Monday, August 18, 2014

Lauri Kontkanen: "I don't understand the philosophy that the course setter, the event adviser and the organizers are always right"

29,5 seconds was the time that separates Lauri Kontkanen from the 2014 World TempO title. With him, we return to Levico Terme and to “the most awful situation” he faced on trailo. An interview without spared words, the accusatory finger pointed to many directions, because things can't remain hidden indefinitely *.

It's public that you've made a protest about what happened in the third station of the WTOC's TempO Final and your disagreement about the way how it was handled by the organization. Would you like to explain, in brief, what happened?

Lauri Kontkanen (L. K.) - When I came to the 3rd station I saw people who were standing close to D flag. There were around 10 people. I started to solve first task without any problems because right answer was A-flag and nobody covered it. But after I had started answering, this group started to walk towards me and in front of D-flag. I answered first task very quickly (A). After that the whole station was like in slow-motion video. It was the most awful situation to me I faced on trailo! I had never had the same situation and this happened in World championship final, what is the worst thing. Incredible!

During the second task, people were already covering D flag. Right answer was Echo, I said something else first, but tried to change the answer because a very confused situation. I have never made answering mistakes before in tempo. I knew what was the right flag but answered totally something else because of people who covered already D flag. The third task was the most awful, I spent there a lot of time mostly because I couldn't see the right flag or tree because people were standing in front of it. I think I spent half of the time I spent on that station, over 20 seconds! I remember that I just looked to the map and forest but I couldn't think normally. Time just past away and I really felt like brains are stuck for 10 seconds. Then I said something, probably zero, but that was just a guess. Then fourth task was quite easy to me and said it as zero in few seconds.

The last task was another episode. Now, some other young guys appeared from the left side and started to cover A, B and C flags. The correct answer was C but I answered first zero because one guy stood again in front of C flag. I didn't see the flag actually at all and answered zero. When the time stopped and I stood up, I realized that this guy had stood just in front of right (C) flag! Then I was even more angry. I said immediately to the station's marshal that I demand to change my last answer because of this situation. Marshal understood what happened and changed my answer from zero to C flag. I also appealed that the whole station was awful to me, but this marshal said that "yes, I saw what happened, but make a complaint to the organizers".

After this station I was still very angry of this situation and pushed very hard the last stations. I came to finish and made a complaint. This complaint was rejected and Roberta Falda came to me and told the reason, which was that the “situation was the same for all”. I don't believe this because I haven't heard people walking in front of other competitors. I think this argument is not proper for this level events. Does this mean that it is allowed to bring full bus of children in front of top tempo athletes when they are doing WTOC tempo final? With Roberta's argument it sounds like it is allowed.

I made a protest but jury didn't understand the situation either.

In your opinion, what should have been the solution? To void the whole station or just a few points?

L. K. - Yes, to void the whole station because arrangers weren't able to have fair conditions on this station. It is not possible to void just few tasks, just because people use different times on each tasks. Also Antti Rusanen suffered and made protest on this station because there was one extra flag which was very visible on the left side of A-flag. He missed bronze medal because of this big mistake. What is weird is that Jury didn't visit in the terrain to see that there was an extra flag visible on the left side of A flag! This was big mistake from them! How they can solve any problems without seeing the real matter? I saw just that Roberta Falda was talking with them. I believe she told what to do and the jury kindly did what she said.

In a message left on Facebook, you leave in the air the idea that there are people with organizational and advisory responsibilities that should be more updated with the present reality of TrailO and have an appropriate sense of fairness. Do you want to comment?

L. K. - Yes, that is true what I have said. I have heard many other guys saying the same. I don't understand the philosophy that the course setter, the event adviser and the organizers are always right. They can also be wrong. These persons who have been on WTOC jury seems not to understand fairness things. I can ask what would have been enough for voiding this third station? When there are 1, 2 or all flags covered by unknown visitors? When someone loses 5 seconds, 10 seconds or 1 minute? Or are these again not enough? And how many of the jury members have been on any kind of jury education? Most of the jury members have never been top athletes and are not even able to solve problems correctly. It is easy to see this from the competition results they have done recently! How they can decide if there are technical problems on some controls? This is really big question to the trail orienteering commission and I hope to see in WTOC 2015 and in all future WTOCs much more talented trail orienteers as jury members.

The questions about fairness in TrailO are many times on the table. Is there a “solution” for this real problem?

L. K. - Yes there is. The first and the biggest thing is rules for zero controls (zero tolerance). It is up to course setter how they can set zero controls. In one competition, zero controls can be good and solvable and also not unsolvable. Top athletes are so good that they always think on every control whether the solution is zero or one of the flags. Usually the situation is this. So every time competitor have to estimate course setters tolerances and decide to take a zero or flag. I don't understand why trail orienteering commission is so against to the "zero tolerance". In Finland we have used zero tolerances during last two seasons and we haven't got any problems. Also Swedish have their own rule which is “if there is a flag on the right feature, it is the correct answer”. It is also a rule for zero controls!

There are also some other issues like good maps and fair course setting but those are not as important as “zero tolerance”. Most of the complaints in WTOC level are because of unclear zero controls. Course setter can make mistakes and if there are not any rules for zero controls then what is enough for the zero answer? 1 meter, 2m, 3m, 4m, 5m, 6m or 10 meters? In ETOC Portugal Day 1, control 6 I went to the terrain after the competition and measured that the flag was 5 metres(!!) away from the right place and it was still a flag! I didn't make a complaint because I didn't care. I have video and pictures from the terrain on that control.

In any case, your second place is much better than that achieved in Portugal, in the European Championships, especially after being the fastest and most accurate in the qualification heats. Can you compare the two events?

L. K. - WTOC Italy courses were good. Not any course setting mistakes. The only mistakes were on fairness policy. On ETOC Portugal tempo course setting style was mostly good, but there the third station in the final had one task which was unfair and required only luck. This task was zero and it was way too tight! There were only 5 competitors who got it right out of 36. Only 3 metres from the right place and it was impossible to solve. In tempo "zero tolerance" should be something like 7m on this kind of contour features. If there is only one task which is too tight and unfair it can change results dramatically. Also there were some other zeros who weren't clear enough. Tempo is not like preo and it shouldn't consist of tight zeros!

Returning to WTOC 2014 and analysing the results, how do you see Martin Jullum's victory? Was there some results that has left you surprised?

L. K. - It was great that Martin won! He deserved that medal. In tempo results there weren't big surprises. Tempo courses and tasks were fair which lead to that fact that the first 5 competitors were same as in Vuokatti last year. I want to thank Renato Bettini that he could make so challenging courses. Only pure map reading controls, and not any control description trickery!

You've been out of PreO competition but I am sure that you followed it closely. What is your analysis from a competitive and technical / organizational point of view?

L. K. - In preo I knew that there will be surprises because of Italian course setting style. All the top Italian athletes had said beforehand that course setting style could be anything. And it wasn't good and fair enough as it should be on WTOC level. The biggest problem was that the model event for day 2 didn't tell that could have been tight zeros. In the competition there were some really tight zeros and this determined results. Who had courage to answer against what “had been told” on the model event 2 was on very high positions on the result lists. For example all the Finns understood during the Day 2 that these zero controls are quite tight but didn't answer zero because model event said “you have to answer flag”. The Swedish had analysed similar and answered also flags. Competitors must trust to model events. If they can not trust, they make mistakes.

That is why Croatia was able to win with many points. They were anyway good and the best but they had courage to answer zero. I didn't expect that Guntars Mankus would win but he is talented enough to be successful on “Italian style” events. Most of the difficult tasks were similar: visibility to the right place was very poor and competitors had to guess quite a lot.

I'm not disappointed to team Finland results. We can't have better results if course setting style is not fair. On the last years it has been mostly fair, but not fair enough in Italy. Organizers had focused on many other things like “this terrain we have to show to the competitors”, but not on the courses and maps enough. They had to cancel half of the race on day 1 because they didn't “know” that it might rain and the grass can be soft on the meadow. Also all the wheelchair users who I was talking with, said that paths were bad, not worth of World champs.

The Event Adviser (Lennart Wahlgren) said to me on the banquet that he had said much more amendments to the preo course setters but because of huge misunderstanding (he said course setters didn't understand English well enough), only 40% of these amendments had carried out! Incredible! Another big reason is that the organizers weren't able to make maps not until three months before the event. It is said in the rules that maps and courses should be ready one year before the event. Is this possible in foot-o? No, they make maps usually two or three years before the WOC.

Now, that the "reformulated" Athletes Commission is about to start to work, what are the major priorities emerging on the horizon?

L. K. - Well, Anne Straube (coordinator) and other members have determined that "zero tolerance" rule is the most important issue. Another big issue is relay format.

Personally, what are your goals for the rest of the season and relatively to 2015 and to the World Chanpionships in Croatia?

L. K. - My goal is to win two gold medals in Finnish champs in the end of August. I don't have any goals to 2015 as I'm assistant event adviser in WTOC Croatia. I visited in Croatia in June and I am very satisfied to the courses I saw and to all arrangements. The courses and maps are 99% ready and we need to make only some fine tuning. I'm really waiting the next year. They will have spectator controls on tempo and live results and also results from the middle of the race on preo! So it is interesting to be even only a spectator for the first time in WTOC! Arrangers have done already a big job. The maps are top quality which are made same by professional mapper from good base materials (laserdata and aerial photos). Also we have planned to use “zero tolerances” on all competitions. These things ensures fair competitions! There's no doubt that these will be the best World championships ever. I suggest everybody to focus on WTOC Croatia!

Joaquim Margarido

[* After having Roberta Falda's agreement - “of course I answer!”, she wrote – I've sent her, on 14th July (!), ten questions about WTOC 2014. One of the questions was: “ - We know you had some trouble and there's one situation, in particular, that raises serious doubts as to the final result and its justice. I speak about the TempO Final and the protest submitted by Lauri Kontkanen, because people in the terrain, eventually hiding the flags in station 3. Do you want to comment?” I have to say that, unfortunately, I'm still waiting for the answers. Surely, it would be important to have Roberta Falda's opinion and not only the “one side” version. But these are the facts and I believe it's important to tell you what happened. Things can't remain hidden indefinitely. So, even without Roberta's answers, I decided to publish Lauri's Interview]

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