Two athletes in the Sprint Final of the first day, was the most positive note from the Portuguese presence in the World Orienteering Championships WOC 2014, held in Italy. The relegation to the third division, in the male category, is the consequence of this bad results. And it is also the starting point for a conversation with Bruno Nazario, coach of the Portuguese team, in which he analyses a journey at the highest competitive level.
“When you are relegated to the third division, the balance can't be positive.” With these words, Bruno Nazario starts his analysis to the Portuguese participation in the World Orienteering Championships WOC 2014, which took place in Italy. Remembering that “we were dependent on exceptional performances in the disciplines of forest which, unfortunately, didn't happen”, Nazario admits being aware that the task of keeping Portugal's place in the second division was “very difficult”.
But, will it be third division the mirror of the Portuguese orienteering reality? The answer is very clear: “This is the Portuguese reality, as it is the Spanish, Australian, Irish reality ... and the Belgian reality, who has 'only' the 7th best athlete in Sprint”. Without trying to find excuses in the World Championships' new format, in relation to the forest disciplines, as the cause of Portuguese situation, Nazario points the finger at the International Orienteering Federation, stating that this is, above all, “the reality wanted by the IOF”. Recalling his intervention at the Presidents' Conference last year, Nazario adds that “this is a reality that somehow kills the developing countries. Let's see the Belgium, precisely, that has an athlete [Yannick Michiels] clearly best than the others. What motivation can have these other athletes, knowing that they will only run if he doesn't want? This highly penalizes a large number of countries, those countries that contribute a lot to the IOF's activities and that, in my view, are being castrated in their competitive development. But we have to learn to live with this reality.”
“We want to return to the second division in 2015”
Looking into the World Orienteering Championships WOC 2014, Bruno Nazario says that “when we have fabulous terrains as those in which took place the courses, it is almost impossible that things go wrong.” Recognising that “not everything was perfect”, he considers that “it was a great event, a event that proves, even in countries not as developed in terms of competition, it is possible to carry out a World Championships with high quality and well organized”, he says. As the best achievements of these World Championships, Judith Wyder appears prominently - “she won a medal in all distances in which she participated and this is amazing” - while, in Men class, Nazario begins by mentioning the name of Frenchman Thierry Gueorgiou - “he won the Long Distance, which is to me, still, the queen race” - but feels a bigger attraction to elect Søren Bobach as the great male figure, “because the surprise effect and the importance for orienteering, showing to many athletes that they can also reach the top”.
Now that the WOC 2014 is over, long live the WOC 2015 to take place in the Highlands, in the first week of August next year. It is true that, by then, we will all be one year older, but it is not less true that the fact is seen by national coach as “a really big advantage to Portugal”. Recalling that the Portuguese team that competed in the Mixed Sprint Relay had the lowest average ages between 36 teams, Nazario expects “a great evolution of our youngsters, hoping they will keep the same motivation and willingness to work”. Despite the difficulties, the ambition and intrinsic motivation can be the turning point already in Inverness: “Many countries have the same ambition, but we'll be there to do our best. We want to return to the second division in 2015”, he concludes.
Promotion and relegation outcomes
Reviewing the “dance” of positions, we realize that Spain turned out to be the country that had more to lose in this World Championhips, seeing both teams, male and female, relegated to the third division. Even in the female sector, Hungary joined Spain, while New Zealand and Japan ascended to the second division. In the male sector, Australia and Ireland were promoted to the Second Division, in exchange with Portugal and Spain. Regarding to the first division, Latvia in men and Great Britain in women were relegated, trading places with Ukraine and Latvia, respectively.
The number of start slots a Federation has in the Long and Middle Distance races depends on the Federation’s division: First Division Federations have three places, Second Division Federations have two places, and Third Division Federations have one place. These Divisions have been used for the first time for the 2014 Championships just held in Italy. The host Federation has three places, regardless of which division it is in.
[Photo: FPO / facebook.com/fporientacao]