After the first major competition of the XI World Trail Orienteering Championships WTOC 2014 - and with it the emotions of TempO and Luis Gonçalves' fantastic 9th place (!) - it's time to take a look at the Pre-O competition that will have its epilogue next July 11th and whose first day's Model Event took place already this morning. The issues on the table are many, and about which we exchanged a couple of points of view with Nuno Pires, Team Official of the Portuguese delegation present in Lavarone.
Are you fully recovered from the emotions of yesterday? (laughs)
Nuno Pires (N. P.) - It was really a very intense day. At the beginning, expectations were identical for everyone, but after the qualifying, each of us had a very precise idea of what had gone less well. Personally, I struggled in stations 5 and 6, I was clearly penalized by repeating answers in the same stations and I knew that hardly would reach a place in the Final.
And then, in the end, the result that we all know.
N. P. - Yes, a great joy. It is worth mentioning that this joy was shared with everyone in the team and also with Antonio Hernandez, who has been with us all time. Actually, at the course's place, Portuguese and Spanish are always very close and often exchange impressions. This is quite helpful, our teams developing together in terms of ideas and knowledgement. There were also other countries that were associated to our special moment, mainly from Eastern Europe, showing curiosity in how Luis got what he did. Curiosity and affection, a smile that reveals a message of appreciation to anyone who comes to intrude within the countries that usually dominate this discipline.
Is there anything incidental in Luís Gonçalves' 9th place?
N. P. - I cannot answer this question very well... But no, I don't think so. Luis has been an orienteer since a long time, he is an athlete of our national Elite class in FootO, has above all good technical qualities and the fact that he is still young and has a really fast reaction time, gave to him the perfect profile for TempO. Interestingly, given the complexity of the terrain and the challenges in this competition, Luis clearly adopted a strategy which proved much better than the strategy of many so-called “Nordic machine-guns”. They are used to “shoot” in five or six seconds which was, in this case, almost impossible without mistakes. Hence, he had such a good performance and have achieved a result that no one was waiting.
What impact this may have in the further development of this discipline in Portugal?
N. P. - Well, this proves that TempO is, at least, one discipline to work in the future. I would like to see more TempO events in the official calendar in Portugal, maybe to find a solution making possible to fit the TempO in the Portuguese TrailO Cup ranking, a hybrid solution, I don't know. We have to think, but it's like Antonio Hernandez said yesterday, using an analogy with what happens in Foot Orienteering: the Portuguese will never be able to hit the Nordic in long distances, but we already have some nice results in the Sprint. Applying it to Trail orienteering, in TempO we can get closer to the Nordics and faster, while in PreO we still have a long way to go.
Luis Gonçalves reached a historic result, as we already know, but it was not the only Portuguese in the start for this competition. The difference is that both Nuno and Ricardo couldn't reach the finals. What was wrong?
N. P. - In the case of Ricardo, I would not say that things have been wrong. The issue is that for the technical level of Ricardo, these challenges proved to be more difficult than what he's used to face. But it also happened with me. With this map and this kind of forest, both I and Ricardo were unable to make decisions safely. It is very easy to be drawn into the error by questions related to what I would call “optical illusion”. It is easy to be deceived. Clearly, the challenges were placed on a very high platform and we have to recognize that course planning was very careful this time. The key to success could be hit in the first problem in every station. But I must acknowledge that, in this particular, we weren't well.
We had today the Model Event in PreO. Want you tell us your impressions about this morning in Forte Verle?
N. P. - It was a Model Event with ten control points and one more station with two timed controls. The terry was wide open with few areas of forest, but with many depressions - reminiscences of World War I - which makes the map with an increased complexity in relation to the natural elements. The readability of the terrain and the proximity of the flags for the points of view meant that the level of technical difficulty was not very high, but there were some small “traps” to which we need to be alert. Generally our performance was good, we didn't make big mistakes and we always hit averages above 80%. But we think that tomorrow the number of individual elements will be much higher and we are also, of course, waiting for more difficult challenges. Incidentally, if it happens what happened in TempO, we have a huge disparity between the Model Event and the course. But we are going to analyse things quietly and I hope that tomorrow things will go well, opening good perspectives for the second day of competition.
When you say good perspectives, you are talking what about? Luis Gonçalves has assumed the top-25 as his major goal. What about the other members of the team?
N. P. - We haven't yet discussed the subject. Luis pointed to the top-25 and I am convinced that he will be able to achieve that goal. But we also know that one point more or less can vary many places our positions in the classification. I believe that, in this kind of terrain, we'll have more people answering wrong than in the European Championships and one or two wrong answers wouldn't make such a big difference in the final standings.
How is it going, the World Championships, from the point of view of the Team Official Nuno Pires? The increased responsibilities have taken many hours of your sleep?
N. P. - The atmosphere within our team is excellent. I try to remove all troubles from the athletes and the factors that could destabilize before the courses and I have also tried to keep myself calm and solve the problems, fortunately few, that have arisen - a blown headlight on the vehicle, mechanical problems with Ricardo's wheelchair. It is fair to note that we have been able to count on the support of all the staff of our hotel, they are helping us to find the best solutions for the little things that eventually emerge, particularly in coordinating our schedules with the schedules of the Hotel itself.
And the organization? Does it fit with the high standards that are always waiting for an event of this magnitude?
N. P. - Until now, I have to say that the organization has been in a World Championships level. It is true that not everything has gone well and the weather also does not help too much. But I think that, technically, the event is having an excellent quality. The Senior Event Advisor, a Swedish, is an extremely well known and respected person in TrailO. It is a “cold” person, but a person with whom you can talk and know to listen you and answer to your questions. Within half an hour we will have the second Team Officials Meeting and quite frankly, I do not expect that major issues are raised in relation to Model Event and which may influence the planning of tomorrow's course.
In two words, what is your greatest wish?
N. P. - Well, there aren't two words, but three: A great result! I expect a great result from the Portuguese athletes that are here. Tomorrow we'll have with us João Pedro Valente in the Open Class and I think he will be a great surprise, as Gonçalves was a great surprise in TempO.
Follow the XI World Trail Orienteering Championships WTOC 2014 at http://www.woc2014.info/wtoc.php.
[Photo courtesy of Nuno Pires]