Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Guntars Mankus: "Several factors were in my favour this time"

Multi-faceted athlete, confessed lover of 24-hours Rogaining and Adventure Racing, Guntars Mankus is, at 43, the new World Champion in PreO. A surprise for many - perhaps even for Guntars himself – and something that doesn’t seem to add much to this athlete’s career in looking to the future. After all, TrailO “never was and probably never will be” his main and favourite sport.

By Joaquim Margarido

After the historic gold medal, how do you feel?

“I still haven’t managed to evaluate my emotions, because the recent weeks in my sporting life have been very busy. Apart from my victory at the World Trail Orienteering Championships (WTOC), I’ve also won a gold medal in the Latvian Championships in TrailO and got 2nd place in Stage 3 of the unofficial European Cup in Trail Orienteering, also in Latvia. I was second in xRace, the largest Adventure Race series in Latvia, and I won the silver medal in the Latvian 24-hour Rogaining Championships, in the Mixed Open class”.

Do you have any idea how important the title can be in your sporting career? Will it have any influence on the development of Trail Orienteering in Latvia?

“To be honest, I don’t think this achievement will significantly change either my career or the development of Trail Orienteering in Latvia. There might be some slight increase in the popularity of TrailO and hopefully we will attract some new participants. TrailO is interesting and has enough complexity, but due to specifics and limitations it is almost impossible to make TrailO a mass sport or to make it visually interesting for spectators”.

How did you manage your course on the first day, and how did you feel being in the leading group?

“Already during the Day 1 Model Event I had no problem with the map reading – I was able to recognise all the details quite well. The beginning of the Day1 course was relatively easy and I thought that I would have enough time at the finish. But on the second part, due to several complicated controls, I had to run and make sure I’d fit in the time limit. I think I had no more than 10 seconds of time left at the finish. I answered poorly in the timed controls, but several of my closest competitors struggled there as well”.

Did you have any special strategy for the second day?

“It was clear to me that I should minimise mistakes on the Day 2 course, be- cause my performance in the first day’s timed controls meant that I would have minimal chances of winning in a situation of equal points. Another important task for me on Day 2 was to catch my flight leaving at 6.30 pm from Milan Malpensa airport to Riga! Otherwise I would miss the Latvian Championships in 24-hour Rogaining that was scheduled for mid-day on Saturday. The WTOC organisers did everything to help me fail in this task – there were complicated logistics to and from the start area, division of the course in sections, delayed start, etc. But still, I made it”.

How do you analyse the second day’s course?

“For me, Day 2 was more challenging – there were few detailed areas that al- lowed me to use map-reading skills to find the right answer. As on Day1, in some places the mapper ‘artificially’ made the map and tasks more complex by interpreting the terrain in a way that could confuse the participants. It relates to the land forms and also to the rocks, boulders and other features. I tried to improve my performance in the timed controls, but unfortunately it came out even worse than on Day 1. The course being split into three segments did not interfere with my performance, but I think such an approach was more complex – for both the competitors and the organisers”.

And what about the Team competition? Did you expect the 3rd place from the Latvian team?

“Team competition is sometimes like a lottery because no one can be sure about the result on Day 2, even after a perfect performance on Day 1. For me, the 3rd place was not a huge surprise because this year in ETOC, in Portugal, Latvia was very close to the podium in the Team competition. We lost only by one second to the third-place winners – the Russian team”.

You missed the Prize-giving Ceremony, such a special moment (?)...

“I was not really affected very much by the delay in the publishing of the official results, because I was trying to reach Milan airport to catch my plane. But the fact is that, from the moment I finished to the moment I found out my result, I managed to: run down from the finish to the Event Centre, change clothes and drive to Malpensa airport (320 kms, almost four hours with traffic jams), return the rented car, run through all the airport, check- in, get through security and make it just in time to catch the flight. Only at Malpensa airport, after the security check, did I find out my unofficial result. If that had happened a few hours earlier I would have considered turn- ing around and heading back, but that was not an option anymore”.

Was the organisation at a good level?

“I don’t want to go into details, but I think this year we have witnessed two examples of organising European and World Championships where there was quite a lot of room for improvement. I’m not talking here only about TrailO, but the Championships as a whole. The Italian WTOC organisation sometimes seemed rather chaotic. I hope it will be analysed, and the organisers of future Championships will not repeat the same mistakes again”.

Are we going to see you winning again in the coming years?

“I like TrailO, but it’s hard for me to answer about my future in this discipline. I have to confess that TrailO never was, and probably never will be, my main and favourite sport. Also I realise that I do not put in enough preparation work to constantly compete for top places in the WTOC and the ETOC. The interesting thing about TrailO is that a significant proportion of the outcomes are determined by variable unpredictable factors. For example, specifics of the terrain and how well each competitor can under- stand the style of the cartographer and course setter. Also, sometimes, the luck factor plays a significant role. Several factors were in my favour this time. It’s hard to say how it will be next time”.

I would ask you for a few words to those who want to know everything about TrailO, but are afraid to ask!

“It’s best not to ask, but to try TrailO instead. The more you practice, the more you learn and fewer questions remain”.

[Photo: Janis Tamuzs. See the original article at Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]

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