Monday, November 24, 2014

"Course of the Year 2014": Thierry Gueorgiou and Yannick Michiels choose Portugal

After having seen, in the last two years, Portuguese victories in the popular "Course of the Year", contest promoted by the World of O, Portugal is again in focus in the present edition. Although the poll has not even begun, the truth is that Portugal has two extremely well positioned courses to discuss the first places, counting on two great supporters: Thierry Gueorgiou and Yannick Michiels.

For the fifth consecutive year, the World of O, the most important "window" open to Orienteering worldwide, is searching for the “Course of the Year”. In the second half of November, invariably, the visitors are invited to share their suggestions based on their favourite courses along the ending season and that will be scrutinized later, in order to establish the final results. The popular Relay Jukola was the winner in 2010, followed in 2011, by the Middle Distance Final of the World Orienteering Championships, at La Feclaz (France). In 2012 and 2013 the winner had a common denominator called Portugal O' Meeting. First it was Bruno Nazario, with his course setting of Middle Distance WRE on the map of Senhor dos Caminhos (Sátão), to achieve such an important distinction. Last year, it was Tiago Romão and his course of Sprint WRE in the "most Portuguese village in Portugal", Monsanto, to get the prize. How will it be this year?

While we wait for the courses that will be subject to scrutiny, Jan Kocbach is bringing to us, daily, the opinion of some of the biggest orienteers. This is here that Portugal has a prominent position, first by Thierry Gueorgiou's words and, more recently, through the opinion of Yannick Michiels. According Thierry Gueorgiou, World Champion in Long Distance and winner of four editions of the Portugal O' Meeting, the course of Middle Distance WRE at Arcozelo da Serra, set by Mariana Moreira, is his favourite. Gueorgiou cannot forget the challenge from first to last control and how he felt "attacked" by the terrain in the early part of the course. But speaking specifically of terrains, Thierry is back again to Portugal and to Quinta da Estrada, at Aguiar da Beira, that he considers the best of 2014. As for Yannick Michiels, his preferences goes to the village of Castelo de Vide and the corse setted by Hugo borda d'Água to the Sprint WRE course on the first day of the NAOM - North Alentejano O' Meeting 2014, due to the amount of route choices placed in a small space, making it very difficult to anticipate the controls.

A few days (hours?) to the poll starts, the time is of great anxiety already. To follow the contest please see

Joaquim Margarido

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Orienteering in Costa Rica: A compass in paradise

In North South East West we travel this time to Costa Rica, meeting the two Orienteering Associations currently existing in the country. While we wait for the foundation of a National Federation, we can see that important steps are being taken with a view to wider promotion and practice of the sport.

By Joaquim Margarido

“An occasion where young and less young, of any genre, regardless of their physical skills, practice the same sport at the same time.” This was the perception of Edwin Coto Vega, Coordinator of the Physical Education course in the Atlantic Pole of the University of Costa Rica at Turrialba, about what is called “the sport of the forest.” 8,500 km away from his home in Spain, eyes wide open and the excitement in his face, Edwin Vega had the opportunity to experience ‘real’ Orienteering. What had been conceived only in theory was now revealed in all its splendour, and soon a million ideas swarmed through his brain, so that the big dream of firmly implementing the sport in Costa Rica became just a step away from being materialised.

Edwin Vega wouldn’t have been the only one to cherish this dream. With him - and even before him - others had weighed the pros and cons, realising that this was a challenge that was anything but easy. Mainly because there isn’t in orienteering the ‘immediacy’ that other sports have; it’s a sport that lives from that vital tool the o-map, requires appropriate terrain for its practice, and can involve complex and demanding learning. Moreover, as in most Latin American countries, here too it is football that makes people crazy, and other sports live under this as weaklings, having little support or none at all.

But perhaps the reality of Costa Rica could play in his favour. The country has one of the highest literacy rates in Latin America. The commitment to protect the environment – Costa Rica ranks 5th worldwide in environmental performance – has since the 1970s been a true ‘national cause’, and the ‘Ticos’ are essentially happy (the most recent report from the New Economics Foundation even puts Costa Rica in the lead in the ranking of the happiest countries in the world). It was time to get going!

The pedagogic value of Orienteering

Edwin Coto Vega deserves a prominent place in the history of Orienteering in Costa Rica for several reasons. To mention just one, it was through him that in 2007 the Atlantic Pole of the University of Costa Rica welcomed a Spanish coach who taught an introductory course on the sport. Some attempts to implement the sport in the country had been already made – we can find records of an event in 2003, and regular cooperation between the Spanish club ORCA and the University of Costa Rica from 2005 – but this course in 2007 turned out to be a landmark of a kind. Among those present was Yeimi Jiménez Oviedo, now 36 years old, teaching at the University of Costa Rica and sportive and recreational promoter of that institution. She was destined to be a key player in a growing process, as we shall see below.

We can’t say that Orienteering took root in Costa Rica from the very first moment. The great and decisive leap was to occur only in 2011, following the introduction of new courses in the Sciences of Human Movement. Offered only in Turrialba, due to excellent natural conditions in the suburbs, the Faculty of Natural Environment includes Orienteering on its curriculum. This was because of its pedagogic value, based on the versatility of the sport in its relationship with nature and its adaptability for all ages in an integrated way. So Yeimi Oviedo returned to Orienteering as the core subject of her attention, and through this she came into contact with the Spanish Orienteering Federation. This is where José Angel Nieto Poblete, the Spanish Orienteering Federation’s Vice President and responsible for international cooperation, came into the picture.

Sport for all

The first visit of José Angel Nieto Poblete to Costa Rica, in June 2011, confirmed for Yeimi Oviedo that here is a sport that can provide competition at high level simultaneously with recreational practice. Above all, it puts people in the same space to practice the same sport, regardless of gender, age or physical condition. This confirmation was reinforced when, in September of that year, Yeimi visited Petrer (Spain) for the Latin Countries Cup along with Francisco Solano, another teacher at the University of Costa Rica. “It was wonderful to see the children out in the terrain with their parents, and find people who had their first contact with the sport there alongside elite athletes”, recalls Yeimi.

By this time, Ramiro Agustin Ojeda had moved to Costa Rica, on the shores of the Caribbean Sea. It was his passion for nature, and in particular photography, that made him leave his native Argentina. But a lecture about Orienteering given by José Angel Nieto Poblete at EARTH University awoke a strong curiosity in him. Frequent hunting expeditions meant he was familiar with using a compass, but Orienteering was much more than that, it was a sport appealing to the intellect. Ramiro Ojeda recalls that he was impressed by the high participation levels in many parts of Europe, and how Orienteering provides physical activity for many people, in the outdoors and with respect for nature. And he adds: “We can talk about football, but media attention is restricted to the big stars, millionaire contracts and Federations that act as true multi-nationals. But with Orienteering, I don’t think there is another sport in the world that enables participation for all, regardless of age or physical condition.”

Two Associations, same purpose

There are two properly structured Associations currently existing in Costa Rica, both independent of the military (an unusual situation in Latin American Orienteering) and closely linked to educational institutions. With headquarters in Turrialba, the Asociación Deportiva Orientación of Turrialba has as President Yeimi Jiménez Oviedo, while Ramiro Agustin Ojeda is the President of the Asociación Deportiva Caribeña of Orientación with its headquarters at EARTH University, at Guácimo. With much the same vision and a similar, complementary contribution to development, and although independent of each other, both Associations have achieved noteworthy work. In 2012 the University of Costa Rica and CATIE - Tropical Agronomic Centre of Research and Education, at Turrialba - staged the first National Orienteering Championships, organised by the Association Turrialbeña, and the second Championships in 2013 were organised there too. In the current year, the third National Orienteering Championships have been successfully organised by the Association Caribeña, with a participation that exceeded 100 athletes spread over eleven classes.

Spreading the word

Even a minimally qualified Orienteering cartographer would not find it very difficult to draw a map of the region of Turrialba, as the deep green colour occupies the majority of the space. The vegetation is very abundant and the very dense rain forest houses several species of snakes, some poisonous, which represents an extra factor in planning a forest competition. Despite all the constraints, Yeimi Oviedo and her fellows from the Association Turrialbeña are determined to take forward this project, based in the course of Sciences of Human Movement and for the promotion of the sport. “The main objective for the moment is spreading the word, so that more people know about Orienteering and become interested in its practice”, she says.

Ramiro Ojeda’s vision is coincidental, noting that “currently, our task is to get more people aware of our activities, and make it not a rare thing to see a flag behind a tree or someone running with a map and a compass”. And he goes further: “The reality is that this is an imported and alien sport. The influence of football in Costa Rica is very strong, monopolising the media, the prizes and government and private investment. Maybe in 2015, when the fourth National Championships take place at the State Pole of the University of Costa Rica in San José, we can get some attention from the media and thus get more people keen to find out about Orienteering.”

National Federation on the horizon

For next year, the two Associations are preparing to organise more Orienteering races and are drafting a joint Calendar of events. With the invaluable support of the Spanish Orienteering Federation through José Angel Nieto Poblete, new courses and activities at TEC - Tecnologico of Costa Rica at Cartago – are planned, and in the capital San José these include the National Orienteering Championships, with Gerardo Corrales as General Director. The interest shown in the sport is such that Jose Angel Nieto Poblete has plans of holding an Event Advisers Clinic and a TrailO demonstration. At the Atlantic Pole of the University of Costa Rica people are already working with OCAD, and it is planned that a Mapping Clinic will be held there.

The work on the establishment of a future Orienteering Federation of Costa Rica has already started, about which Jose Angel Nieto Poblete was advised by Alba Quesada Rodriguéz, National Director of ICODER - Costa Rica Institute of Sport and Recreation, and by the Minister of Sports, Carolina Mauri Carabaguías. Looking to the future, Ramiro Ojeda says “so that we can unify criteria in the Associations, we’ll advance towards the creation of a Federation to ensure institutional support”. Yeimi Oviedo goes a step further in adding that “once consolidated, the National Federation we will make the necessary contacts in order to ensure our integration within the International Orienteering Federation.”

[Photo: Jose Angel Nieto Poblete]

[See the original article at Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]

Friday, November 21, 2014

Western Sahara: A bitter reality smoothed by Orienteering

The Saharawi refugee camp, in Wilaya de Boyador, staged the 1st Western Sahara Orienteering Championships. An event that represents an important milestone in a growing project, showed here with the precious help of Alfonso Bustillo, its main mentor and worker.

Under the Artifariti 2014 - International Art and Human Rights Meeting in Western Sahara, the refugee camp of Wilaya de Boyador hold, the 8th november, the 1st Western Sahara Orienteering Championships. A very simple course, mass start by teams and 15 control points were the challenge to 80 Sahrawi children and a dozen adults of various nationalities.

Born at Logroño in 1979, graduated in Physical Education and Firefighter by profession, Alfonso Bustillo met Orienteering 16 years ago. He is the great worker of a project that is not just maps and flags and that has in the will of taking contact with the reality of the refugee camps its starting point. But this demand was not just on observation and knowledge. Bustillo wanted to carry something with him, something seen as valid and that could mean a heritage for the future: “If I were a doctor or engineer, I would certainly contribute with other things; but I'm an orienteer so I took them a little of what I know”, he says. For the journey's preparation - an initiative of the Friends of the Sahara Association, from Seville, looking to the participation in Artifariti 2014 - Alfonso Bustillo had the support of his club, the Club Riojano de Orientación en la Naturaleza, managing to grant the means that allowed to offer 20 flags, 20 compasses, some books and sports equipment and even some money that was donated to local institutions.

Goals achieved

Being part of the Artifariti 2014's program, Bustillo understood that the course shouldn't have only a playful character - a mix of art and sport. Hence he set a peculiar couse, like himself explains: “The teams had to find 15 flags, each one of it with the name of a Saharawi city or a Saharawi people friendly city; the idea was to simulate the Sahrawi nomads moving freely in their country, from city to city, without walls to divide them or antipersonnel mines threatening them.” In the end, the goals were fully achieved, stating Orienteering to Physical Education teachers, leaving to posterity a map and spreading the harsh reality of the Saharawi people, particularly among orienteers.

But this was only the beginning of the project and Bustillo's dream is to return next year: “The contacts with local sports authorities and teachers and monitors of Boyador Scouts allowed me to understand the local peculiarities and I can be able to develop a more specific work and best suited to the project”, he says. To work with the interested teachers and finish the map of the whole camp (totalling 10 km2) are the next steps of Bustillo. With much work to do, knowledge to share and experiences to live, place to a wish: “I would like to see an Orienteering course every year, something like the Sahara Marathon, which brought life to the sport at the camps and that allowed to show to the world the unfair situation of Saharawi people”, Alfonso Bustillo says.

Finally, a very special thanks to Mohamed Bougleida, General-Director of Sports of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, to the various teachers and monitors of Boyador Scouts, the entire staff of the Boyador School of Art, some artists of Artifariti 2014, as well as the host of the Saharawi people and to Suhaya y Esgaller, the "family" of Alfonso Bustillo during his African stay. And yet an image alive in his memory, “the mass departure of dozens of Sahrawi boys and girls, the future of this people running - nomads! - freely and carelessly in their own land.”

[Photo: Alfonso Bustillo /]

Joaquim Margarido

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Latin Countries Cup: Spain wins edition nº 20

The Spanish team got the 20th Latin Countries Cup, held in Uruguay. Individually, the focus is on the young Spanish Eduardo Gil Marcos, Marina Garcia Castro and Sofia Berenguer Sanchíz who won everything there was to win.

For the second time in its history, the Latin Countries Cup crossed the Atlantic to settle, for the space of a weekend, in South America. Organized by the Uruguayan Orienteering Federation and the International Orienteering Federation, the event was held in Punta del Este and Piriapolis along with the 8th Mercosur Foot-O Cup and integrated into the II International Maldonado O' Meeting. With the stages of Long Distance, Middle Distance and Sprint - these two scoring for the IOF's World Ranking -, the event had in the dispute of the Latin titles in Cadets, Juniors and Elite, men and women, its highest moments. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Spain and Uruguay were the countries present at this 20th Latin Countries Cup, for three races full of intensity and emotion.

From the set of results, highlights the “full” of victories achieved by the Spanish Eduardo Gil Marcos (Men Junior), Marina Garcia Castro (Women Junior) and Sofia Berenguer Sanchíz (Women Cadets), contributing significantly to the total of 14 individual titles in 18 possible. Note that the remaining four titles fit the Brazilian athletes, with particular emphasis on Leandro Pasturiza that broke twice Antonio Martínez Pérez's favouritism, winning the Middle Distance and Long Distance in Men Elite class. The remaining Brazilian titles were achieved both in Middle Distance through Franciely De Siqueira (Women Elite) and Ariel Quim de Almeida (Men Cadets), over the Spanish Ona Ráfols Perramon and Diego Alonso de Juan, respectively.

Thus Spain regains the possession of the trophy three years later, becoming the most winning selection ever in the history of the event with a total of six wins against five from France, three from Italy and Romania and one from Belgium, Brazil and Portugal. Chile and Uruguay fought bravely for third place. In the individual struggle between the athletes of two countries, Chile has proved to be superior, with a second place by Magdalena Wagner Salas (Women Junior) and ten third places, but the absence of representative in Women Elite class eventually was fatal to their aspirations. The Latin Countries Cup will head to Belgium next year to the organization of its 21st edition, returning to South America in 2016, with a meeting scheduled for Chile.

XX Latin Countries Cup
Final Results

1. Spain - 118 points
2. Brazil - 97 points
3. Uruguay - 61 points
4. Chile - 57 points
5. Colombia - 6 points
6. Argentina - 3 points

Results and other information

[Photo: Silvia Brito /]

Joaquim Margarido

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Tim Robertson: From New Zealand to the top - in two disciplines!

Five weeks after rising to the very top of the podium at the Junior World Orienteering Championships (JWOC) in Bulgaria, Tim Robertson showed once more his hunger for gold by repeating this extraordinary achievement, this time in Poland at the Junior World MTB Orienteering Championships. Two world titles in these particular two disciplines, an unprecedented feat in Orienteering’s history. This and much more: Tim is IOF’s Athlete of November.

Name: Tim Robertson
Country: New Zealand
Discipline: Foot Orienteering / MTB Orienteering
Career highlights: World Orienteering Championships – Mixed Relay 14th (2014), Sprint 33rd (2012); Junior World Orienteering Championships – Sprint 1st (2014), Sprint 3rd (2013); Junior World MTB Orienteering Championships – Middle Distance 1st (2014), Sprint 2nd (2014).
IOF Sprint Orienteering World Ranking position: 77th
IOF MTB Orienteering World Ranking position: 117th

When Tim Robertson was selected for his first JWOC team in Poland, in 2011, his eyes were opened to what orienteering really was. “In New Zealand we don’t have such big competitions, so experiencing JWOC at the age of 15 got me really excited about orienteering”, he recalls. His fine physical and technical skills started to produce good results, but his inclusion in New Zealand’s World Championships Team in 2012, where he reached the Sprint Final in Lausanne, was for him a big surprise. Although he had “a bad run”, in his words, he will remember forever the event’s “incredible atmosphere”! After those two years Tim decided he wanted to keep working on and improving his orienteering. And so the story builds up to his remarkable achievements in 2014.

Tim was born on 5th August 1995 in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, fifteen minutes’ drive from the capital city, Wellington. When he was 10, his sister Laura started orienteering through the school and the whole family followed her: “We got bored of waiting for her while she was out in the forest”, Tim remembers. A problem easy to solve, it would seem: “So my family decided to give it a go and we have all been running ever since!” Running, mountain biking, surfing, hockey, and “just being outside doing things”, are Tim’s hobbies. While he also competes in cross-country and athletics – he actually came from a running background – orienteering is, definitely, his passion.

Four months in Europe

Tim finished school at the end of last year and decided to give himself a break. The reason why? To prepare in the best way possible for the World Orienteering Championships and the Junior World Orienteering Championships. At the beginning of 2014 we could see him working, but four months later he packed clothing and shoes, some maps and a compass and got on the plane. He travelled to Europe in early June to get more opportunities to train on European terrain: “The four months I have spent in Europe have been amazing. I have seen many beautiful places and I have enjoyed spending time with JWOC friends, visiting their countries and training with them”, he says. After all these fantastic experiences, he’s sure about one thing: “I can’t wait to come back to Europe next year and do it all again!”

Tim raced in Jukola, at Tallin O’ Week and then at the World Orienteering Championships, two weeks before JWOC, where he didn’t get the results he was hoping for. So “going into JWOC, I was very keen to have a good result.” Coming over early to prepare for these big competitions was a very important decision, and Tim’s expectations were to be fully confirmed.

Preparation in New Zealand can be difficult”

Tim Robertson doesn’t have a coach, and he sets his own training plan each week depending on his schedule and how he feels physically. “Preparation in New Zealand can be difficult”, he says. Where Tim lives, the closest good forest maps for training are over one hour’s drive away. Since he was then working full-time, he wasn’t able to travel up there very often. Because of this, Tim was only doing specific training for orienteering once a week and it was usually on a Sprint map.

From his training sessions, he got the idea that it was good to mix up what he does, and he tries to go biking once or twice a week. In his opinion, “mountain biking is a great solution for keeping the weight off my legs but still having a good workout.” He was lucky to be able to train with a few local orienteers who were really helpful in setting up night-time training once a week. Apart that, he tried to get to as many orienteering events in New Zealand as possible, but most of his training for JWOC and MTBO was running.

Two gold medals – “a complete surprise”

“To become a double World Champion in two different disciplines has been amazing”, says Tim about his glorious journey. After his third place at JWOC last year, to achieve the gold medal was a major goal this year. Two gold medals, however, was a complete surprise. “To win the mountain biking gold was a great bonus to add to my trip to Europe. After JWOC 2013 in the Czech Republic, I knew it would be possible for me to reach the top of the podium. However in MTBO I had no idea what to expect, as I had only competed in six races in the 2014 Oceania MTBO Championships, which were in New Zealand. My results in those races, and the encouragement from New Zealand MTB Orienteer Rob Garden, made me consider the idea of taking my bike to Poland.”

For the Junior World MTBO Championships Tim only had his bike with him a week before the competition started. He went out on all the training maps to try to prepare himself as best as he could in the short time-frame. He was the only junior from New Zealand competing, so he considered himself “fortunate to be able to join the Australian Mountain Bike team” to stay with during the Championships. “Obviously I was prepared for navigating, but I had not been on a bike for two and a half months so I was not sure how I would go racing. Winning the gold in JWOC Sprint was a goal for me but the gold in MTBO Middle Distance was a complete surprise.”

The ‘easier’ gold to win...

How ‘easy’ can it be to win a World title? This is not a simple question but, with two gold medals on his chest, Tim can say something about which one of them was ‘easier’ to win. “All of my training since last year has been focused toward WOC Sprint and JWOC Sprint. I had no specific preparation for the MTBO races. After my surprising second place in the World MTBO Sprint, I decided to approach the Middle Distance with some more focus because I realised that I could perhaps reach the top of the podium again. And it paid off! The Long Distance race was the toughest of the three races – I felt the pain of not having ridden my bike for two months prior to the event, due to having been focused on Foot orienteering. And also the fact that my bike had to be stored in Finland while I was travelling to seven different countries in the lead up to the World MTBO Championships. In fact the only bike ride I had in the ten weeks prior to Poland was when I hired a mountain bike in Borovets, Bulgaria, and biked the 10 km downhill trail from the top of the chairlift on Mount Musala”, Tim says.

“The JWOC gold was a more emotional win for me; I had put in the work to achieve the gold which made it feel more special. With the mountain biking, while it was an amazing feeling, I hadn’t put much work in so winning felt more unexpected, like a surprise. I feel that it is easier to be consistently strong in MTBO over all disciplines, whereas in foot orienteering to have strong results in Sprint, Middle and Long is very hard”, Tim says.

I consider myself a Foot orienteer”

- Do you feel divided between FootO and MTBO?

“I really love mountain biking, however I consider myself a Foot orienteer. I will think about racing in next year’s competition though. After becoming a junior world champion in two disciplines, I wonder what could happen in my future if I was able to spend more time in Europe training or had the input from an orienteering coach.”

- Why don’t we see many Foot orienteers doing MTB Orienteering?

“I think that, for an orienteer, to try Mountain Bike Orienteering can be a reasonably easy step to make, especially if you have had some experience riding mountain bikes. Although I had not taken part in many MTBO races before the World Championships, I had spent some time when I was younger doing local mountain bike races. On the other hand, a switch from Mountain Bike Orienteering to Foot Orienteering is a lot more difficult. I really enjoyed trying something a bit different this year, and I believe that when you are young it is important to keep your options open and enjoy whatever it is that you are doing.”

The best and the worst

Taking a look at Tim’s career highlights, we can imagine that his best moment until now was running in the Sprint Final in Lausanne at WOC 2012. “Yes, that’s true. The best moment of my career so far would have to be racing in that Sprint Final at the age of 16. The Event Centre and the atmosphere around the whole race was incredible. For me, I had never competed with GPS, so even that was a feeling I was not used to”, Tim says. But he won’t forget his most recent achievements: “Of course, another career highlight would be my two junior world champion titles this year.”

But we all know that life is made of good and less good moments, so it’s natural that Tim has already felt the disappointment of a result not as good as expected: “It is hard to choose one single worst moment in my career so far as there are so many that come to mind. I think the worst two would have to be not making the Sprint Final at WOC for the past two years. With the added pressure of having made it before and knowing that I can do it, the disappointment of not being present in the final has been difficult. But I find these experiences help a lot and I have to remember I have many more years of competing ahead of me.”

Three questions, three answers

- You’re a sprinter but… is Sprint your favourite distance?

“I have been most consistent in the Sprint, however my favourite distance is probably the Middle Distance. I competed in the Middle Distance at WOC in 2013 where I ran my first race on Scandinavian terrain. I was placed 23rd in that race, and although missing the final and not having a very good run I was quite happy with the result. I have the Long Distance in mind for the future. Coming from a running background, I feel this could be a distance I might be strong in – although the step up from JWOC Long to WOC Long is huge, so it will be a few years before that happens. I had a good run this year at the Norwegian Ultra-long Championships, being placed second in the M20 Elite class. I was very happy with this as it was my first run in terrain like that and I was also the first starter.”

- Can you choose the most impressive terrains where you have run?

“We have some amazing terrain in New Zealand! But overseas I think where the Norwegian Ultra-long Champs were held was incredible. Also the 2013 WOC Middle Distance Qualification in Finland.”

- What was the most relevant orienteering achievement in 2014?

“It’s hard to choose an orienteering achievement of the year as there are so many outstanding athletes. My votes would have to go to Søren Bobach and Daniel Hubmann. Their achievements this year have been very impressive.”

Reaching the top of the World can be done from New Zealand”

Still time to talk about orienteering in New Zealand. Tim Robertson says that “it is gaining momentum and numbers are growing. We have a strong group of competitive juniors coming through, and more training is starting to be organised in both small and large groups.” Matt Ogden’s victory at JWOC 2012 made Tim realise that “reaching the top of the World can be done from New Zealand.” He remembers those moments as “very motivational for me”, and he continues: “I hope that now, with my results, as well as those of my training mate Nick Hann and of course our JWOC 2014 Relay Team, that more juniors will be inspired to follow in our footsteps.”

Another subject was the great World Cup experience in New Zealand. Tim remembers those days in early January 2013: “Wellington is my home town and I remember waking up in my own bed before the Sprint Final, and the fact I was racing a World Cup that day didn’t feel real, as I’m so used to travelling long distances to the big races.” He’s sure that “it was great having some top orienteers to race against in our home terrain”, adding that “it would be a great benefit to us if New Zealand was able to hold a Junior World or World Championships event. Since we are so far away from the Europe base of orienteering, we are never likely to have many or compete in many World Cup events, so to gain experience and points / rankings we need to travel to or base ourselves in Europe. So the World Cup rounds in New Zealand 2013 and Tasmania 2014 are very important to the development of our sport Down Under.”

Another great experience

We can see in Tim Robertson’s attitude one of the reasons why he tried another ‘experience’, taking part in the 30th World Mountain Running Championship, at Casette di Massa, Tuscany (Italy), last September. “I decided to try something different this year when I was selected for the New Zealand team. I had only participated in two mountain running races prior to this event, so again I had no idea how it would go, especially when my preparation for mountain running was three and a half months of orienteering, alternating between competition racing for a week and then resting for a week”, explains the athlete.

Those who followed the mountain running course know that it was amazing and really tough; it began in the small Italian village of Casette de Massa and climbed via single track, rocky trails and through a spectacular marble quarry, “Bicina di Giola’. The total ascent was 710 metres over 8.4 kilometres, and the athletes even ran 600 metres inside the mountain through a mine. “It was incredible to compete against such a quality field of runners, including the junior world 3000 metres track champion”, says Tim. And adds: “In the race I didn’t have the start I was hoping for and ended up stuck behind many people in the early technical section, which is my strong point. I managed to pull through some places and finished 32nd”, he concludes.

My dream would be to one day stand on the WOC podium”

The future is now and, for a young and ambitious orienteer like Tim Robertson, the sky is the limit.
“I don’t know what I want to study at university, so I don’t want to spend a lot of money to go when it’s not something I want to do”, he says. In the meanwhile, “until the end of the year I have some smaller competitions in New Zealand. I will be preparing myself for Round 1 of 2015 World Cup races in Tasmania, where I hope to improve on my 20th placing in the World Cup Sprint that I achieved at the World Cup Round 1 in New Zealand in 2013.” The main goals for 2015 are really well structured: “I will be focused around having a strong finish for my final year in JWOC – where I would like to back up my Sprint results and also make an improvement in my Long Distance placing – and also improve my best placings at WOC”, he says.

And Tim’s last words: “My hopes and dreams? Well, my dream would be to one day stand on the WOC podium, but there is a lot to be done between now and then!”

Athletes’ questions and answers

The question from Svetlana Mironova, the Athlete of the Month in October: “Congratulations, Tim! How often do you fly from New Zealand to Europe? How do you “train” the voyage? Can you remember any interesting experiences of orienteering training during the flight?”

And Tim’s answer: “I have been in the JWOC team for four years now and the WOC team for three years, so in the last four years I have escaped the New Zealand winter to travel to Europe and compete in these competitions. It is a long thirty or more hours of travelling and can really take it’s toll on the body. Our New Zealand team usually arrives at the JWOC event two weeks before to get over the jet lag and prepare ourselves for the terrain since we can’t go on any of the training camps that other teams attend. When I am actually on the plane, I set my watch to the time of the country in Europe that I will be going to and then try to sleep and stay awake when possible. Although that is very difficult when they are serving breakfast when it is dinner-time in Europe. It usually takes me three or four days to get my sleeping pattern back to normal. It helps a lot if I go for short runs the first few days after I arrive, even though it feels horrible!”

Finally, the question from Tim Robertson to Hana Hancikova, Athlete of the Month in December: “How do you train for ski orienteering in the summer season?”

Text: Joaquim Margarido
Photo: Ivan Sirakov

[See the original article at Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]