The results achieved so far in Trail Orienteering Portugal Cup 2014 make of him one of the greatest sensations of the season. On the eve of his departure to Italy, where he will represent our country for the first time in a major international competition, he talks to the Portuguese Orienteering Blog about his interest in this sport and projects the future.
Your appreciation for TrailO, is it something that appears almost spontaneously, in relation with a precise moment, or is it the consequence of a growing process, that has been extending over time?
Luís Gonçalves (L. G.) - Until 2013, my involvement with TrailO was, in a certain way, rather small. I helped a little in the club (CPOC) organizations (“Parque Eduardo VII” and Iberian Championship in Gouveia), but my participation was mostly non-existing, either because I gave preference to foot orienteering, or because it was difficult to reconcile some events with the family agenda. But the Portugal “O” Meeting 2014 radically changed my appreciation for TrailO. My involvement with the whole preparation (technical and logistical) of that event and especially the enthusiastic and meticulous way Acácio (Porta Nova, course planner) transmitted me the rules and techniques really motivated and prepared me for the post-POM events. With the result obtained in the event at “Parque das Nações” and the possibility of being selected for the WTOC 2014, my appreciation and interest for this discipline increased even more. Thus, if we consider the period since late 2013 until now, I can say that it has been an evolutionary process.
What do you see in TrailO that makes it such a special discipline?
L. G. - Most of all, it is a discipline that allows some people (frequently forgotten) to practice our sport, to enjoy our forests and most of all to compete in a less unequal manner. TrailO, being almost exclusively a technical discipline, is much more demanding with respect to map reading, to the analysis of the problems that the course planner defined and to the balance between the correct answer and the time we take to decide (at timed controls). And, of course, it can also be seen as an excellent technical training for those that strive for good results in foot orienteering.
The development of the discipline in Portugal and the way it has been collecting interest among the orienteering community, what comments do they provoke in you? Are we going in the right direction?
L. G. - I would say that the TrailO's current moment leaves me enthusiastic and, at the same time, slightly “suspicious”. Starting with the negative aspect, TrailO continues to be neglected by a large group of athletes, many of them with a significant weight in our sport (either because they are our best athletes, or because they are recognized as excellent organizers and/or technicians). In part that is understandable, there is no physical component and not everybody has to like it. But on the other hand, if we never try a serious event, how can we have an opinion and judge? Besides, the organizing costs are high, new and expensive (due to the needed detail) maps are needed, and more than that the technical knowledge and supervision are very concentrated. Will the excellent impact on the ETOC 2014 remain alive for the following years?
But the most important is what has actually happened and that I want that continues happening. It is very positive to see the majority of the larger clubs involved in and dedicated to the organization of TrailO events, to see the exponential growth of registrations in the last events, to see the younger athletes participating (and to what extent!), to see clubs like DAHP and CRN (including many participants in wheelchairs) growing in numbers, to observe the synergies between clubs (will that be the future of our sport?), and to watch a large number of athletes with similar competencies and that are trying to evolve. The organizers want to continuously improve the quality of their events, they try to increasingly challenge the athletes and naturally the exigency grows. In fact, we only need to look at the latest (unofficial) European Cup in Lithuania and national (“Lagoa da Vela”) events, and remember (those who had the opportunity to attend) the excellent words of Nuno Pires (the national technical director) to understand that only with the evolution of the athletes/organizers will the TrailO grow and consolidate in Portugal.
PreO or TempO? Which of the two formats gets your preference?
L. G. - I think that my characteristics fit better in PreO, because it allows me to analyze the problems calmly, to address the challenges created by the course planners from different perspectives and to manage the response time. However, following a seemingly generalized opinion, TempO may very well be the future of TrailO, perhaps for the fact that it is much more dynamic, more attractive to youngsters and it seems possible, in the short term, to allow following it live.
You have warrant, for your own merit, a place in the portuguese team that will participate in the next world championship, in Italy. How do you face this opportunity?
L. G. - I am very pleased for having the opportunity to represent the Portuguese orienteering, and Portugal at the WTOC 2014! It is a unique moment that will allow me to be on the other side of the great international competitions, and to contact with the best TrailO athletes. At the same time, it is a great responsibility, because many other people might be in my place.
Can you state a goal, in terms of personal results for the next WTOC?
L. G. - It is difficult to define something that will be minimally realistic, taking into account the small number of events that I did and the fact that I have no international experience. The majority of the other national teams have very experienced athletes, which makes the competition very tight and demanding. Any fault may yield the loss of many places in the classification. Anyway, my main bet is the PreO competition, where I will try to take advantage of the longer duration of the events (more time to decide per problem) to try to enter the top 25. With respect to TempO, if I participate, I will try to reach the final although it is very difficult because it is hard for me to answer fast.
And with respect to the Portuguese team? What may we expect?
L. G. - We have not talked about that subject yet, but since they all participated in the last ETOC one of their goals may be to improve the results that they obtained there. In my opinion, each one of them, if he is consistent, may obtain a place in the PreO top 20. Our national team has a very balanced level and that may also allow the improvement of the team result.
More than a TrailOrienteer, you are still and above all one of our good values in foot orienteering. For the foot orienteering people, in particular, what does the “Luís-Gonçalves-TrailOrienteer” have to say?
L. G. - Come and try, take advantage of the technical training. Encourage the realization of initiation activities inside your clubs or even interclub activities.
Are we going to continue seeing you committed and motivated to do TrailO for how much longer?
L. G. - Within my availability I will continue participating and, beyond that, contributing so that CPOC and other clubs may organize events with quality, so that more athletes may participate as well.