The European Trail Orienteering Championships are approaching and Portugal is ready to receive the almost 130 participants in the PreO and TempO comepetitions. John Kewley is one of them and talk about his expectations.
I start by asking you about your relationship with Orienteering, in particular with Trail Orienteering?
John Kewley (J. K.) - I have always been interested in maps and the outdoors. I started foot orienteering when I was growing up in Scotland, but my passion was always for mountain orienteering and I went on to compete at the Elite level in Britain and Europe. My highlights would be my wins in the British KIMM (now the OMM), the Swiss Mountain Marathon and the 2001 IOF World Marathon Orienteering Trophy in La Cerdanya, Spain. My first TrailO was the Elite class at the Swiss 6 days in 1999. My next was the British Championships in 2007 and I then started to do more as there was the possibility of competing for GB in the Open class from 2009 and I have been on the British team ever since.
What is so special about the discipline that attracts you the most?
J. K. - It fits well with my love of both maps and puzzles: there is a problem to solve and you have various techniques at your disposal so at each control you have to decide which techniques fit the problem best. I also think it is excellent technical training for all levels of foot orienteer.
What skills does a trail orienteer have to have? Are these “genetic” or do you have to train them (or both)?
J. K. - Training and practice are key. One problem we have in GB is that we have so few events compared to those in Scandinavia so our only chance at success is to travel to events in other countries.
You've been recently in Portugal, at the Portugal O Meeting. Was it in your plans since the beginning?
J. K. - I hadn't previously done Trail Orienteering in Portugal and when I saw that POM would have TrailO, I decided that it would be good training to see what POR TrailO was like, especially given that ETOC 2014 is in Palmela. Seeing the maps from last year's POM helped in my decision as both TrailO and FootO courses looked very good. This year's TrailO terrain looked even better and I wasn't disappointed.
How do you evaluate the Portugal O Meeting overall?
J. K. - This was my first POM, my only previous time in Portugal was in the early 90s. It was an excellent event with great terrain and courses. To me the only poor thing was the maps. Although sealed, the plastic they were sealed with was very thin and once water leaked in the colour came off the maps; this also happened when the maps were folded. The paper itself was also very thin. I am hoping that EOC/ETOC will have some sort of waterproof paper instead. I did the M50 courses at POM and had a few problems "in the black" although much of that was because I use glasses and with so much rain I couldn't see through them. As well as TrailO and POM I also did the Night Sprint and ran on both training areas. The banquet was another highlight: I think I ate more food that night than the rest of the week put together.
During your stay, I believe that the Trail-orienteering stage was the most important to you. What was your opinion of it?
J. K. - The principle reason for me attending POM was to give me the best chance of performing at ETOC 2014 therefore the two priorities for the trip were firstly to get as much exposure to Portuguese maps as I could and secondly to get some TrailO practice since I have only done two events since WTOC 2013.
What about the course? Was it what you expected in terms of technical challenge and your result?
J. K. - It was probably a better course than what I expected, the area used was very good for TrailO. There as a good variety of problem and through my mistakes I learned a bit about the "zero tolerance" of the planner. Of course the ETOC planner is different so I'll have to be pay attention at the model event. I was happy with my position, but I was several points lower than I expected. This was because I was a bit rusty and it has highlighted a few areas for me to work on.
How do you see the Portuguese Trail-orienteering level?
J. K. - I can see that you are improving each year and I think you have some guys in their first international this year. It'll be interesting to see how they do on home soil at ETOC since that "home advantage" will bring extra pressure in addition to it being their first major championships.
Within two weeks, we'll have the European Trail Orienteering Championships in Portugal. How is it going your preparation and what can we expect from John Kewley and from the Team of Great Britain?
J. K. - My personal bests at ETOC are 9th in PreO and 2nd in Team PreO. While it would be nice to beat one or both of those I suspect the best I can realistically hope for is top 15 at PreO, top 25 at TempO and top 6 for Team. Since our team will only be selected after day 1, I don't yet know which team (if any) I'll be in. In any case, I believe that the whole GB team are strong so I am expecting them some very good individual and team results this year.
What is your main goal for the season?
J. K. - The World TrailO Championships in Italy will be my main goal, ETOC is a bit early in the season for me as I have done so few events in the last 6 months.