He was the big surprise of the National Trail orienteering Championships 2013, taking the first title in the history of the young discipline in Portugal. Recently, he was able to show his qualities at the European Championships, in Palmela, ensuring a place among the 36 finalists of the TempO competition. And to top it off, he was crowned this weekend, at Antequera, TrailO Spanish Champion. We speak about João Pedro Valente, a man divided between Portugal and Spain, but also – we understand it now! - between the FootO and the TrailO.
Now that the echoes of the European Trail orienteering Championships are disappearing, I start by asking you how did you prepared yourself for the ETOC.
João Pedro Valente (J. P. V.) - With few opportunities to participate in events in Portugal, my only preparation was on the computer. On one hand, reread all the available documentation, compiled by Nuno Pires, especially the IOF Technical Guidelines for Elite Trail Orienteering, analyzing all the examples and see the techniques to use in each case. On the other hand, practicing with the TempO games on the Internet, a first time in February and repeating all the moves in the week before the ETOC.
The qualifying of TempO would be a historic achievement, with two Portuguese reaching the big Final, one of which João Pedro Valente, precisely. Did you expect that? Where was the secret of so excellent result?
J. P. V. - I was not expecting that, really. I think that TempO is for younger people, with good ability to see and analyze the map quickly, thinking that I, being the first time I did a course of this kind, would have little chances of being well succeed. The problem is not so much to give the right answer, but rather how quickly you did it, which is crucial in this modality. Anyway, the “secret” was, undoubtedly, the big experience in map reading, achieved after many years of FootO. The course started badly for me - probably the shocking debut in the first station was really big - which led me to give a shout into myself on my way to the second station. And from there, things went much better.
Do you want to tell us a little bit of what was then the Final, but also the two days of the PreO competition?
J. P. V. - In the Final, the things didn't run as I would have desired. I thought that, with the experience of a previous course (laughs), I could fix some of the errors of the qualification, including the stress of the first season and maybe get a better result. But this time I was even more nervous, also made the same stupid mistake in the first control of the first station, but this time I did not recover as well. Above all, there was a station in which I made a mistake in the map analysis, which led me to fail four points and spoiling the final result. Despite this, I should be pleased with my performance in TempO, because getting into the Finals was a major accomplishment for me and Nuno Pires.
In the PreO competition, I was expecting much better. I think that PreO is better suited to my conditions, but things didn't went well mainly due to lack of experience. My analysis leads me to admit that the learning process is not linear, with ups and downs. We incorporate new ways to analyze the control points, especially when they give conflicting answers and this, being positive in the long term, can give less good results in the short term and I think that it was something like this that happened to me. I think that four of the six points that I failed in the sum of the two days of competition ( and also the penalty for time exceeded), would have been easily corrected if some ideas were based more in my head and so I would have had a very good result in the end. We also need to be aware of the importance of the timed controls, since with so many draws, the results can easily vary twenty positions.
What balance you do of four days of competition at the highest level?
J. P. V. - The balance is great, obviously. Not only because I duplicated all my previous experience in TrailO, as being within the Portuguese team, in which we analyze every detail, the experience was even more fruitful.
What is your assessment of the competitive, technical and organizational level of the ETOC 2014?
J. P. V. - I think that ETOC's organizational level went very well, in a discipline that rarely escapes to the controversy in one control point or another. This time, there was no canceled controls, which is very significant in relation to the work of the organizational team. On the other hand, I think the TrailO needs to incorporate electronic punching means to avoid the long delays in the disclosure of results. Hopefully, the International Orienteering Federation proceed quickly on this issue.
However, even with all those adrenaline, you went to Antequera to win the Spanish Championships 2014. I would ask you to speak a little bit about this victory.
J. P. V. - The course of Antequera was conceived as the kick off for the TrailO in Spain. There had been another Championship two years ago, but it did not continue. Now there is at the Spanish Federation a committed responsible for pulling the sport “into the map” and I think this time the things will going on. Perhaps for this reason, the course was pretty simple, designed for the 100 participants did not have great difficulties and liked the experience. I think this has been truly achieved. I enjoyed, mostly, the fact that I was able to answer quickly at the timed controls (the experience of ETOC was noted) and especially to share the podium with my son. A funny was when the speaker announced the TrailO's podium with the “Valente brothers” ( laughs ).
From your point of view, how important can be the ETOC for the future of the Portuguese TrailO?
J. P. V. - I think that the interest in Trail orienteering in Portugal is increasing, and there is no longer the strange thing that Foot orienteers find it funny to see the others doing. I think we should work towards bringing more elite orienteers to TrailO, get them to try it, because I think most of them would like it, especially the TempO.
One final question: what are your goals for what we still have ahead of the present season?
J. P. V. - The next goal is to qualify for the WTOC. Is where I'll put all my energy, since I still don't know if I can be in the National Championships. And, of course, also continue to gain experience, participating in all events as I can.