Thursday, June 05, 2014

Tuomo Markelin: "In ten years time TrailO will develop a lot"

Part of “the best national TrailO team in the world”, Tuomo Markelin visited and competed in Portugal last April. A week full of adventures - worth reading his memoirs at –, here remembered in a very interesting summary.

First question (an easy one): Who is Tuomo Markelin?

Tuomo Markelin (T. M.) - I was born in 1968, in Helsinki, Finland, where I’ve lived ever since. I’m quadriplegic due to a skiing accident in 1986. I have a masters degree in economics and business administration and I am, currently, self employed. My first experience in TrailO was in 2008, when I decided to try it out after hearing about it from my friend and team mate Ken Gammelgård. I didn't have any orienteering background but the sport sounded interesting. And sure enough it sucked me in and gradually I took part in more and more events and learned more. I haven’t had any major success yet, being part of Team Finland in Portugal, this year, the highest point of my TrailO career so far.

Was it hard to get the “ticket” to Palmela and to the European Championships?

T. M. - I’m very proud to have been chosen to represent Finland in ETOC 2014. The fact that there are not that many Paralympic Class competitors taking part in most of the national events in Finland made it possible. Let’s face it: I’m still in the beginning of my TrailO journey. But I’m learning more and more and this year’s ETOC provided me the most valuable lessons so far.

How did you prepare yourself for the European Championships?

T. M. - The ETOC 2014 was scheduled so early this year that it left little room for actual practice since last season. See, we have this little problem: snow. It effectively covers most of the details of the terrain so it’s no use to go out and try to make a course. We did manage to have two TempO training days, but that was all. There are some virtual training courses on Internet but I haven’t found it very useful so far. So, the model race was very valuable!

How do you evaluate your results in the ETOC?

T. M. - I entered ETOC expecting to receive lots of experience, not medals. And that’s exactly what I got. It was my first international Championship event. But, most of all, I experienced how it feels to enter a (important) race in non-optimal conditions (you can read more from my blog: The part with the results that pleased me the most was the moderate “come back” in PreO, Stage 2. It showed me that there was a learning curve for me, even within a race.

To belong to Team Finland along some of the major names of our sport, to celebrate the European titles of Jari and Annti... What means all this to you?

T. M. - I am very proud and humbled by the fact that I belong to the best national TrailO team in the world. I have the world’s most skilled competitors next to me to learn from – and they are always willing to give advice. Jari, Antti, Pinja, Pekka, Lauri… wow, they are good! They take the sport seriously but without losing their humour. They have, definitely, earned their medals and I’m glad to be able to celebrate with them!

Overall, what do you have to say about the ETOC? Can the Portuguese be proud of their job?

T. M. - Since I’m new in the international Championships scene, I’m not able to compare ETOC 2014 to other events of such scale (I wasn’t even present at the WTOC 2013). I found all the PreO courses very good, it was a refreshingly new kind of terrain for me. TempO was harder, which was highlighted by the fact that I wasn’t properly focused for the race (yes, those Event Centre – race course transportations were nerve racking). The counting of the results was a bit slow and the official dinner would have been enjoyed more if held on the final day, as initially programmed. Overall, especially taking into account that the championships were organized mostly by volunteers, ETOC 2014 was a success. It takes passion, which you obviously had plenty of. Thank You!

And Portugal? It seems that you stayed a big fan of our country...

T. M. - And, ah, Portugal! (laughs) Without ETOC and you guys I would have missed the whole country. It was my first time and I got to see Setúbal (and it’s surroundings) and Lisboa. Two quite different places. Setúbal and the country side were very idyllic and peaceful whereas Lisboa is a crowded urban city. I liked the contrast. More of my experiences in my blog (I’m still working on the Lisboa part).

Is TrailO worldwide in the right way?

T. M. - TrailO is a young sport with still quite a narrow competitor base. As a new sport, it’s still evolving fast, thanks to very enthusiastic participants. In Finland one major issue lately has been the “zero tolerance”. Should it be used or not? If yes, at which extent? Should it be unambiguously defined in the IOF rules or should it be left more for the individual race organizers to take advantage of as they see best? And this is just one question. Others will surely rise up in the near future. In ten years time TrailO will develop a lot. I hope this development will also bring a wider audience!

What about the future? Are we going to see you competing in WTOC, next summer?

T. M. - As for my future in TrailO, I will definitely keep developing, too. Unfortunately, I’m not able to compete in WTOC 2014. It’s exclusively (if I was selected) a financial matter (I need two assistants with me and neither the Finnish Orienteering Federation nor other relevant organizations have the funds to support my travelling costs). I might drive to Denmark for the Nordic Championships in September. Otherwise I’ll compete as much as I can in Finland this year. After that I’ll see what 2015 brings along.

Joaquim Margarido

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