Ranked 41st in the World and one of the most valuable athletes in the Austrian Orienteering's history, Gernot Kerschbaumer is the Portuguese Orienteering Blog's guest. In this interview the athlete looks at the year of 2013, analyses the present moment of Orienteering and makes a wish to the season that is now beginning: “No pain while running!”
After some promising performances in New Zealand's World Cup, the rest of the season seemed not to be exactly what you had wished. Did you expect more, despite the excellent 15th position in the WOC Middle Distance?
Gernot Kerschbaumer (G. K.) - After the journey to New Zealand, I got some troubles with injuries (hip tendon and lower back), which didn’t allow me to prepare the season as I was hoping. Anyway, from May onwards it went smoother again and I could still perform on a good level in the biggest competitions (WOC, World Games, CISM). In the end, I was landing around the places I’ve been in average during the last years (15th - 25th at WOC). My goals before the season were to land in the Top 10 but coming home with a medal from the World Games was, by far, more than what I had expected.
In Vuokatti, you fulfilled your 10th presence in a WOC. Throughout this time within the Elite at the highest level, what are the best moments that you remember? And the worst?
G. K. - I was lucky to show up at the WOC twice. In my first participation, in Sweden 2004, I was selected after a teammate got injured. Unfortunately I missed the Long Final by 13 seconds. And in 2012, I tore a ligament at CISM a few weeks before WOC, which made my presence quite unlikely, but somehow I got it fixed in time, but didn’t have enough power to stand 4 times in a row. My best moments are connected to my best results and to trips to countries I wouldn’t have come otherwise: Japan (9th place), Ukraine. Although the results could have been better, the WOC in France, including the preparation camps, was unforgettable: terrain, landscape, weather, atmosphere. Running the sprint at last year’s WOC was also a gift, due to the many cheering spectators. You see, there are many stories to be told about every WOC, which would be worth mentioning. Luckily, no bad memories come into my mind. And I shouldn’t forget to mention the many memorable banquets and after parties.
What characteristics does an orienteer need to have to reach the top? Compared with Thierry Gueorgiou, for example, what does he have that you don't have?
G. K. - Maybe I should talk seriously to him about it (laughs). Well, maybe a “little bit” of everything. The fact is: he is both physically and technically better. That’s also the answer to your first question. Besides speed and technique, you also need mental strength to show your potential on the right day. But I think there are different ways to reach a high level in orienteering, both physically and technically. That’s, somehow, the danger in orienteering training, once your hear: “ - Thierry is doing o-training nearly every day”, “ - ok, I have to do it as well.” Or, “ - Kyburz is running intervals X times a week”, “ - I have to do it as well”… So, finding your own way of doing things is crucial in orienteering to reach the top.
Living for about one year in Sweden, what changed in your life?
G. K. - Everything and nothing, at the same time: I live in a completely new environment, I have many very nice forests around me and I access to more short-term training camps. There's a sand beach 150 metres from my home next to the hotel Ahusstrand, no mountains in sight and I don’t have to run 15 minutes through the city, before reaching the next park (which I had to do in Vienna, the year before). And I can watch the squirrels while having breakfast. Nothing, because I didn’t perform better at WOC.
Can you call yourself a professional orienteer?
G. K. - No. Somehow half-professional.
How do you feel in the OK Pan Kristianstad family?
G. K. - Top. Family is the right word. It feels good to be welcome in a whole new club and off-club activities. And very important: I’m sure we have the best food on o-training camps, thanks to Milos, the Master-Cook of Hotel Ahusstrand. What has some room for improvement: our performances, including mine in Sweden.
How do you see the present moment of Orienteering overall? Are we going on the right way?
G. K. - Have you read Radek Novotny’s thoughts? I would sign it mostly. I somehow wonder how we are coming to decisions inside the IOF. At least all the runners I was talking with are not that happy with the new WOC system, for example, or the World cup scheme. I would have been a fan of one year Sprint-WOC, one year forest-WOC. The amount or allocation of starting places for the different nations in Middle and Long distance at WOC are the biggest mistakes. About the program itself: let’s give it a chance…. In the World Cup scheme there's too much room for improvement. I would go back to the World Cup weeks, avoiding much travelling, taking the WOC out of the World Cup, and why not include a 5 day event? The problem is that in Orienteering we have different structures compared with cross country skiing or biathlon, where not so many club activities occur. Just another thing: Trying to broadcast our sport is crucial for “surviving” on the long term I think. I hope we can improve further on that. In Austria we had several high quality TV productions about orienteering last year. With sprint competitions it’s easier to bring our sport to new countries, but I think it’s still the forest competitions that allow the best TV productions.
Have you started your preparation for the 2014 season already? How is it going?
G. K. - Of course I've already started. After two very promising months, I’m facing a period without any running again, after new problems in the lower back. We’ll see how long they stay…
Are we going to see you in Portugal again, on the winter season, for the Portugal O' Meeting?
G. K. - The Portugal O’Meeting has always offered excellent competitions. This winter season, I will have to skip them, due to the World Cup in Turkey. I visited many nice training and competition areas in Portugal so far, always worth a stay. This season I’ll come for the EOC.
And what about the European Championships? What do you expect?
G. K. - If my health situation allows it, I’ll go for all disciplines again. By looking on some previous maps, one might think that Portugal has more interesting maps to offer. But, we have to run fist, then we can state on this again. In general I expect quite fast races.
What are the dreams of a 30 years old athlete? Getting a medal at WOC, is that something unachievable for you?
G. K. - Haha... Yeah, the age. My coach just told me a few days ago, because we were talking about my injuries... “Don’t forget, you are not the youngest anymore!” (laughs) But you are totally right. A WOC medal is my goal and I still believe in it, that it is achievable for me. It keeps me motivated. My biggest goals this year are: WOC, O-Ringen in Skåne, and CISM in Austria: a podium in each of them.
In the beginning of another year, I would like to ask you to make a wish.
G. K. - No pain while running!