Monday, January 13, 2014

Galina Vinogradova: "Runners without children can't even imagine all the difficulties of combining the elite sport with a family life"

Born in Barnaul (Russia) on the 10th February 1979, Galina Vinogradova is a reference of the world orienteering. Married to the renowned coach Mikhail Vinogradov and mother of two children, the athlete continues to show herself at the highest level on the international scene and keeps her goals of fighting for the gold medal at the next European and World Champs untouched. This and other subjects in focus on the big interview, today, on the Portuguese Orienteering Blog.

The first question is always the easiest. Would you like to present yourself?

Galina Vinogradova (G. V.) - I have started systematic trainings in Orienteering when I was 10 years old (after 3 years in swimming). But my first course was at the age of 4 (inside a flat with simple map-scheme), because my parents came from Orienteering. When I was 16 years old I participated in JWOC for the first time. My biggest achievement in junior age was a silver medal in the JWOC 1998. My first adult international race were the Asia-Pacific Orienteering Championships (Kazakhstan, 2004). I got two gold medals. And my debut in European Orienteering Championships was in Denmark (2004) without any success. Then I was married to Mike Vinogradov and I have started to work with him like a sparring-partner and coach. I debuted at WOC in 2008 when my first child was 1 year old and I won a silver medal in the Relay and took the 4th place in the Sprint. Now I am a military athlete. Much of my international success came from a gold medal in the World Games 2009 and a victory in a World Cup event (Sweden, 2011). In 2012, I had another baby (a boy) and we live in Barnaul (Siberia) together.

Looking back at your career, we can find the best results between the years of 2008 and 2011. However, in the last World Championships, you left a note of sensation by winning your qualification series of Sprint and positioning yourself in the best way for a medal... which did not arise. How did the final 6th place taste?

G. V. - As I mentioned before I gave birth in 2012 and this is the reason for the gap in results between 2011 and 2013. In fact, before the WOC 2013, I had run some good international Sprint races already. I was 4th in NORT knock-out sprint, 5th place in NORT Sprint in Finland and I lost a medal in Sprint race in Norway with one bad route choice (but best split times at the second part of the race gave me some optimism). And I aimed to fighting for a gold medal in the WOC 2013. But my coach and me made a strategic mistake during my preparation based on information from the official WOC site. I have made a lot of forest sprint training but I was not 100% ready for safe high-speed orienteering in fence labyrinths. That was the main reason of my multiple mistakes in the final. Of course, I am not satisfied with my 6th place.

From a personal point of view, what's your analysis of the last season? What distance goes between the initial goals and the final results?

G. V. - It is good to be among the top-6 in the World when your youngest child is just 10 months old. But my initial goal (WOC gold medal) has not been achieved.

Simone Niggli and her goodbye to the competition was considered the highlight of the 2013 season. But the male sector has an equally remarkable name that makes the history of Orienteering in 2013 and that is Leonid Novikov's name. Would you like to tell me about these two achievements?

G. V. - I voted for Simone and Leonid in “The Orienteering Achievement of 2013”. These are main highlights of 2013 in my opinion. Simone won almost all O-races in 2013 and it is amazing. It is a pity that she decided to stop her career. As for Leonid's victory, the whole Russian team (except Middle Distance participants) was watching the race on TV and through GPS-broadcasting. It was more and more exciting every minute. And we were very happy about his victory. Its difficult to describe my feelings through words. His victory in men Relay was more or less expected by us. I was running in quarantine area when the speaker said about a Russian gold medal. And after this it was difficult to keep focused in my navigation during women Relay. But I was glad about the men's victory.

I have to ask you this question, even knowing that I'm “stealing” the idea of someone very close to you (laughs). Would you like to tell me about your position in relation to the Top Coaches in Elite Orienteering, starting by presenting your coach?

G. V. - As I have mentioned before, my personal coach is my husband. He has high qualifications, and I totally trust him. If Mike says that I have to run 59 minutes with particular intensity then I run exactly 59 minutes with intensity as planned, without any deviations. Every training is interconnected with other trainings. Mike explains the entity of every training session. For the moment he is a personal coach for Valentin Novikov, Julia Novikova and some other O-runners. Mike had the responsibility of a top National and club coach (Russian national team coach from 2009 to 2013 and main coach in Halden Skiklubb, Norway from 2011-2012). Feel free to contact Mike about personal coaching or other job in Orienteering! His email is

Which aspects in training do you consider to be the most important? The technical training, the physical aspects, the attitude towards competition, the previous study of the events and opponents or others?

G. V. - Everything is important in elite Orienteering. I cannot specify particular aspects of training and recovery process. I guess that the most important thing is to find the correct balance between physical, technical and mental training levels.

How is your weekly training like?

G. V. - Actually there is no typical week in my training life. Every week is unique because of the current stage of trainings, my recovery and training status, residual effects from previous trainings, biochemical profile, women features of an organism that influences their adaptive capacity, and possibilities to get help with children (when I am in the forest, somebody has to take care of the kids). Sometimes it is one high-intensity session per week, some times five. It can be every day strength sessions or once every 12 days. When I am at O-camp I have two O-session per day but now I am in Siberia with frosts and snow and without any O-sessions. But you can find the summary of my training at

You talked about your blog and one of the aspects that surprises me - positively, I mean - has to do, exactly, with the way you communicate with others through a blog, developed and updated together by you and your coach. What is the meaning and importance of this tool?

G. V. - I assume that there are a lot of people in Orienteering who are interested in reading about the life and training of different O-runners. Such openness is a part of my duty as a professional athlete. It is important to develop our sport in several ways and share knowledge through the Internet.

In addition to the Orienteering, what are your hobbies?

G. V. - I could say that distance running is like a hobby for me. And one of my most favourite activities is taking care of my family. I don't have any free time to do anything else.

How can you handle the intense training load and the demands of competition with your family life and the care of your two children?

G. V. - Runners without children can't even imagine all the difficulties of combining the elite sport with a family life. It is really tricky! But I have strong support from my husband, my parents, and my mother in law. When you are a mother, then you appreciate every possibility to do training. And every night, having 7 hours of sleeping is a gift.

How do you see the current moment of our sport? Is the IOF leading appropriately the Orienteering's destiny, taking into account the biggest goal which is to become an Olympic sport?

G. V. - As Radek Novotny and Mikhail Vinogradov wrote, it's difficult to count that current IOF development as an effective way. I share such position. One more thing: take a look at the IOF ranking system, and you'll see that, in the middle of January, we don't even have an IOF ranking!

What are the main goals for 2014, close to celebrating your 35th anniversary?

G. V. - Ole Einar Bjørndalen, Bernard Lagat, Valentin Novikov, Maurilio De Zolt and many other top athletes have demonstrated outstanding results during their really long careers. Russian Yekaterina Podkopayeva won the IAAF World Championships in 1500 meters when she was 44 years old. That means I have plenty of time in elite sport. If you are highly motivated and injury free then age does not matter. My main purpose for 2014 is to improve my physical capacity, technical and mental skills. As for the IOF calendar, the goal for the coming season is to fight for EOC and WOC gold medals.

Is Portugal part of your plans in your preparation schedule for this season? And as for the European Championships, what are your expectations?

G. V. - Yes, Portugal is a part of my plans in preparations to this season. I think that every elite athlete can get advantages by using trainings in Portugal. I expect that during the EOC 2014 we will meet high quality of organization, as usual for the portuguese.

In the beginning of another year, I would like to ask you to make a wish.

G. V. - I wish for people in Orienteering to be healthy and injury-free and have a lot of races with perfect navigation!

Joaquim Margarido


  1. Jukka KemppainenFriday, January 17, 2014

    I am quite surprised. Galina Vinogradova has done much forest sprint training during her preparation WOC 2013 sprint final.
    In WOC bulletin 2 there was a terrain description: "The arena of sprint final is Sotkamo baseball stadium. The terrain in sprint final is mainly urban, including some park type forest with hard ground and lots of paths. The urban area is almost flat. Runability and visibility are very good."
    In the same bulletin there was also samples of the maps. The sample of the sprint was urban terrain with some temporary fences and little piece of park type forest. It was so similar to sprint final terrain as possible and placed very near by sprint final arena.

  2. Dear Jukka, just take a look at two map samples:
    First picture is a sample of map "represented' terrain situation from official page and second picture is a sample of true map.

    Galina have made a lot of urban Sprint trainings as well, but we spend limited training time to practice forest (~15 high speed trainings) instead of keep focus just at difficult urban sprints.

    Galina also made trainings with all maps from training pocket (including Jouensu). But it is easy to see that ALL official training maps were far away from true challenges in Sprint final.

    1. It was really easy for WOC-orginazers to give a true map sample and then everyone could understand typical situations and challenges in correct way. You wrote: including some park type forest with hard ground and lots of paths. But in fact it was possible to skip this point at all!! Take a look at Sprint final map: you will see that "forest part" is 1-2% of overall course and runners with right route choice at the longest leg made have not been in forest!

      Whats the point then:
      1) Give totally wrong map sample with just forest at the official page
      2) Give information about forest as a part of course
      3) Distribute official training maps that not reflect at all true situations (and consist a lot of forest)
      4) Create huge embargo area with large part of forest inside???