that the world Elite met in large numbers, where the key outcomes were concentrated. From Birkerød and Skåne to Białystok and Supraśl, here is a look over the best that happened in 2014, in a discipline where spectacular performances and long-lasting excitement are both sides of the same coin.

By Joaquim Margarido

Beginning with the first of the three major international events of the season: the MTB Orienteering World Cup headed to Denmark for the opening round of the 2014 edition. The great moments of the European Championships and World Junior Championships in 2009 were still present in many riders' memories, along with the recognized organizational quality and the challenge of the terrain around Birkerød. The natural anxiety that comes at the beginning of each season was clearly apparent, with the first “real” cycling giving everyone the chance to see the effects of their winter preparation. Expectations were running high!

In winning the Sprint, the Russian Anton Foliforov and the Finn Marika Hara opened the season in the best possible way following their overall victories in the 2013 World Cup. The Long Distance stage had the Finnish athletes Pekka Niemi and Ingrid Stengård as the big winners. Victories certainly tasty in both cases, being the first by Niemi in a World Cup stage, and for Stengård a return to the highest place of the podium, something she was away from for almost two years. Marika Hara, Pekka Niemi and Jussi Laurila won the Mixed Relay for Finland on the last day of competition, with France second here, alongside Gaëlle Barlet, Cédric Beill and Baptiste Fuchs are emerging in a dazzling way.

But the story of this World Cup MTB orienteering 2014's first round is completed by other names and not only the winners. The Norwegian Hans Jørgen Kvåle and the British Emily Benham, the Russians Svetlana Poverina and Olga Vinogradova and the Dane Erik Skovgaard Knudsen deserve to get a mention in finishing a little step from the gold. With the advance of the season, some would confirm their good moment and get higher placings. Others, not so much …

A new participation record

In the second half of July, 16,000 orienteers from all around the world took the route to northern Europe. Only a big competition like O-Ringen (Sweden) has such power and charisma, strengthened this year by the fact that it was celebrating its 50th anniversary. Side by side with its "sisters" Foot and Trail Orienteering, MTB Orienteering appeared prominently showed itself prominently in the programme, being the first discipline to “take the field” and also in having three stages counting for World Cup ranking. In addition to the 124 athletes entered in Elite classes, we should reflect on the 644 participants during the three days of open competition, making the O-Ringen MTBO 2014 the competition with the highest-ever participation in MTB Orienteering history.

Anton Foliforov took a giant step towards renewing his victory in the World Cup overall in winning the Middle Distance and Long Distance stages. The big surprise in the men's competition came from Estonia, with Lauri Malsroos clearly beating Hans Jørgen Kvåle to win the Sprint stage and get his first-ever victory in the World Cup. Winning everything there was to win, Emily Benham was the common denominator of all stages in the women's class. By clear margins in the Middle Distance and Long Distance, but only three little seconds over Ingrid Stengård on Sprint, the triumphs of the British athlete took her to the leadership of the World Cup and transform her into the main favourite for the world titles, five weeks before the competition.

Russia's great year

The month of August was headed for its end when, in Poland, the 12th edition of the World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships took place. With all attention focused on Białystok and Supraśl, the competitions would find the new World Champions in the Middle, Long, Sprint and Relay distances, all of them also being stages counting in the World Cup 2014's final round.

After a Mixed Sprint Relay prologue won by the Russians Tatiana Repina and Ruslan Gritsan, the real competition started with the most exciting outcome in the history of the World Championships, with an epic Sprint crediting Hans Jørgen Kvåle and Anton Foliforov with the same time and thereford both awarded gold medals. After her silver medals in 2009 and 2011, Marika Hara won her first world title in Sprint, clearly beating the Russian Tatiana Repina. With four male and three female athletes in the first seven positions on the respective lists of results, Russia showed itself firmly determined to avenge the previous season, in which Russia got no gold medals at all for the first time since 2004.

Ruslan Gritsan then took the gold medal in the Middle Distance, a victory that allowed the Russian athlete to regain a title that had escaped him for nine years (!). That makes him currently the male athlete with the most gold medals in the history of the World MTB Orienteering Championships with six individual world titles, overtaking the Australian Adrian Jackson, World Champion five times. In the female sector, the Swede Cecilia Thomasson asserted herself again as one of the greatest current MTB orienteering experts, winning the world title in Middle Distance after winning the Sprint gold medal in the 2013 World Championships.

But it was in the Long Distance, the classic race of the Championships, that Russia showed itself at the highest level, with Anton Foliforov recovering the title he won in 2010 and Olga Vinogradova being crowned World Champion for the first time ever in her career. Vinogradova came back to a prominent place in the results on the last day of competition by winning, along with Tatiana Repina and Svetlana Poverina, the world title in Women's Relay, achieved only once previously by Russia in the distant year of 2006. With a superbly ridden last leg Tõnis Erm, the twice World Champion (Sprint and Middle Distance) in 2013, brought Estonia its first gold ever in the Relay, climbing to the highest place on the podium beside his team-mates Lauri Malsroos and Margus Hallik. Finland took the silver medals in both men's and women's classes.

Foliforov and Benham won World Cup overall

The event in Poland also decided the 2014 Masters and Junior World Champions 2014 and received incorporated another edition of the European Youth MTB Orienteering Cup. The Junior victories of the Swedes Kajsa Engstrom (Middle Distance) and Oskar Sandberg (Sprint), added to Cecilia Thomasson's gold, allowed Sweden to affirm itself as one of the powerful countries in the MTBO panorama worldwide. Another outstanding Junior performance came from New Zealander Tim Robertson with the gold medal in Middle Distance and silver in Sprint - after having won, a few weeks before, a Junior world title in FootO! The Czech Veronika Kubinova won the Middle Distance gold medal, while the titles in Long Distance went to the Austrian Andreas Waldmann and the Finn Ruska Saarela. Russia in the men's class and the Czech Republic in the women's class took the Relay titles, with Kubinova named as the most successful rider of the Championships.

The World Championships results, counted into the MTB Orienteering World Cup points, left Anton Foliforov and Emily Benham holding the top positions. A little short of expectations in terms of results, Emily Benham ended up with two World Championships medals - bronze in Sprint and silver in the Middle Distance. However she stoically defended herself in the World Cup standings from Marika Hara, the winner of the World Cup in the three previous years. Winning in five of the eight individual stages scoring for the World Cup 2014's ranking, Anton Foliforov was unlike last season a strong winner, renewing an achievement that rewards regular performance at the highest level.

A number of smaller Mountain Bike Orienteering nations have strong individual athletes – the Lithuanian Jonas Maiselis and the Portuguese Davide Machado are just two exemples - and they are starting to challenge the established order in the results. No longer are the results dominated by a select group of countries; racing is more exciting, more unpredictable and more challenging. The speed and skills of the top athletes are reaching new heights each year. The future is bright and promising for MTB Orienteering.

Turning the attention to the rest of the World

The first “fight” in 2015 it assigned to Miskolc in Hungary at the beginning of May. After that there is the European Championships in Portugal and the World Championships in the Czech Republic. For 2016, the International Orienteering Federation has had the greatest number of applicants for World Cup rounds since the World Cup started in 2010. While only two of these could be chosen – and Portugal will host the World Championships - hopefully IOF will continue to have many applicants each year. This would not only allow a wider choice of terrain, but also regions. Is a World Cup in the USA or South Africa, in Indonesia or Brazil, a possibility in the future? MTB Orienteering has developed well in Europe, and now perhaps it's time for the big events to get out into the rest of the World...

[Photo: Nigel Benham. See the original article at Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]

Friday, December 26, 2014

Mariana Moreira: "I think that anyone was expecting to find such kind of terrain"

She was the “queen” of Orienteering in Portugal in 2014, reaching four national titles and also the National League. In the meanwhile, she had the first international participations in the Elite class and she signed the course of the third day of the Portugal O' Meeting, one of the most acclaimed of the year among the world orienteering community. Mariana Moreira talks about the season that now ends.

It's almost common sense to think that anyone who set a course at the Portugal O' Meeting take the “risk” of being the winner of “The Course of the Year”. Did you think of it?

Mariana Moreira (M. M.) - It's true that, in the last two years, POM was the big winner of the “Course of the Year”, but it wasn't at all with this main goal that I agreed to be the course setter of one of the days of POM. This year we have seen many high-quality courses in a wide range events around the world and I knew that it was very unlikely to win the same event for the 3rd year in a row. Still – and I think I can speak in name of my club -, to know that Thierry Gueorgiou considered the 3rd day of POM the best course of the year or that Annika Billstam elected the terrains of the POM as the best she ran in 2014, was for us a great pride.

Setting that course in particular, what goals did you have in mind?

M. M. - As in all courses I’ve setted (and there weren't so many as that), the main goal was undoubtedly trying to create the greatest challenge for athletes. In this particular course, the idea was to try to create like a “shock” in the very beginning, in a course with a lot of controls and changes of direction in the initial area which was, in fact, very, very demanding. I think that anyone was expecting to find such kind of terrain, when in the day before, and right next door, they had run in a much more open and mostly “yellow” Arcozelo.

About the terrain, this wasn't a discover of mine. We had already decided well in advance who would be the setters of the four forest stages but we only decided who would draw the course of each day when the maps were almost ready. I was then in charge to set the courses at this piece of West Arcozelo map. It was necessary to have a great understanding between the course setters of the last three stages, since the end of the three days was the same and we should, obviously, avoid to repeat controls or challenges. Then, I’ve worked together with Raquel Costa and Tiago Aires (also map makers) and we reached the best possible solutions. Several versions were created for the different courses, especially because when I started to set it, the total area of this 3rd day map was much more limited and it was necessary to change and adjust the courses to the new small areas of map that were emerging.

Do you feel sorry for missing it as a competitor?

M. M. - Honestly, I'm sure that I enjoyed the map more than anyone else (with the exception of the map makers). I spent many hours there choosing the places to the controls, testing the legs and courses, making the needed adjustments, putting the controls out in the forest or even recording the promotional video. It's obviously a different approach, and in another context I would have enjoyed the challenge of “running seriously” on this map, but in this case I think I had a different chance.

The results of the third day were within your expectations?

M. M. - Looking to the winner times, I can say that the results were the expected as when we define the distances we do it based on the estimated time of the winners. Talking about a couple of performances, in the Men Super Elite class there were no major surprises, but in the Women Elite class I never expected to see (and in real time by GPS) Simone Niggli or Annika Billstam losing so much time so early on the course.

The WOC's Middle Distance turned out to be a fair winner?

M. M. - I think so, but I think that all the courses who ended up on top could win. It obvious that a good course of a World Championships, in a public poll, would have a good chance of winning. As an athlete I had the pleasure of run this Middle Distance and I could prove how special and challenging it was.

Looking to the season, you almost made an unprecedented “full”, just missing the national title of Sprint. How did you see your performance throughout the season? And in international terms?

M. M. - In terms of national competitions, it was certainly one of my best seasons, if not the best in the results itself, having only mispunched a control in the 2nd stage of the National Championships of Sprint (interestingly, this was the only individual title I had won in the Elite class before, in 2012). But unfortunately my good season is also due to the fact that the concurrence is shorter every year. Internationally, it was my debut in big competitions at Elite level but it wasn't as I would like. In the European Championships I made two good qualifying but then I failed too much in the sprint in Palmela, the race I had bet the most. Also in the World Championships my main focus was the Sprint and I came back to fail in qualifying in Burano, having made a 1'30 error in a control next to the end, which didn't allow me to be qualified for the final, in fact my big goal.

Bruno Nazario left the National Team, replaced by Hélder Ferreira. What is your assessment?

M. M. - It was exactly ten years ago that I started my “international career” at EYOC 2005 and I did it precisely with Bruno Nazario as team leader. I have to consider that he was one of the responsible for me to stay here until today. Naturally, the abandon of this project shouldn't have been an easy decision and I sincerely feel sorry that this had to happen but I understand the decision, even more if you dedicate ten years of your life to a project and your work is not “recognized”. Unfortunately it wasn't the first time that such kind of case occurred, and the priorities end up changing. We had earlier this month the first training camp to prepare the season of 2015 and at the moment I can only wish good luck to Hélder.

How do you see the present moment of the Portuguese Orienteering?

M. M. - If a few years ago I thought the sport was growing, it is now easy to see precisely the opposite (just look to the number of participants in the latest events). We are not being able to captivate young athletes and many of those who, three or four seasons ago, were “regular participants”, are losing the capability, and even, in some cases, the motivation to go to most of the events. One of the reasons may even be the general crisis that Portugal faces but this cannot justify everything. For example, we see more and more entries in the trails and road races, which means that people continue to invest and keep the desire to practice outdoor physical activity.

The strategy of the Federation wasn't in recent times, in fact, well drawn, or at least was not being properly applied. Fortunately, we could recently observe a greater concern on this issue and I really hope that actions and decisions can be taken in order that this trend and this fall of participants can change.

What would you do to reverse the negative trend?

M. M. - It's not easy to present tangible ideas and hence it is necessary the contribution of all stakeholders to reach the best solutions. My master's thesis will fall somewhat on this subject and I hope to contribute to improve the current state of the sport.

What are your goals for the upcoming season?

M. M. - I haven't specifically defined yet my goals in terms of results but I certainly will keep my focus on WOC sprint. In Portugal, I hope to have again a regular season, I hope to see an increasing level (more athletes to participate and training), and more in a short-term, I hope to have good performances in the first races of the season (POM and WRE's).

Now that we come to the end of the year, would you like to make a wish for 2015?

M. M. – In 2015 I wish to see Orienteering growing up again in Portugal, that those who have goals and work for it can reach them, and above everything, that everyone could be happy with a map in the hand.

Joaquim Margarido

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Rubens Igreja: "We'll spread Trail Orienteering all over Brazil"

Commander of the Brazilian Navy and a driving force of Orienteering in Brazil, Rubens Igreja was in Portugal, participating, along with two other Brazilian ambassadors of this sport – Marcelo Malato and José Ferreira Barros -, in the 1st Clinic of Organization and Course Setting in Trail Orienteering, held in Praia da Tocha on 13th and 14th December. Here is an overview on his impressions, a mix of humility and hope in the foundation of Trail Orienteering in Brazil.

What means your presence in the Clinic organized by the Portuguese Orienteering Federation?

Rúbens Igreja (R. I.) - The Trail Orienteering has always been a dream for us, especially for its value for social inclusion through the sport. Brazil already had Trail Orienteering activities, but in a sporadic, isolated and inconsequential way. Our goal will now go to develop a project that has already been approved by Brazil's Ministry of Defence and whose first step is to be here, at the Clinic. Then we will take this knowledge to Brazil, seeking to apply it not only in the military sphere but especially in civilian matters, where the issue of social exclusion is a very serious problem. We will continue this effort to learn more in 2015 and seek to prepare athletes and coaches, passing what we have learned here, on a consolidated basis and without haste, so that in December 2015 we may be able to organize our first Trail Orienteering course in Brazil. This is a process that is underway and that will not end.

What about the Clinic? Would you like to share with us the big news?

R. I. - The big news? ... For us, everything is new! We were almost totally unaware of the Trail Orienteering. We realized immediately the importance and the value of the mapping. The cartographer has here a key role. It is different from FootO, here the accuracy is a must. Coupled with the cartographer, also the course setter is critical to the viability of the course, creating equal conditions of participation for people with and without disabilities. In fact, this Clinic is something completely new, but everything we learned starts to make sense. We could articulate the theoretical part, dense, full of new concepts with a practical, full of challenges but where the logic prevails. We can see here the secure foundations so that we can, in a doctrinal way, develop our work in Brazil. In addition, Nuno Pires and Joaquim Margarido are giving us a huge help at this stage. Thank you for your good will, dedication and attention. We clearly understand your interest in helping us and that is, for us, very important.

What questions arise before the acquired skills?

R. I. - [Trail Orienteering] It's a big challenge and a huge responsibility. But we are eager to face the difficulties and embrace the challenge. Brazil is a country with a huge social inequality and we must be aware of this phenomenon. Being a Sport for All, the Trail Orienteering is not just for disabled person moving in a wheelchair. It is also for the athlete who practices Foot Orienteering, so he can increasingly improve the Orienteering technique. We know that the difficulties are immense, but we will not falter. Let us work, let's move on and we will spread Trail Orienteering all over Brazil.

Although conducted by the Ministry of Defence and the Navy of Brazil, I imagine that the project also has the support of Brazilian clubs ...

R. I. - This is our goal, but at this early stage we need to organize ourselves. We have to build on, standardize procedures and then trigger the project. In a second phase we'll expand and this expansion will have its starting point at Rio de Janeiro. In addiction, we counted on this course with the presence of Marcelo Malato, President of the Rio de Janeiro Orienteering Federation and that is also our “master cartographer”. Let's start in the military environment, with the intention to continue with this effort of integration to the civil environment. From there we will spread the Trail Orienteering throughout Brazil and involve in this process the Brazilian Orienteering Confederation. It will be a similar process to the one who is going with the MTB Orienteering.

From a competitive point of view, when will we see the first results of the project?

R. I. - In February 2015 we will return to Portugal for the Portugal O 'Meeting, in which we'll seek to follow a part of the planning, organization and implementation of the course. The Portugal O' Meeting is for us a world reference and to be present is the guarantee that we will follow and learn more. But answering directly to your question, let me give you note, in first hand, of our intention to bring an athlete ours, an athlete of the Brazilian Navy that had an accident but continues to practice Foot Orienteering. It is an athlete with a huge Orienteering basis, an athlete already “graduate”, but it's a Paralympic athlete and that need to know the specifics of Trail Orienteering. We have two months to work with him and look forward with curiosity to see their results at the Portugal O' Meeting. It will be, therefore, the first for a Brazilian paralympic athlete to participate in an international TrailO competition.

Now that we are at the turn of another page, another year, I would ask you for a vote in 2015?

R. I. - Health for all, this is our first wish. Without health you can't have energy and we need all the energy to be able to put into practice our desires, our dreams. As a representative of Orienteering, the Armed Forces and Brazil, I would like to reaffirm our desire to develop this sport in our country, in all aspects. Hence we expect, in partnership with this country very friend who is Portugal, can reap experiences in order to develop our Orienteering, raising it to higher and higher levels, both in terms of competitive performance as the organization's point of view. The results will be a consequence of this organization and a correct planning. We close this year already thinking about 2015 ... and 2016 ... and 2017. Because this won't stop!

Joaquim Margarido

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

University of Valencia: Trail Orienteering Clinics gather 250 participants together

The University of Valencia was, for two days, the “house” of Trail Orienteering. Gathering more than two hundred and fifty participants, the TrailO Clinics promoted by the Chair Divina Pastora of Adapted Sports were a significant step towards the full recognition of this discipline in Spain.

Proceeding with the extraordinary work to provide equal opportunities for people with disabilities and thus helping to their social integration, the CDPDAUV – Catedra Divina Pastora de Deporte Adaptado de la Universidad de Valencia hold, in the last 19th and 20th December, its first journeys dedicated to Trail Orienteering. Joaquim Margarido, member of the Trail Orienteering Technical Commission of the Portuguese Orienteering Federation and Toño Hernandez, responsible for this discipline at the Spanish Orienteering Federation, the lecturers, knew how to captivate the attention of two hundred and fifty participants distributed by two different clinics.

The morning of the first day was fully dedicated to the youngsters. Four concerned Polytechnic Institutes said “yes”, with two hundred students, teachers, specialists in nature and outdoor activities or simply interested in training, “drinking” the most basic principles to later show their value at the Viveros Park, facing a course with 16 controls designed by Ana Belén and Jose Antonio Tamarit. The afternoon of the first day and the day after were devoted to the same subject, but approached by others and different prisms. The heterogeneous group of thirty learners proved to be fully interested in something new and truly different, recognizing on it competitive merit and inclusive value. Full interaction at the theoretical blocks and enthusiastic participation in the practical component - with the unavoidable “complaints” in between - were ingredients of two days of important learning, resulting in a rewarding experience. Praise the CDPDAUV efforts, promoting the event, broadcasting it live through its website and now preparing to summarize it in a video with promotional and educational purposes.


At the end, the elements of the Portuguese and Spanish federations, Joaquim Magarido and Toño Hernández, coincided in their very positive assessment, particularly with regard to how to manage to maintain the level of interest and attention at high levels, which proved to be greatly rewarding and motivating. Joaquim Margarido showed up enthusiastic about the way the course was held in the morning of the first day, “with so many committed young people and with what will be the highest participation in a course of this nature at the Iberian Peninsula”, he said. The future seems smiling, as Margarido, to whom “the interest of the participants and their illusion are the best guarantee that many good results will come in the medium and long term”.

Body and soul on the Clinics, Niclas Gil Nieminen, from the organization, showed up “very pleased with the high number of participants, but also with the knowledge acquired and that will serve as a working basis for all those who were present. They are the big movers in the passage of knowledge to their students”, he says. Furthermore, the acquired learning will allow to carry forward an ambitious project that will have, in the medium term, a moment of great importance. Niclas explains: “The next step has to do with the use of the acquired resources in the direction we set up, as early as next month, a local race that will be useful as a practical exercise, allowing the team to achieve automatisms to the highest event, on 25th and 26th April. There we'll organize [along with Titaguas Municipality, SD Correcaminos and the University of Valencia] the 1st European Universities Trophy and in which we intend to introduce the Trail Orienteering. If we succeed, I am sure that we'll allocate in 2017, the organization - along with the 1st European University Orienteering Championships of the European University Trail Orienteering Championships.”

Trainers of trainers”

The last words are from Miguel Angel Torregrosa, from the CDPDAUV, to whom the Clinics were “very positive. That responsible notes that “the participation and commitment stayed on a high level and, in the case of an activity also directed to trainers of trainers, I believe that the experiences will tend to multiply, both as regarding the teaching activities as in terms of animation activities.” To Torregrosa, “the acquired knowledge, applied in multiple contexts, will contribute to fostering the dissemination of this discipline.”

With 1200 students with disabilities, the University of Valencia is a reference in Spain. Hence these Clinics had also this particular aspect in mind. To Torregrosa, “it is firstly necessary that we had qualified and technically skilled people in order to plan activities of inclusive character. From there, we will have a greater capacity to tackle this collective of people with disabilities, but also those who haven't disabilities at all. That is, all students of the University will, from now on, benefit of this offer, as with other physical and recreational activity programs that we are developing now.” And the last words: “From 12 years until now, the University has always bet on Orienteering. It is a sport that takes place in the natural environment, the natural environment has the potential to turn enjoyable the free time and it is a sport with future. With the completion of these days, we took an important step in the development of our project, being sure that, within four years, we will have a more inclusive participation in our activities.”

More information about the Clinics at

[Click at the image to see the Album]

Joaquim Margarido

Monday, December 08, 2014

NAOM 2015: Return to Castelo de Vide and Marvão

Surely one of the most important and participated events of the season, the Norte Alentejano O' Meeting is back. Dividing its attentions by the municipalities of Castelo de Vide and Marvão, the NAOM 2015 repeats the successful model of the previous edition, starting a series of four consecutive weekends in which Portugal will be again the Mecca for orienteers from all over the world.

For the third time in nine editions, Castelo de Vide becomes the Orienteering worldwide's epicentre, welcoming the Norte Alentejano O' Meeting 2015. This time, however, has not caught the exclusive, as the program provides an incursion into the neighbouring municipality of Marvão. Organized by Grupo Desportivo dos Quatro Caminhos, in partnership with the municipalities of Castelo de Vide and Marvão, the Portuguese Orienteering Federation and the International Orienteering Federation, the event will take place on the weekend of January the 31st and February the 1st 2015, attracting once again the attention of many Portuguese and foreign athletes.

The kick-off will be at Vale da Silvana - some still remember the venue of the final stage of the second edition of NAOM in 2008 -, with a new map signed by Tiago Aires and Raquel Costa. The courses are set by Victor Delgado and João Alves for a Middle Distance stage that guesses challenges of high technical and physical demands. In the afternoon of the first day, the attention will be centred in the charming village of Marvão for a stage of Sprint WRE, scoring for the International Orienteering Federation's ranking of Sprint. It is the return to one of the best and most challenging Sprint maps in Portugal, after having attended here in early June 2012, the decisive stage of the National Championships in Sprint. Distinguished in the World of O's poll “Course of the Year” with the 15th place worldwide for his course set of NAOM Sprint WRE 2014, Hugo Borda d'Água is once again responsible for setting the courses on a Armando Rodrigues' map, revised by Tiago Aires. The NAOM 2015 ends on February the 1st with another Middle Distance stage in the new map of Vale D'Ornas, in terrains with both beauty and technical challenge. Raquel Costa also signs the map, with the course setting by Tiago Gingão Leal. It should be noted that Luis Sergio is the National Controller and the Middle Distance stages score for the Portuguese Foot Orienteering Cup Level 1 and the Sprint race is part of the National Urban Circuit CiNU 2015.

Starting in 2007, the Norte Alentejano O' Meeting had in the Romanian Ionut Zinca and Finnish Riina Kuuselo its first winners. The French Thierry Gueorgiou and Amélie Chataing are the most recent presences in a list that includes names like the Swiss Simone Niggli, the Ukrainian Oleksandr Kratov, the Czech Eva Jurenikova, the current leader of the world ranking, the Norwegian Olav Lundanes, the Swedish Helena Jansson and the Portuguese Tiago Romão, Maria Sá and Joana Costa, among others. When the number of entries is still small, from five countries (Portugal, Spain, Britain, Norway and Russia), it is premature to predict something else. That many good athletes - some of them occupying the highest places in the world ranking - will be in Castelo de Vide and Marvão, at the turn of January, that's for sure. And with them all, the best national values of Orienteering.


• January 30th – Model Event at Póvoa e Meadas
• January 31st - Middle Distance at Vale da Silvana, Castelo de Vide
• January 31st - Sprint at Marvão (WRE and CiNU)
• February 1st - Middle Distance at Vale D'Ornas, Castelo de Vide

Find more about the NAOM 2015 at

Joaquim Margarido

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Hana chose Ski Orienteering over Cross-Country Skiing

IOF's Athlete of December, Ski Orienteering European Champion 2014, was a promising national team cross-country skier ten years ago, but she chose to concentrate on ski orienteering. Today Hana Hancikova (CZE) is a European Champion in ski orienteering, and she looks forward to more success in the coming years.

Name: Hana Hancikova
Country: Czech Republic
Born: June 17th 1988
Lives in Falun, Sweden (originally from Zlin in Moravia in the eastern part of the Czech Republic)
Discipline: Ski Orienteering
Career highlights in ski orienteering: World Championships: 4th in Long Distance 2011. Junior World Championships: gold in Sprint 2007 and 2008, silver in Relay 2007, bronze in Long Distance 2007. European Championships: gold in Sprint 2014, 4th in Long Distance 2012.

Career highlights in mountain bike orienteering: Junior World Championships gold, Middle Distance and Relay 2008, silver in Sprint 2008.
IOF World Ranking position: 9th (ski orienteering)

Our Athlete of December, Hana Hancikova (CZE), studied for four years at a skiing high school and became good enough to be a member of the national team in cross-country skiing, but ski orienteering has now become her favourite sport.

Hana actually started navigating in winter-time at an early age; she was 11 years old when she tried it for the first time. “I have found some old pictures at home from when I took part in a ski orienteering race for the first time. It was in Nove Mesto, where I moved five years later to study at the ski high school. I remember that my ski orienteering start was very cold, windy and snowy,” Hana tells.

Her first orienteering competition was when she was eight years old. “My parents took me and my sister to take part in many different sports in childhood, like gymnastics, tennis, ballet, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and figure skating, and orienteering as well because my grandparents were orienteers. My parents have never themselves tried ski orienteering or cross-country skiing. They took us to ski orienteering as preparation for summer orienteering.”

Hana grew up in Zlin, about 200 kilometres from Nove Mesto where she came to the ski high school when she was sixteen years old. “During my study period there, my dad built a small hotel close to the Ski Arena Nove Mesto,” says Hana. Since then, national teams from several nations have stayed in the hotel during World Cup rounds and other big competitions. The national Biathlon team from Norway, Ski Canada and the Cannondale Factory Team are some that have stayed there.

Biggest successes in Sprint

Hana is now 26 years old. Last winter she won her first international title as a senior, winning the Sprint at the European Orienteering Championships in Russia. As a junior she won the World Championships Sprint two years in a row, in 2007 and 2008.

What did the first Junior gold mean for you – the gold you took seven and a half years ago in Austria?

“It was a very nice feeling and I have happy memories from that time. Of course it motivated me a lot.” At the time she described the gold like this: “It’s a surprise for me. I didn’t think about victory. There are so many strong Russians and Swedes.”

Is Sprint your number one distance?

“I try to do my best in all disciplines of course, but sometimes a good result can simply be the outcome of a sudden situation, moment or decision which changes the overall result.”

What kind of skills do you have that make you so good at Sprint?

“Maybe good genes, with the ability to produce explosive power, and I also need skiing skills as well as being a good orienteer.”

Love the key to Hana’s route choice

It is almost seven years ago that she and Erik Rost (29) became partners. “We met during the European Championships in Switzerland in 2008,” she tells. They live in Falun in central Sweden. “Last year in the summer, after I had finished my studies at University, I moved to Falun and since then I have done my training there.”

How is it to be in Sweden?

“Very nice people, beautiful landscape, perfect training conditions. I’m happy here!”

As a youngster Hana showed talent in a number of different sports, but ski orienteering became number one. Erik Rost is the reason for that. “Erik means more than the Olympic Games for me!” she says with a broad smile. “I was in the Czech national cross-country skiing team, but after I met Erik I left cross-country and my Olympic dream and followed him to orienteering.”

Hana has also done extremely well with map and compass in the summer. She was a Junior winner in both Middle Distance and Relay in mountain bike orienteering in 2008.

Erik too has high ski orienteering credentials. He took three gold medals at the Junior World Championships in 2005, has four European Championship golds and won the World Cup overall in 2008. From world championships he can show two silver medals and a bronze. In foot orienteering he is also among the world’s best; an overall win at O-Ringen in 2011 is one of his successes, and he has a bronze relay medal from the Junior World Championships in 2005.

Looking forward to the World Championships

Hana and Erik both have the same big goal – to do very well at the World Ski Orienteering Championships in Norway. “I think that we complement each other. He is systematic and extremely precise, which I then balance with a more relaxed approach to training, and I take more care of making a warm home and good food.”

How does your co-operation make you both become better and better?

“We help each other with psychological support and sometimes with training analysis.”

Looking ahead to the World Championships, she is thinking about much more than Sprint. “I’m preparing myself for all disciplines, but I do believe that I can best succeed in Sprint distance – taking into consideration my training structure. This is the peak of the season, and all my preparation is directed with this target in mind. The first race at Budor will show if my ambitions can be fulfilled successfully.”

A coach in daily life

After a bit more than one year in Sweden, Hana has started working at Mora ski gymnasium as a coach. That’s a job that suits her experience and also her education. She studied coaching and sports teaching for basic and high schools at university. “I greatly enjoy my work at Mora,” she says.

Can you do your own training whilst being a coach?

“I am not training as much as last year. Sometimes it is difficult to combine work and my own training, but I like my job a lot! I am doing exactly what I studied at university – which was coaching in cross-country skiing and sports pedagogy for high schools.”

How has it been to go from being a student to having a proper job?

“After my studies I was just training for the whole of last year, so the change was not that dramatic.”

Athletes’ questions

Tim Robertson, the November Athlete of the Month, has this question to Hana: How do you train for ski orienteering in the summer season?

“We skiers use roller skis quite a lot for training, and we take a map as well in urban areas.”

The next Athlete of the Month is Andrei Lamov, Russia: Hana’s question to him is: “Are you planning a long-term stay in Sweden?”

Text and photos: Erik Borg

[See the original article at Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]

Monday, November 24, 2014

"Course of the Year 2014": Thierry Gueorgiou and Yannick Michiels choose Portugal

After having seen, in the last two years, Portuguese victories in the popular "Course of the Year", contest promoted by the World of O, Portugal is again in focus in the present edition. Although the poll has not even begun, the truth is that Portugal has two extremely well positioned courses to discuss the first places, counting on two great supporters: Thierry Gueorgiou and Yannick Michiels.

For the fifth consecutive year, the World of O, the most important "window" open to Orienteering worldwide, is searching for the “Course of the Year”. In the second half of November, invariably, the visitors are invited to share their suggestions based on their favourite courses along the ending season and that will be scrutinized later, in order to establish the final results. The popular Relay Jukola was the winner in 2010, followed in 2011, by the Middle Distance Final of the World Orienteering Championships, at La Feclaz (France). In 2012 and 2013 the winner had a common denominator called Portugal O' Meeting. First it was Bruno Nazario, with his course setting of Middle Distance WRE on the map of Senhor dos Caminhos (Sátão), to achieve such an important distinction. Last year, it was Tiago Romão and his course of Sprint WRE in the "most Portuguese village in Portugal", Monsanto, to get the prize. How will it be this year?

While we wait for the courses that will be subject to scrutiny, Jan Kocbach is bringing to us, daily, the opinion of some of the biggest orienteers. This is here that Portugal has a prominent position, first by Thierry Gueorgiou's words and, more recently, through the opinion of Yannick Michiels. According Thierry Gueorgiou, World Champion in Long Distance and winner of four editions of the Portugal O' Meeting, the course of Middle Distance WRE at Arcozelo da Serra, set by Mariana Moreira, is his favourite. Gueorgiou cannot forget the challenge from first to last control and how he felt "attacked" by the terrain in the early part of the course. But speaking specifically of terrains, Thierry is back again to Portugal and to Quinta da Estrada, at Aguiar da Beira, that he considers the best of 2014. As for Yannick Michiels, his preferences goes to the village of Castelo de Vide and the corse setted by Hugo borda d'Água to the Sprint WRE course on the first day of the NAOM - North Alentejano O' Meeting 2014, due to the amount of route choices placed in a small space, making it very difficult to anticipate the controls.

A few days (hours?) to the poll starts, the time is of great anxiety already. To follow the contest please see

Joaquim Margarido

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Orienteering in Costa Rica: A compass in paradise

In North South East West we travel this time to Costa Rica, meeting the two Orienteering Associations currently existing in the country. While we wait for the foundation of a National Federation, we can see that important steps are being taken with a view to wider promotion and practice of the sport.

By Joaquim Margarido

“An occasion where young and less young, of any genre, regardless of their physical skills, practice the same sport at the same time.” This was the perception of Edwin Coto Vega, Coordinator of the Physical Education course in the Atlantic Pole of the University of Costa Rica at Turrialba, about what is called “the sport of the forest.” 8,500 km away from his home in Spain, eyes wide open and the excitement in his face, Edwin Vega had the opportunity to experience ‘real’ Orienteering. What had been conceived only in theory was now revealed in all its splendour, and soon a million ideas swarmed through his brain, so that the big dream of firmly implementing the sport in Costa Rica became just a step away from being materialised.

Edwin Vega wouldn’t have been the only one to cherish this dream. With him - and even before him - others had weighed the pros and cons, realising that this was a challenge that was anything but easy. Mainly because there isn’t in orienteering the ‘immediacy’ that other sports have; it’s a sport that lives from that vital tool the o-map, requires appropriate terrain for its practice, and can involve complex and demanding learning. Moreover, as in most Latin American countries, here too it is football that makes people crazy, and other sports live under this as weaklings, having little support or none at all.

But perhaps the reality of Costa Rica could play in his favour. The country has one of the highest literacy rates in Latin America. The commitment to protect the environment – Costa Rica ranks 5th worldwide in environmental performance – has since the 1970s been a true ‘national cause’, and the ‘Ticos’ are essentially happy (the most recent report from the New Economics Foundation even puts Costa Rica in the lead in the ranking of the happiest countries in the world). It was time to get going!

The pedagogic value of Orienteering

Edwin Coto Vega deserves a prominent place in the history of Orienteering in Costa Rica for several reasons. To mention just one, it was through him that in 2007 the Atlantic Pole of the University of Costa Rica welcomed a Spanish coach who taught an introductory course on the sport. Some attempts to implement the sport in the country had been already made – we can find records of an event in 2003, and regular cooperation between the Spanish club ORCA and the University of Costa Rica from 2005 – but this course in 2007 turned out to be a landmark of a kind. Among those present was Yeimi Jiménez Oviedo, now 36 years old, teaching at the University of Costa Rica and sportive and recreational promoter of that institution. She was destined to be a key player in a growing process, as we shall see below.

We can’t say that Orienteering took root in Costa Rica from the very first moment. The great and decisive leap was to occur only in 2011, following the introduction of new courses in the Sciences of Human Movement. Offered only in Turrialba, due to excellent natural conditions in the suburbs, the Faculty of Natural Environment includes Orienteering on its curriculum. This was because of its pedagogic value, based on the versatility of the sport in its relationship with nature and its adaptability for all ages in an integrated way. So Yeimi Oviedo returned to Orienteering as the core subject of her attention, and through this she came into contact with the Spanish Orienteering Federation. This is where José Angel Nieto Poblete, the Spanish Orienteering Federation’s Vice President and responsible for international cooperation, came into the picture.

Sport for all

The first visit of José Angel Nieto Poblete to Costa Rica, in June 2011, confirmed for Yeimi Oviedo that here is a sport that can provide competition at high level simultaneously with recreational practice. Above all, it puts people in the same space to practice the same sport, regardless of gender, age or physical condition. This confirmation was reinforced when, in September of that year, Yeimi visited Petrer (Spain) for the Latin Countries Cup along with Francisco Solano, another teacher at the University of Costa Rica. “It was wonderful to see the children out in the terrain with their parents, and find people who had their first contact with the sport there alongside elite athletes”, recalls Yeimi.

By this time, Ramiro Agustin Ojeda had moved to Costa Rica, on the shores of the Caribbean Sea. It was his passion for nature, and in particular photography, that made him leave his native Argentina. But a lecture about Orienteering given by José Angel Nieto Poblete at EARTH University awoke a strong curiosity in him. Frequent hunting expeditions meant he was familiar with using a compass, but Orienteering was much more than that, it was a sport appealing to the intellect. Ramiro Ojeda recalls that he was impressed by the high participation levels in many parts of Europe, and how Orienteering provides physical activity for many people, in the outdoors and with respect for nature. And he adds: “We can talk about football, but media attention is restricted to the big stars, millionaire contracts and Federations that act as true multi-nationals. But with Orienteering, I don’t think there is another sport in the world that enables participation for all, regardless of age or physical condition.”

Two Associations, same purpose

There are two properly structured Associations currently existing in Costa Rica, both independent of the military (an unusual situation in Latin American Orienteering) and closely linked to educational institutions. With headquarters in Turrialba, the Asociación Deportiva Orientación of Turrialba has as President Yeimi Jiménez Oviedo, while Ramiro Agustin Ojeda is the President of the Asociación Deportiva Caribeña of Orientación with its headquarters at EARTH University, at Guácimo. With much the same vision and a similar, complementary contribution to development, and although independent of each other, both Associations have achieved noteworthy work. In 2012 the University of Costa Rica and CATIE - Tropical Agronomic Centre of Research and Education, at Turrialba - staged the first National Orienteering Championships, organised by the Association Turrialbeña, and the second Championships in 2013 were organised there too. In the current year, the third National Orienteering Championships have been successfully organised by the Association Caribeña, with a participation that exceeded 100 athletes spread over eleven classes.

Spreading the word

Even a minimally qualified Orienteering cartographer would not find it very difficult to draw a map of the region of Turrialba, as the deep green colour occupies the majority of the space. The vegetation is very abundant and the very dense rain forest houses several species of snakes, some poisonous, which represents an extra factor in planning a forest competition. Despite all the constraints, Yeimi Oviedo and her fellows from the Association Turrialbeña are determined to take forward this project, based in the course of Sciences of Human Movement and for the promotion of the sport. “The main objective for the moment is spreading the word, so that more people know about Orienteering and become interested in its practice”, she says.

Ramiro Ojeda’s vision is coincidental, noting that “currently, our task is to get more people aware of our activities, and make it not a rare thing to see a flag behind a tree or someone running with a map and a compass”. And he goes further: “The reality is that this is an imported and alien sport. The influence of football in Costa Rica is very strong, monopolising the media, the prizes and government and private investment. Maybe in 2015, when the fourth National Championships take place at the State Pole of the University of Costa Rica in San José, we can get some attention from the media and thus get more people keen to find out about Orienteering.”

National Federation on the horizon

For next year, the two Associations are preparing to organise more Orienteering races and are drafting a joint Calendar of events. With the invaluable support of the Spanish Orienteering Federation through José Angel Nieto Poblete, new courses and activities at TEC - Tecnologico of Costa Rica at Cartago – are planned, and in the capital San José these include the National Orienteering Championships, with Gerardo Corrales as General Director. The interest shown in the sport is such that Jose Angel Nieto Poblete has plans of holding an Event Advisers Clinic and a TrailO demonstration. At the Atlantic Pole of the University of Costa Rica people are already working with OCAD, and it is planned that a Mapping Clinic will be held there.

The work on the establishment of a future Orienteering Federation of Costa Rica has already started, about which Jose Angel Nieto Poblete was advised by Alba Quesada Rodriguéz, National Director of ICODER - Costa Rica Institute of Sport and Recreation, and by the Minister of Sports, Carolina Mauri Carabaguías. Looking to the future, Ramiro Ojeda says “so that we can unify criteria in the Associations, we’ll advance towards the creation of a Federation to ensure institutional support”. Yeimi Oviedo goes a step further in adding that “once consolidated, the National Federation we will make the necessary contacts in order to ensure our integration within the International Orienteering Federation.”

[Photo: Jose Angel Nieto Poblete]

[See the original article at Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]

Friday, November 21, 2014

Western Sahara: A bitter reality smoothed by Orienteering

The Saharawi refugee camp, in Wilaya de Boyador, staged the 1st Western Sahara Orienteering Championships. An event that represents an important milestone in a growing project, showed here with the precious help of Alfonso Bustillo, its main mentor and worker.

Under the Artifariti 2014 - International Art and Human Rights Meeting in Western Sahara, the refugee camp of Wilaya de Boyador hold, the 8th november, the 1st Western Sahara Orienteering Championships. A very simple course, mass start by teams and 15 control points were the challenge to 80 Sahrawi children and a dozen adults of various nationalities.

Born at Logroño in 1979, graduated in Physical Education and Firefighter by profession, Alfonso Bustillo met Orienteering 16 years ago. He is the great worker of a project that is not just maps and flags and that has in the will of taking contact with the reality of the refugee camps its starting point. But this demand was not just on observation and knowledge. Bustillo wanted to carry something with him, something seen as valid and that could mean a heritage for the future: “If I were a doctor or engineer, I would certainly contribute with other things; but I'm an orienteer so I took them a little of what I know”, he says. For the journey's preparation - an initiative of the Friends of the Sahara Association, from Seville, looking to the participation in Artifariti 2014 - Alfonso Bustillo had the support of his club, the Club Riojano de Orientación en la Naturaleza, managing to grant the means that allowed to offer 20 flags, 20 compasses, some books and sports equipment and even some money that was donated to local institutions.

Goals achieved

Being part of the Artifariti 2014's program, Bustillo understood that the course shouldn't have only a playful character - a mix of art and sport. Hence he set a peculiar couse, like himself explains: “The teams had to find 15 flags, each one of it with the name of a Saharawi city or a Saharawi people friendly city; the idea was to simulate the Sahrawi nomads moving freely in their country, from city to city, without walls to divide them or antipersonnel mines threatening them.” In the end, the goals were fully achieved, stating Orienteering to Physical Education teachers, leaving to posterity a map and spreading the harsh reality of the Saharawi people, particularly among orienteers.

But this was only the beginning of the project and Bustillo's dream is to return next year: “The contacts with local sports authorities and teachers and monitors of Boyador Scouts allowed me to understand the local peculiarities and I can be able to develop a more specific work and best suited to the project”, he says. To work with the interested teachers and finish the map of the whole camp (totalling 10 km2) are the next steps of Bustillo. With much work to do, knowledge to share and experiences to live, place to a wish: “I would like to see an Orienteering course every year, something like the Sahara Marathon, which brought life to the sport at the camps and that allowed to show to the world the unfair situation of Saharawi people”, Alfonso Bustillo says.

Finally, a very special thanks to Mohamed Bougleida, General-Director of Sports of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, to the various teachers and monitors of Boyador Scouts, the entire staff of the Boyador School of Art, some artists of Artifariti 2014, as well as the host of the Saharawi people and to Suhaya y Esgaller, the "family" of Alfonso Bustillo during his African stay. And yet an image alive in his memory, “the mass departure of dozens of Sahrawi boys and girls, the future of this people running - nomads! - freely and carelessly in their own land.”

[Photo: Alfonso Bustillo /]

Joaquim Margarido