Member of the TrailO Technical Commission of the Portuguese Orienteering Federation and one of the main pillars of this young discipline in our country, Nuno Pires starred in Palmela, along with João Pedro Valente, one of the highest moments of the Portuguese participation in the ETOC 2014. His presence in the TempO Final was really important for the affirmation of Portugal in the TrailO panorama worldwide. About this – and much more! -, the athlete come today to the Portuguese Orienteering Blog's tribune, in a long interview which worth to read carefully.
Now the echoes of the European Trail orienteering Championships begin to disappear, I ask you to remember some of the strongest images of these six amazing days.
Nuno Pires (N. P.) - If I make a rewind for all ETOC 2014 days, surely there are some moments that I keep as pictures on my mind. First, of all, the first Portuguese team meeting, on the day before the Model Event. It was special to see a whole squad of Trail Orienteering ready for action. Due to constrains, it will be very difficult to have such a number of competitors representing the country in a competition with the scale of ETOC in future years. I salute POF for the effort to give the squad as much conditions as possible in these times. Although our limited experience, I remember the motivation in everybody's eyes to compete at this level, without pressure for any result. Then, I remember the morning of the Model, facing the mirror at home, proud to be Portuguese and for representing my country after all the personal and family effort and mainly due to my work and merit during the last year. I remember singing loudly Happy from Pharrel Williams during the trip to Vale de Barris. I felt like it. One moment I keep in memory is the daily lunch time at the venues, always waiting for the last to come from the terrain and allowing to make the aftermath, discuss and work several technical aspects, encouraging the less fortunate and greet those who make a good result, always in a positive team spirit.
The highlight of ETOC for me was surely getting the ticket for the Tempo final. I was surprised to be in the top 10 in my heat on preliminary results when almost all competitors were classified and I check how many Nordic athletes were still out in the greens and I put the worst case scenario on the table. Fortunately, I ended in the 18 qualifiers. At the Final, I remember being side by side with Remo Madella. I meant I was as good as him in the Qualifying, but unfortunately I did not keep the pace in the Final. I did not found the right balance of the decision speed versus the answer conviction, and the result was worst that expected. My TempO Final participation was a time to enjoy Trail Orienteering as a gift. The mission was already accomplished.
Your qualification to the TempO Final [and also the one of João Pedro Valente] is an historic achievement to our TrailO and puts us at a very interesting level in this discipline. Did you expect this? What was the secret of this excellent result?
N. P. - The TempO qualification goal to the Final started some time ago in my mind. No one knew about it except my family. At Palmela, I told the squad I was there to fight for it. My preparation was simple and does not have a secret. It was essentially mental work, improving the levels of concentration I inherit from my youth basketball days where I played at top club national level, some reaction training, to handle the station pressure and speed up the seeing-thinking-talking process, some TempO on the Internet and finally a good dose of map study, focusing the thoughts on golf course images and maps, in order to build a mental model of the event beforehand.
Do you want to tell me how was your two days of PreO competition?
N. P. - During Day 1, I had a moment of joy after making 18 points out of 20, and cleared the timed controls in 18 seconds. But the level of the competitors was so high in ETOC, that this performance, despite being personally good, only gave me the provisional 22nd place after the course. The Day 2 was awkward. I had confidence in the decision points, punched all firmly but the result was beyond my hopes. If at least I made the same score as the day before I could enter the top 30, but due to my mistakes and the overall score improvement of my fellow competitors, I dropped down to 66th place. I need to get consistent as this situation happened before in several occasions. I switch from good to bad results in short periods of time more than usual. I think I need to gain experience and mentally split the Nuno Course Setter from the Nuno PreO Athlete, because the Athlete tends to overload the mind with information before taking the decision, and normally things are more simple than I realize. Both Nuno's have to improve, but the latest has surely more to do.
How do you evaluate the ETOC 2014's competitive, technical and organizational level?
N. P. - I think the competition level created was high, and it would be frivolous to say that the PreO results were too balanced just by saying the courses were easy or by looking at the top performers score in each class. It is commonly said that “the opportunity makes the thief”, so the quality of the map contours and the huge number of green elements mapped helped the reading a lot , creating a potential competition with zero margin for errors. The TempO had a huge sense of competition from the start, just by knowing the event was going to be held in a golf course, an artificial and neutral terrain for everyone.
Technically I think ETOC was also at high level. Despite being held in in Portugal, where the sport is still in development, there was a strong involvement of international supervisors in this component, mainly in PreO , who guaranteed the base work in the event made in Portugal was levelled up by this foreign contribution. That's a fact that Alexandre Reis devoted and prepared the foundation of a great ETOC and I believe that only some edges have been polished after his chunk of work. There was punctually some technical issues but that is normal in PreO. Only the ones involved in the sport understand the nature of it. In TempO, the map was excellent and very accurate and the increasing level of complexity from the Qualification to the Final was technically very challenging.
The organization level was also very good. There was a notorious lack of experience of some controllers in the Model Event day who let some Team Leaders a bit uncomfortable, but all went well on track at the competition time. Probably no one knows that this ETOC 2014 had more assigned controllers in the competition that the overall ranked athletes in the Portuguese TrailO Cup. Portugal can be proud to have organized the 2014 ETOC, and the fog that occurred in the TempO Qualifying morning was the result of weather conditions and had nothing to do with some other clouds that unfortunately passed by Palmela skies in the FootO event.
I have to mention your intervention on the second and final Team Official Meeting, leaving the idea that some rules worth less that others, depending who makes the call. Can you remember that moment?
N. P. - Those who follow my course planning work know I faithfully follow the International Guidelines to minimize the subjectivity of PreO control place setting and I take in my hands the careful placement of the flags in the forest. I was bothered to miss a control on Day 1 of PreO due to a flag misplacement on the designated side of a vegetation element. I demonstrated the flag, if placed correctly, had a distinct and visible point of view of the element other that the one seen during the competition. Some team leaders stated the same, but mainly 'second row' nations. I still think the errors were not by bad decision and those who choose to Zero the answer were mislead by the flag placement and due to their proper judgement, in my honest opinion. The Guidelines state this as a start up reason to void a control, if a majority of athletes agree on that call, but due to the current Day 1 results, there was clearly a conflict of interest that superimposed the recommendation, mainly due to the Nordic influence and huge know-how of the sport, that I respect a lot. I made the call that day. Anyone could have done it for justice and I feel that the general team leader support opinion at that moment depended a lot on the circumstances and from the TrailO reputation of the person who made the call, with reason or not. But this is a common feature of TrailO and just like a soccer match, there's nothing like a good controversy in the field to keep the fans talking about it for a long time.
What are your conclusions of these four days of competition at the highest level?
N. P. - I personally fulfilled the goal of being at ETOC 2014, with results matching my current reality in TrailO. If I said some months ago I was on my To Do List to reach TempO final, no one would believe in me. In short I conclude that experience and more dedication can give lead one day to a result to remember. But I have my feets on the ground and know how difficult is to gain leverage on this matter without participating regularly in events away from my country. Having the national team in mind, in overall, I have a mix of good and bad thoughts. First I think we did well on PreO, especially on the Open Class, based on the individual score, with high answer percentage. Regarding the Paralympic Class however, it is notorious our lack of experience in competition and the absence of any Orienteering historical background.
In TempO, the squad did the best they could, more that expected. In overall, we had a lively group who performed well and has been always motivated to get the most of the ETOC 2014 participation. There a need to emphasize the team had also the wilful spirit of the assigned escorts Homero and Serafim, also our team driver. Additionally, a word to our Paralympic José Leal, a example of effort for everyone. He managed to get to the national team in his first TrailO year and he did all the competitions without escort or wheelchair by his own foot. He wanted to be that way, in full autonomy, despite his huge limitations, putting a physical wear on his body and mind only visible by the end of the daily courses.
As member of the TrailO Technical Commission of the Portuguese Orienteering Federation, how important was ETOC for the Portuguese Trail Orienteering?
N. P. - I will be pragmatic. This ETOC 2014 will hardly be repeated in terms of dimension of the event and the requirements for the organization and resources involved in the next years in Portugal. What seems to look redundant in terms of numbers is in fact facing the needs to get everything running smoothly at international level. I was personally surprised to see only a few known FootO orienteers involved in this initiative, and the ones I saw I know that are already working on their local clubs in TrailO . There were no new faces in relevant places needed to promote and create synergies in the near future between the current Orienteering community and the clubs who are actively investing in TrailO events. The human resources were mainly recruited amongst students for specific control tasks and they will not be agents or promoters of the sport in a near future. So I don't believe the ETOC 2014 will make TrailO grow in Portugal as much as the TC or POF wanted.
However, the TempO may have some increased interest by the format itself. It is like a Sprint version of the PreO, and correctly managed, can be very attractive. It is simple, straightforward, and less demanding to prepare before the day of the event.The workload is during those few hours of stress. There is more adrenaline involved and if we look at the age of the top athletes, it seems obvious that it can gather a younger audience, running way from the stigma that the TrailO is only designed for the elderly and disabled people.
What are your goals for the remaining 2014 TrailO season?
N. P. - I have two major goals in mind. The first is to successfully organize the Dunas TrailO on May 31st, 2014, at Cantanhede Dune map. It has a 2014 Portuguese PreO Cup stage and a TempO course, the first official one in Portugal and will assign the first ever individual national title. Both events combined will act as a single criterion for the definition of the athletes who will be in Italy at the WTOC 2014, one for Open class and other in the Paralimpic class. The second goal is to reach the TempO final and improve my ETOC 2014 PreO classification, this time in WTOC 2014. I was assigned to lead the Portuguese team and to compete as well.