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]

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Two or three things I know about it...



1. After winning the Mixed Sprint Relay, at the kick off of the 19th World University Orienteering Championship WUOC 2014, the Switzerland was again one of the great protagonists of today's race, with three athletes on the Long Distance's podium. In Men Class, the brothers Matthias and Andreas Kyburz finished in second and third positions, respectively, in a race that had in the French Frederic Tranchand the big winner. In Women Class, Bettina Aebi reached the silver medal, staying at the podium between the Norwegian Gøril Rønning Sund and the Czech Jana Knapová, respectively first and third placed. The program continues tomorrow with the Sprint race, starting at 3:30 p.m. local time, and in which we'll see 108 men and 92 women representing 32 countries, fighting for the gold. Everything to follow at http://wuoc2014.cz/.

2. In the wake of major summer competitions, Cervera de Pisuerga, in Spain, received the II Trofeo International de Orientación Diputación de Palencia, who called to the event, between 5th and 10th August, 1300 participants from 24 countries. In Men Elite's ranking, Biel Ràfols Perramon (COC) was the winner with 4701 points in five stages, followed by Eduardo Marcos Gil (Tjalve) with 4647 points and the Norwegian Rune Nygaard (Il Gular), with 4516 points. Tiago Leal (GD4C) was the best Portuguese, getting the 10th position, 777 points less than the winner. By winning four of the five stages, Esther Gil I Brotons (Colivenc) won clearly the Trophy in Women Elite, reaching a total of 4930 points. Amparo Gil Brotons (COB) was second with 4348 points, 59 points more than the Portuguese Rita Rodrigues (GafanhOri), ranked third. In the remaining classes, a special mention to the victories of Ricardo Esteves (ADFA) and Nuno Rebelo (Ori-Estarreja), at H18A and H35B, respectively, and to the second places of Sara Roberto, Luisa Mateus and Edgar Domingues, all from COC, at D16 , H21B and D50 classes, respectively. Full results and other information at http://www.o5dias.com/.

3. The Spanish Kilian Jornet and Stevie Kremer, from the United States, were the winners of the 41st edition of Sierre – Zinal, mountain race held in the heart of the Valais, Switzerland, last Sunday. Jornet repeated the deeds of 2009 and 2010, having spent 2:31:54 for 31 km of distance, while Kremer took 3:03:12, in a race that saw at the arrival 1078 male and 206 female athletes. In the top-10, we can find four well-known orienteers: François Gonon (4th), Ionut Alin Zinca (6th), David Schneider (7th) and Marten Bostrom (9th). Baptiste Rollier (16th), Daniel Hubmann (24th), Hector Haines (37th) and Miguel Reis e Silva (74th), among others, joined the list of the top-100 ranked. In the Women course, Tessa Hill (14th) and Riina Kuuselo (31st) also deserve a word. Analysing the profile of the participants in this “classic”, Jornet wrote on his Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/kilianjornet - that this race “can join runners from athletics, mountain running, sky running and orienteering.” Evaluating in particular the orienteers' performances, Jornet says: “They race intelligently. Is well know that people who reads is intelligent, and this people are reading all the day! They are fast on flat and have not problem on short technical downhills.” But he also notes a handicap: “Normally they have more problems to keep fast on the uphill, and the race is too long for them.” To learn more about the race, please visit the event's webpage, at http://www.sierre-zinal.com/.

[Photo: © WUOC 2014 / wuoc2014.cz/]

Joaquim Margarido

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bohuslav Hulka: "My best moments are connected with excellent people that I’ve met"



Bohuslav Hulka is one of the well known names in Trail Orienteering worldwide. Alongside with Petr Krystek, he was the first athlete carrying the Czech Republic's flag in a World Trail Orienteering Championships. From Kiev, in 2007, to the present time, Hulka was a constant presence in the biggest events of the international calendar. Now that the WTOC 2014 is part of the past, it's time to look back at almost a decade of activity, both on the competitive chapter, as in organizational and institutional terms.


I would like to start by asking you about your experience in the IOF's TrailO Athletes' Commission (TAC), at the time of your exit?

Bohuslav Hulka (B. H.) - I consider the TrailO Athletes' Commission as an opportunity for TrailO to have a well-structured way for athletes to improve the development of the discipline. I wish the TAC could be something like the megaphone of athletes' voices. After my appointment, I thought that some competitors could find in me the right person to share their opinions with, for them to be heard and considered. I have to admit there were some initial difficulties in TAC work. We were appointed and, just after that, there were changes in the rules made which we were not able to interfere with. We also had very long gaps in some e-mail discussions. But I feel that now the situation is much better. The lapse of time between the arising of an issue and the suggestion to the Trail Orienteering Commission (TOC) is much shorter. There are respected and active personalities in the TAC. Meeting TOC and TAC together also enhanced the seriousness of TAC. And - we had one new phenomenon – TrailO blogging. Now we have much better opportunities to hear voices of many particular athletes. Good job with visible results, thank you, Joaquim!

Could you mention some of the most important moments during your stay in the TrailO Athletes' Commission?

B. H. - I would like to name a couple of important topics: Championships' quality and competitors' satisfaction, zero tolerance, the JWTOC, conditions for competitors in wheelchairs and paralympic eligibility. The last two subjects are close to my heart.

What would you like to have seen and didn't happen?

B. H. - The current Paralympic eligibility criteria are based mostly on declaration – can I walk at a certain speed or not? I understand it as one of the headstones of TrailO, that unfortunately needs to be dug out and changed completely. One possible particular solution could be to compensate the handicap with different time limits. I hope that it can be made possible, bringing new Paralympic eligibility rules, more consistent with other rules, clear, fair and, of course, widely respected.

You competed for the eighth consecutive year in a WTOC, finishing for the first time in top-6. What did you feel when they called your name on the podium?

B. H. - In fact, I was called under the podium because of some stairs, but in a moment there were many people helping me up to the podium. Which is very similar with my trail-o carrier: my best moments are connected with excellent people that I’ve met.

Did you expect this result?

B. H. - On the past two years (in Scotland and Finland) I had extremely bad results so, this year, I did my best to be in the first half. The rest was pure luck. I don’t consider my WTOC performance as something exceptional. I did a similar amount of mistakes as usual. On the first day we had a short course and one voided control, and both helped me. I am quite the suspicious type and if there was not so “Z tolerant” model 2, it could have finished even better. The second day I did some unnecessary mistakes, but not too many, comparing with most of the other paralympic competitors. Quite exceptionally, I managed to fit in the time limit and punched what I wanted to punch. If I were in the Open class, finally, only few competitors would be behind me. Comparing with the last year’s WTOC title of my friend Jana, that would be 7th in the Open class, this one is a completely different level.

How do you rate the organization of the World Championships in Italy?

B. H. - Overall, good. There were some controls worth of improvement. Unfortunately, this is not only about the WTOC 2014. Many ETOC's and WTOC's before faced the same problems. Another problem was the speed of counting results. I don’t understand why, during Scandinavian competitions like O-Ringen, the results could be published just several minutes after the last competitor came to the finish and during the ETOC or the WTOC the results were often published several hours later. This lag leads to a situation where no one is sure and the sport seems to be more complicated than necessary. And we could notice, also, the lack of accessible toilets during the course. This was not so serious during this WTOC, but the lack of them can cause very unpleasant experience for disabled competitors, so I have to mention it.

During your presence in the European Championships, in Portugal, we spoke of the difficulty in “recruiting” Paralympic athletes to our discipline. Have you found yet the solution to the problem?

B. H. - The TrailO discipline could give an excellent opportunity to people with physical disability to compete with body-abled people and to beat them. I am happy that I can compete together with competitors like Agata Ludwiczak, Søren Saxtorph, Ken Gamelgård or Júlio Guerra, who have dealt with many more difficulties than me. In the Czech Republic we present orienteering for about ten wheelchair “newcomers” every year. We start with “sprint” wheelchair orienteering races, combining it with one or two TrailO/TempO stations. There are also two other “sprint” wheelchair orienteering races in different parts of the Republic. During the recent years, there are some orienteering disciplines that play a role in survival competitions, and also some “accessible” MTBO. We also work on public relations trying to increase respect for TrailO, so we speak about it on the radio, TV and press. And the result is one new disabled competitor every second or third year. This is different level from “hiring” ex-FootO competitors or map makers, where we can find more people interested in TrailO, with all prerequisites for being successful competitors. When you finally have a promising Paralympic eligible competitor, you need to encourage him/her. In case of quadriplegic, you also need to raise some money to cover appropriate assistance. What do you think – is it worth the efforts? I would say it is!

Is TrailO following in the right direction?

B. H. - The discipline's starting position is all but easy. I don’t know other sport that needs so much work to prepare the competition. It is not easy to explain or understand what it is about. The abolition of the physical element speed brings the opinion that this sport is not a real sport. The integration of physical disabled and body-abled people could be attractive, but the Paralympic eligibility criteria is not clear. The core of the discipline seems to be very “precise”, but it isn't. There are many subjective moments like limited exactness of map or tricky course setting that lead to complaints, protests, voiding controls, etc., and that didn't always lead to pleasant emotions. But there are many positive developments – TempO is established as a fair and respected discipline, the Relay format looks very promising and certainly more interesting and fair than the Team competition. The ceremonies are (often) together with FootO ceremonies. My dream is that TrailO could have a global partner (why not e. g. some big names like IKEA or Google?) and TV coverage for the most important competitions.

The season comes to an end and, therefore, I presume that your attentions are turning now to 2015 and to the World Championships, in Croatia. What kind of event do you expect?

B. H. - If there aren't any more big nature disaster like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes etc., the WTOC 2015 will be excellent, no doubt. There are a top course setting team and excellent advisers.
But I pay more attention to 2016, when we'll have the WTOC with the Czech SEA and especially the ETOC in the Czech Republic. It would be nice to make good results in home environment.

Do you already have goals set in the Medium and Long-term? How long will we continue to see you doing TrailO?

B. H. - I think one can do this sport until 110. But I would not like to compete continuously. If I find enough courage, I would like to take a break for several months or years and seek the balance between being strongly motivated and taking things lightly. If I fail, I will have to bother you for the next 70 years.

Joaquim Margarido

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Iberian Trail Orienteering Championships 2014: Valente, Laiginha and Tamarit, the winners



José Laiginha Leal, João Pedro Valente and José António Tamarit are the Iberian Trail Orienteering Champions 2014. Held in Ligüerzana, in the Palentina Mountain, the event was part of Spain O' 5 Days, having the presence of sixty competitors.


After Vale do Rossim, Gouveia, in March 2013, it was the time of Ligüerzana to receive the Iberian Trail Orienteering Championships, for its second edition. Organised by Club ORCA, the event had the support of Diputación de Palencia, Fundación Provincial de Deportes, Junta de Castilla y León, Federación Española de Orientación e Federación de Orientación de Castilla y León. Counting for the Portugal Trail Orienteering Cup 2014's ranking, the II Iberian Trail Orienteering Championships was attended by 62 participants - among which eleven Portuguese - representing 22 clubs.

With maps of Victor Dobretsov (March 2014) and course setting from Toño Hernandez, the event offered a set of 14 controls, with two more timed controls, having in the low technical level its greatest weakness. In the Paralympic class, the Portuguese José Leal Laiginha (CRN) was the big winner, concluding his course with nine points, two more than Alice Rovollard (Individual), the second placed. The Spanish Champion 2014, Carlos Riu Noguerol (COMA), with 6 points, ended the podium. In the Open Class, it was intense the struggle for victory, with four athletes to achieve the full of correct answers. The decision was made by the performances in timed controls and, even here, only partially, since both the Portuguese João Pedro Valente (CPOC) and the Spanish José António Tamarit (CC Valencia) concluded with the same score - 12 seconds (!) - reaching ex-aequo the Iberian title. In third position, also ex-aequo, with four seconds more than the winners, classified the Portuguese Nuno Rebelo (Ori-Estarreja) and the Spanish Alex Tello (Valencia-O).

A special word to the efforts and dedication of the Spanish Orienteering Federation to a discipline which, despite being doing the first steps in Spain, is showing very encouraging results. Next season, the idea seems to be to start with the Spanish Trail Orienteering League. Victor Garcia Berenguer, President of FEDO, talks about the need “to find the necessary engagement of the clubs in order to organize a set of five competitions, a number that seems to be appropriate for a first edition”. Noting that "one of the five stages will take place in Portugal" - to meet the excellent relationship between the Portuguese and Spanish Federations and within what is already common practice in the other Orienteering disciplines -, Victor Garcia Berenguer don't exclude the possibility of having this “Portuguese stage” in the 3rd Iberian Championships, which will take place in our country, again, next year. “Let's talk to the Portuguese Orienteering Federation, but it's all a matter of agenda”, he concludes.

Full results and other information at www.o5dias.com.

[To see the pictures, please click at the image]

Joaquim Margarido

Monday, August 04, 2014

Ricardo Pinto: "I don't like to do the same mistake twice"



Ricardo Pinto reached in Italy the best result ever of a Portuguese athlete in PreO in the World Trail orienteering Championships. To the Portuguese Orienteering Blog, the paralympic athlete analyses his performances and projects the future.


On departure for the World Trail orienteering Championships 2014, you pointed the top-20 as your goal. After the extraordinary 16th position, I would ask you why did you believe that such result could be possible.

Ricardo Pinto (R. P.) - What I actually said was that my ambitions were to reach the top-20. To think about medals was out of my expectations, but I would be delighted to reach the top-20. Answering to the question, there was nothing to tell me that the top-20 was possible but there was nothing to tell me the contrary. Everything I learned during this time made me see that the distance that separates me from the world's best athletes is not that big. It seemed to me that the top-20 was an achievable goal and I did everything to get there.

The result achieved is the result of two days of intense competition. What are the key moments of your performance?

R. P. - The first day I went wonderfully well. I think I could do a good map reading and correct management of time, so the feelings after the race, even before knowing the results, were very good. On the second day, things didn't go exactly the same way. I knew that some of my answers were wrong, although check later that the wrong answers were not exactly those ones that I thought. Particularly in relation to the last control, I always have been fully aware that I right and, in the end, I was wrong. I'm sure that I counted correctly the flags - in fact, I did it three times -, I was saying to myself “Delta, Delta, Delta...” and then I pointed out “Echo”. I don't understand how I did such a thing.

You stayed out from the TempO final. How did it happened?

R. P. - The problem is that, somehow, I can't control my anxiety about TempO. I come to a point where I just want to “dispatch” the things and TempO don't work like that. Interestingly, the same doesn't happen in PreO timed controls, where I am much more calm and answer with greater certainty that in TempO. The fact to have “zero” answers in TempO controls, in my case, makes all the difference. In Italy, there was also an aspect that made me vey uncomfortable and that had to do with the fact that I have done all qualifying with a flat tire. Without want to make excuses about it, also think on the wheel and not just on the course turned out to be very adverse.

Your score on the second day was decisive to Portugal get the 9th place in the Team competition. Did you also expect a place in the top-10?

P. R. - Honestly, I had no expectations regarding the place that we could achieve. I knew things could be okay, and if I did a good result also the others would. I think this is a great result, but it could have been better if I had not missed one point or another.

The issue of "ifs" don't matters - other participants will also have their “ifs” - but being the only among the 20 first anrsweing wrong to controls 8 and 18 in the second day and, thus, to lose the chance to get a place in the podium is really frustrating. Did you ever think of that?

P. R. - Yes, I made this analysis. I must say that in the 8th control my time was very controlled. It was a mistake not have had the insight to measure the centre of the circle from another position. If so, I would easily realized that the correct answer should be “Bravo” and not “Alpha”. As for the control number 18, I must confess that I looked a thousand times to the terrain and I couldn't identify the knoll. So if there was no knoll, the obvious answer was “zero”. I think that I should lose there one more minute, and I would have answered the question correctly. The problem is that my time was all counted, then it would miss seven minutes to timeout, there were still controls 19 and 20 for answering and I could no longer spend more time. I realize that I was really close to an incredible result, but regrets do not help no longer. I've made my mistakes and there's no turning back now. In sure though, I don't like to do the same mistake twice and I rarely do it. So I just need to be with eyes wide open in the next time.

This was your third presence in a row in the World Trail orienteering Championships. Can you analyse each of these three moments?

R. P. - In 2012, in Scotland, I was basically blind. I didn't know what Trail orienteering was about and I went to learn. It was a fantastic experience, essential for me to grab with “ nails and teeth” to this discipline. In Finland, last year, the results eventually fall short from my expectations. Quite honestly, I thought I knew more than I actually knew. However, I learned a lot in recent times. The technical quality of events in Portugal increased enormously and this has been a great opportunity. I acknowledge that my performances in the various courses of the Portugal Cup were below my expectations, but learning from my mistakes was extremely important. Hence, to reach Italy, find good maps and terrains and face courses with a technical level not exceeding to what I was used, turned out to be decisive in the good results achieved. I would also like to praise the efforts of the Portuguese organizations to raise the quality of their events, especially this season. I would say that we have courses at the level of the World Championships.

Is there some aspects that you would like to highlight, looking to the other participants?

R. P. - I was quite surprised with Jana Kostová's performance. She is a great athlete and I was waiting that she could repeat what she did in Finland, where she was the World Champion. Have been ahead of her makes me proud, of course, but I think she is worth much more than what showed in Italy. This allows me to reinforce the idea that in Trail orienteering anything is possible. Even the best fail. I would also like to highlight the excellent work that is being developed in Spain and the good results achieved in the World Championships. Croatia has a very strong team and it was a well deserved victory in the Team competition, while Russia was, for me, a big disappointment, despite having a team composed exclusively of Paralympic athletes. Individually, the victory of Martin Jullum in TempO doesn't particularly surprised me.

What about the atmosphere within the Portuguese team. I know, beyond the huge team spirit, you learned with Nuno Pires 20.000 anecdotes about wheelchairs. Do you want to share with us one of it?

R. P. - (Laughs) I have no idea of one in particular, but it's true that the spirit of mutual aid and how to be within the group was excellent. I learned a lot with Nuno, Luis Gonçalves and João Pedro Valente, we met together after the races, we analysed our performance, we anticipated the next day and it was very helpful. Nuno Pires did a great job, he was a great team leader and that was crucial to our results.

What are your goals for the future?

R. P. - This year, the goal goes to hold the lead in the Portugal Cup and get back to victory. Moreover, the goals are the same: Participate in as many events as possible and continue to progress. I also believe that victories are important but are not the most important. The most important is what I can give to Trail orienteering. We still have a long way to go in spreading the discipline, and we must share what we have and what we know. This is the only way to continue to grow.

Joaquim Margarido

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Porto City Race 2014: Third edition comes in October



For the third year in a row, the Invicta receives an international orienteering event. We talk about Porto City Race 2014, an event focused in some of the most emblematic places of the city and that, over three days, has to offer entertainment and excitement, pleasure and discovery, to meet Porto - World Heritage Site.


From 3rd to 5th October, the city of Porto returns to host a major Orienteering event. Spread over three stages, with separated standings, the Porto City Race 2014 is an event of urban Foot orienteering, organized by the Grupo Desportivo Quatro Caminhos, with the partnership of Municipality of Porto, through the Porto Lazer. Open to people of any age, participating individually or in groups, the event is part of the City Race Euro Tour, along with the cities of London, Edinburgh and Barcelona.

Committed to double the entries registered in the previous edition and overcome the barrier of one thousand of participants, the organization of the Port City Race 2014 selected for the present edition the best of the Porto's natural and built heritage, offering a rich and varied program. The first stage will be carried out over the historic centre of Porto, on the evening of 3rd October. Next day dawn, it will be the City Park to welcoming, almost simultaneously, the Relay and the Score race. Finally, the queen stage that ends the 2014 edition of the Port City Race, will be held at Foz Velha, on the morning of 5th October, scoring for the ranking of the City Race Euro Tour and the Urban National Circuit. Among the “notables” who offer their image to the event, as Ambassadors, we can see “the man of the ultra-marathon Spartlathlon”, João Oliveira, and Pedro Henriques, former football referee, sports commentator and columnist.

The entries to the Port City Race can be made online via Oasis platform, or from the address inscrever@gd4caminhos.com, mentioning the name, date of birth, ID card, cellphone, class and stages of participation. Entry fees are stipulated by the Portuguese Orienteering Federation, with values ranging from € 1.50 (Schools) to € 7.00 (non-federated, older than 20 years). The registration for Open Classes may be made up to the day of the event, being, however, subject to the availability of maps. Sign it right now on your agenda and accept the challenge in scenarios of charm and beauty, with a map and a compass in your hands.

To know more about the Porto City Race 204, please visit the event webpage at http://www.gd4caminhos.com/en/portocityrace.

Joaquim Margarido

Friday, August 01, 2014

Martin Jullum, IOF's Athlete of the Month: "Tricked" into orienteering - now TempO World Champion



When he left for the TempO Final of the 2014 World Trail Orienteering Championships (WTOC) with a deficit of 68 seconds to Antti Rusanen, Martin Jullum could never imagine that, two hours later, his name would appear in first place on the scoreboard. Who is this Norwegian, born 26 years ago in the city of Halden, and what’s his relationship with TrailO? You’re about to find out this and much more in the August edition of IOF’s Athlete of the Month.


Name: Martin Jullum
Country: Norway
Discipline: Trail orienteering
Career highlights: World Trail Orienteering Championships – PreO Open class, Individual competition: 5th place (2009 and 2010); PreO Team competition: 2nd place (2011); TempO competition: 1st place (2014). European Trail Orienteering Championships – PreO Team competition: 3rd place (2010); PreO competition: 5th place (2014). World TempO Trophy: 1st place (2011). Unofficial European Cup in TrailO 2013: 2nd place.
Website: http://preoliten.blogspot.com/


He comes up very quickly to stop just ahead, in a very precise spot. One eye on the map, the other on the terrain, his head like a radar beacon. He pauses briefly to note more precisely the centre of the circle on the map, scratches his head with his compass, runs a little in the opposite direction. His body follows his look and moves from side to side, like the terrain’s contours. He has absorbed even the smallest detail, and it’s time now to mark the control card. Trust in the answer, and victory at the distance of a couple more bites of his punch.

He is Martin Jullum, born 26 years ago in Halden, where he lived until he was 18. Currently PhD Fellow in Statistics at the University of Oslo. And Trail orienteer. Not just an ordinary one, but the TempO World Champion 2014, a nice title achieved last 7th July at Alberè di Tenna, in the beautiful Trentino region in Italy. An athlete who, like many others, started with Foot orienteering and, suddenly, became a Trail orienteer. Just someone who loses one thing to find another. And these are not the only things that we know about Martin Jullum at the beginning of our nice talk. We also know what he absolutely carried with him to the desert island: A pillow! Yes, a pillow, because “a good night’s sleep is important”, he says.


The early years

“I was sort of tricked into starting orienteering, as I was participating in Halden SK’s sports school for children”, says Martin about the start of his contact with orienteering and the first steps in the evolutionary process. “They introduced more and more orienteering, and suddenly I was out orienteering every weekend”, he remembers. Always “fairly good physically, but technically not perfect”, Martin had some top performances as a Foot orienteer: a silver medal in National Youth Championships at the age of 16 and another silver medal at the Norwegian Championships as a 17-year-old. He also participated in the Nordic Championships, at the age of 17, finishing 14th in the Sprint. But his biggest and proudest victory in Foot orienteering was the victory in the Youth Jukola, with Halden SK, where he ran the last leg: “I decided it, taking a smart route choice by myself to the second last control. That was an amazing experience”, Martin recalls.

In the late autumn, when he was 18, Martin got some serious stomach problems also affecting the rest of his body and making him unable to train hard. He talks about those hard days: “I rested a lot and went to see all kinds of doctors, but none of this resulted in any improvement in my physical condition, and all attempts to get back to training failed eventually. I was therefore forced to retire as an elite Foot orienteer.”


Turning point

Martin Jullum tried TrailO for the first time in 2008, when he was at 10mila as a spectator and realised that this “PreO thing” was being arranged from the arena. But let’s hear what he has to tell about that initial experience: “I got into a team with two team-mates, Stine Kildebo and Andreas Johansson. We met up at the starting point 20 minutes before the start with no clue what we were going to do. We got instructions from Ole Johan Waaler on our way to the start and went off. I did a shorter A-standard course and got all correct. I then tried elite level a few more times with good results, and was really eager to learn and improve my skills for each new competition. All of a sudden, this was what I was spending almost every weekend on…”

- What do you see as so interesting in this discipline that it keeps you tied to it?

“Honestly I don’t know. The great fun and confidence boost I get by competing and solving decent, but difficult tasks by pure map reading on a very precise map is important. So are the big events where medals are awarded. I really enjoy competing in something I am good at. I haven’t won everything yet, and even if there are few techniques I feel I don’t master, you can always find some details to improve”.



The greatest challenge

Let’s get to the point. Martin was not a winner from the very beginning. In fact things were not at all easy in the early stages. “I started off fairly well, making few mistakes”, he says, remembering the first steps in TrailO. “I had more trouble after a while but then stabilised on a good level, and have steadily increased my general performance by tiny steps year after year”, he adds.

I’ve mentioned “easy”, but the truth is that this is not an easy discipline. In fact the challenges are often very difficult and not very well understood by all. For Martin Jullum, TrailO’s greatest challenge is “probably, that it is difficult and extremely time-consuming to devise problems that are difficult enough for the world’s best map readers with a fairly wide time frame, while at the same time being perfectly solvable and fair.” He explains why: “A map is a simplification of the terrain, hence it cannot be absolutely correct and competitors will interpret it differently and with varying degrees of precision. This leads to discussions and, in Championships, to claims and protests and that is a bad part of the sport, maybe keeping some people away from it.”


Arrange TrailO competitions at the same place as FootO competitions!”

- In what way is TrailO impaired by the “constraint” of being seen as a discipline (only) for people in wheelchairs?

“Some people might still have such attitudes, but they should really consider opening their eyes a tad. There are only a few competitors in wheelchairs over the world as a whole. TrailO is a sport where the physical requirement is brought to a minimum, but that’s about it.”

- Is there any formula to make TrailO more attractive?

“Arrange TrailO competitions at the same place as FootO competitions!”



Moving in the right direction

TrailO as it is now is something that concerns all who love this discipline. Are we developing in the right direction? Martin’s answer could not be more assertive: “TrailO is definitely growing on an international level”, he says, adding that “personally I think TempO should be given higher focus and priority by organisers”. The reason for this is simple: “It is less time-consuming to plan, and you can organise it almost everywhere.”

The geographical distribution of TrailO continues to have its epicentre in the Nordic countries. In Martin’s opinion, “Sweden and Finland have done some excellent work in TrailO to improve the reputation of TrailO nationally. Norway is still behind in some areas, but hopefully we will get there some time. Access to LIDAR data, making the necessary updating of maps for TrailO a lot easier, may also be better in the Nordic countries. That is a very important resource.”



A good feeling

By winning the TempO competition and the corresponding World title in 2014, Martin became one of the brightest stars of the 2014 WTOC. He woke up that morning, opened the window, got the kiss of sunshine in his face and said to himself: “I’m gonna be World Champion.” Was it this way? The smile on his face shows that things weren’t exactly like that, and suspicions are confirmed with his words about the subject: “Hmm, it wasn’t exactly like this, but I certainly had a good feeling. The atmosphere in the whole team was very good, and some had the feeling that something great was going to happen…”

- What was the magic formula you used to pull back the huge difference in score to Antti Rusanen and take the victory?

“Maybe the magic formula was to actually forget about the gold medal and concentrate on doing a good performance. Nobody thought anyone could catch Antti — it is so rarely that he breaks down. With the final being held in a park, everybody thought the answering times and number of mistakes would be much smaller, but instead the final was very difficult. My goal for the final was to have a stable performance and my aim was a medal. As in the qualification, my motto was “back to basics” and that certainly worked.”


The secrets revealed

- What memories do you have from the TempO Prize-giving Ceremony, especially when your name was announced and you climbed to the top of the podium?

“This exact moment has been in my thoughts and dreams for years. I think I will never forget this moment with my hand held high, the crowd applauding as I had finally become the world champion.”

Now is the time when I “get into action”, trying to take some personal benefit from our conversation. As I am also a trail orienteer, the next question is obvious: “What do I need to do to be World Champion?” Without suspecting that he’s giving “the gold to the bandit”, Martin answers to me in a very innocent way: “To be a world champion in TempO, you need to interpret the map and the terrain extremely quickly and find the best and fastest way to solve the control. You need to continuously take the decision on whether to read the map for two seconds more or to answer, so intense focus is the key.”

And he shows me, also, how to train: “The best way to train is, of course, to compete on good courses on good terrain, so I generally travel quite a lot to take part in the best competitions. I competed in the Italian championships in TrailO, in the same area as WTOC, the year before, and I did some additional training there. Two weeks before Italy I was in Lithuania and did seven very difficult competitions and training sessions which went very well and gave me confidence, in addition to some organised TempO training on home ground. Then I got my mind on to completely different things until a day or two before departure, when I did a series of online TempO training exercises and some map studies, to get into WTOC mode.”


The best and the worst

The TempO world title is certainly the most important moment of Martin’s career, but there are others, both positive and negative. Martin thinks for a while: “It’s hard to say, but from the top of my head the performance on the first day of the European Cup in Lithuania, in late June this year, was from my perspective quite extreme. It was a 2.9 km long PreO course, 28 controls and 180 minutes time limit. I had done a two-hour PreO training earlier the same day, and had a quite nasty cold. The course was very difficult and I was very tired, but I managed to force myself to work well on each control and not give up. I was very fast on the timed controls and made only a single mistake on the course, winning confidently. In addition, winning the World TempO Trophy (unofficial) at WTOC 2011 and O-Ringen in 2014 were ‘big wins’ for me”.

On the other hand, Martin recalls the worst TrailO experience, still well established in his memory: “It was maybe WTOC in Finland last year. Finishing 10th in PreO and 5th in TempO was way below my ambitions, after having an almost perfect spring season and what I thought was very good preparation. The course-setting style was completely different from what I had predicted, after an uncountable number of hours studying and training on the course-setter’s old courses in PreO and in TempO. I was simply not good enough. I then needed a bit of a break from TrailO to find new motivation, but luckily I found it.”


Three questions, three answers

- TempO is the latest variant of the discipline of TrailO and it’s also in TempO, in the opinion of many, that the greatest strength of our discipline sits in terms of the future. What are your comments?

“In terms of getting the sport out to the younger generation you are definitely right. Fast decision-making under pressure based on map reading should be attractive. In theory it may be as exciting as the shooting in Biathlon if the results are given to the audience right away – it has been tested and has shown promising results.”

- Is PreO an endangered species, given this outlook?

“I don’t think so. It is the classic version, and still some nine out of ten TrailO competitions are of the PreO format”.

- The answer seems obvious to me but, even so, I have to ask you the following: TempO or PreO, which one do you prefer?

“To me it’s actually not that obvious. I like both disciplines equally well. PreO for its classical tone and demand of accuracy and TempO for the intense competition format.”


WTOC vs. ETOC

After being 5th ranked in ETOC 2014, the best that Martin could get in Italy was 13th place. You can say that he expected a better result, but… “I am not sure. I felt I was fully ‘reloaded’ after the TempO, but maybe I wasn’t after all. Like many others, I was sort of tricked by the smaller margins on Day 2 compared to the rest of the Championship. In some sense I was not sceptical enough on Day 2”, Martin admits.

Talking about the European Championships and the World Championships, we would like to know how Martin evaluates the two events. Here is his answer: “I think they were similar in terms of those criteria, overall fairly good, but they had their challenges. The most important components, the maps and courses, were good on both championships. They were not ‘excellent’, but definitely worthy championships. From what I have heard, the important mapping and work with the courses were unfortunately done way too late. Doing this important job earlier would surely have lifted the championships an extra level. The results service at both championships was awful! ETOC was fairly fast, but with tons of mistakes, whilst WTOC was just extremely slow.”


Advice and hopes

The re-established Trail Orienteering Athletes Commission is about to take up its work, and Martin has one piece of advice for them: “I advise them to run their main proposals through a larger portion of the active trailO athletes around the world before submitting them to the TrailO Commission (TOC). This could be done through simple questionnaires for/against. Otherwise it is basically just the opinion of a tiny group of athletes which may not reflect the opinion of the majority of the active athletes.”

Let us turn now to the future, to hear what Martin’s goals are for the rest of the season. With two-thirds of the stages completed, the athlete is the uncontested leader of the Unofficial European Cup in Trail Orienteering 2014 and the overall victory could be one of his goals, but… “Actually, I will not compete much at all this autumn as I am spending five months as a visiting student researcher at Stanford University in California, USA, as part of my PhD fellowship. Even if I am competing in only six out of twelve competitions in the European Cup, which of course is a huge disadvantage, I hope to be on the top. I just finished O-Ringen with a result I could only dream of: three stage wins and a clear overall victory. Two of the stages I won were also part of the European Cup, so I am leading that as well and just have to hope nobody will catch me”, he says.


Looking forward to Croatia

- What about 2015, and the World Championships to be held in Croatia? What kind of Championships do you expect?

“I was very impressed by Zdenko Horjan’s presentation of WTOC2015 at the Team Leaders’ Meeting in Italy and I am confident it will be an excellent championship. Hence I am very motivated for this championship. Both the TempO final and one day of PreO will be on a golf course, so I have to consider what to do about that.”

Martin has his own plans for Croatia and these are not “only” to preserve the gold on TempO. But let’s leave that to be him to explain: “I don’t believe any gold medallist in the PreO open class or in TempO has ever successfully defended their gold medal the following year, so it will certainly be very hard. I am confident I will be back fighting for the medals also in PreO in Croatia.”


TOC’s preferred format for the Relay is wrong”

The Relay is a feature which appears on the near horizon, maybe to substitute the present Team competition at the European Championships and World Championships. Martin Jullum says he is in favour of this and hopes it will be included in the programme in a few years, but he disagrees with TOC’s preferred format of the Relay. He explains why: “Their suggestion is to set a total of 24 different controls and let the competitors on each of the three legs choose 8 (+/- 1) of the remaining controls. The alternative format, which I think is much more suited for Championships, is to set approximately 10-12 controls and possibly have some of them forked (different controls in the same clusters). The course-setter and controller save time by having to plan/control far fewer controls, and it is much easier to find a suitable area for 10-12 excellent controls than it is to find one for 24 excellent controls. It is already an enormous job to plan and control all courses in a Championship, and I therefore think it is a bad idea to add another 24 controls that only a third of the competitors will try to solve, when less than half that number would be sufficient. The savings in time should rather be spent on making the map and existing controls better.”

We have to say that TOC’s argument in favour of the chosen format is that it involves tactics, with the competitors on the two first legs having to choose which controls to take. For Martin, things are not as they seem to be: “That might to some extent be true in theory, but in my opinion definitely not in practice. To me it seems like that TOC haven’t really thought this fully through, but I hope they will before they take a final decision”, he says.

- Without trying to use a crystal ball, how do you see TrailO in ten years’ time?

“Rather than a paper map, each competitor will have a waterproof tablet with an app showing a zoomable map with one task shown at a time. The timing and punching will be done directly in the app both for the PreO course and the timed controls/TempO.”


I am aiming for both WTOC 2015 and WTOC 2016”

- And what about yourself, what are your long term plans? Will you continue practising TrailO much longer?

“I was about to write that I take one year at a time, but I can assure you that I am aiming for both WTOC 2015 and WTOC 2016. My level of motivation controls everything”.

- Do you accept to share with us your biggest wish?

“No protests (and no reason to protest!) at WTOC 2015 and 2016!”


Athletes’ questions and answers

The question from Søren Bobach, the Athlete of the Month in July: “What was the most difficult thing to give up in foot orienteering when you started trail orienteering instead?”

And Martin’s answer: “The reason why I enjoyed foot orienteering in the first place is, as for most other orienteers I believe, the requirement of physical stamina and that you also have to use your brain. Hence what I miss most is pushing my body to the absolute maximum. But you cannot always get all you wish for. When I started TrailO, anyway, I had almost given up FootO due to stomach problems, so it was more like ‘lose one sport, found a new one’, rather than an exchange”.

Finally, the question from Martin Jullum to Emily Benham, Athlete of the Month in September: “What would you say is the most difficult challenge for MTBO to become a more recognised and popular sport, with more competitions and competitors around the world?”

Text and photo: Joaquim Margarido

[See the original article at http://orienteering.org/tricked-into-orienteering-now-tempo-world-champion/. Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]