For the start, I would like to hear you about the last season. Was it a good one?
Edgars Bertuks (E. B.) - Well, the beginning was good. The European Championships here in Portugal were good, even if I couldn't get any medals. But I finished 5th in the Middle Distance and 10th in the Long Distance and we also had the chance to fight for the medals in the Relay, although we haven't the best team. Later in the season, I still had some good races in the big Relays and at the National Championships, but I got quite seriously sick before the World Championships and... and that's it (laughs). I still tried – I believe that I shouldn't have to do that -, I wanted to run the World Championships so much. I think that I've could run a good Middle Distance if I have skipped the Long Distance, but since my main goal was the Long Distance, I decided to take part on it. It was a total disaster. The truth is that it took to much power that I didn't have any way, so...
Could you recover from that?
E. B. - Well, it wasn't a serious situation, in fact. It was just a flu but, since I had high fever for ten days, I couldn't recover as quickly as I would like. After that I was fine again and I ran some good races in Autumn. I feel now quite confident and well.
How are your trainings going?
E. B. - In November and beginning of December I was in Kenya and it was a really good experience. Just running, of course – they don't have orienteering maps -, but I did it quite well, I learnt something new. I've never been in altitude for a training and I think I will most likely do it again in the future. We'll see. The season is so full of competitions that we don't have too many chances to spend one month like that.
And what about Portugal? Why Portugal and why not Tasmania this time of the season?
E. B. - [Laughs] That's a good question. In the beginning I planned to go to Tasmania for the World Cup but one of the main reasons for me to give up was the travel around the globe. Of course there was a point, there was the World Cup, but for me to go just for the World Cup wasn't enough. That would be a good birthday present for myself [Edgars celebrated his 30th anniversary on January the 1st], but since I couldn't take my wife and son with me, I decided not to go there. The travel take a lot of money as well and for Latvia to send five ou six athletes would spend the whole budget for the season.
Do you agree with the World Cup being so far away and too early in the season?
E. B. - No, I don't agree with that. We can see that only the big nations are present in Tasmania and there are a very few other athletes who can go, so... And it's not the fact of being early in the season. We can have the first round this time of the season in Portugal, Spain, Turkey, even in Italy. But I can't take the fact that it is so far and the time and money that a World Cup round like that needs. I could use my sponsors and be there, but I can use that money more wisely with other purposes that's for sure.
So, that's why you're here in Portugal...
E. B. - I like Portugal. In January, I've always come to Portugal, mostly for running, but I always find some places where I can get a map. I was here for the first time six years ago. At that time, I was training for Athletics, I travelled to Albufeira and I totally loved the place. From that moment on, I've visited Portugal five times and I think that I'll come again next year.
You did your first contact with the map this season here, at Coruche. How was it, to win?
E. B. - I was surprised that I did it so well. Last time I ran with a map was probably Smålandskavlen, more than two months ago. It's been a while. I mean I ran with a map yesterday (laughs). Before I came here I was also quite tired because of the bad weather back home, I couldn't train properly. But here, at Coruche, I found a terrain not too complicated and I like it, I like running fast. To be in Portugal is like a new beginning.
What are your next steps?
E. B. - I intend to return to Portugal for the Portugal O' Meeting. To go back home for few days, and then fly directly to the first stage of the Portugal O' Meeting. After that, we are going to Huelva with TuMe, my club, during ten days for another training camp.
Do you still feel your gold medal, achieved two years and half ago, too heavy in your chest?
E. B. - Too heavy? (laughs) No, I don't think so. I'm actually quite happy for getting that medal, but it wasn't that much for me. It was nice, just nice. Maybe that moment of the national anthem... I still remember the moment, when they said “please rise...” (laughs). My intention is, of course, to win other medals in the future. It's my main goal for the season, to reach the podium in the Long Distance. At the moment I feel quite confident already, at least I think that I still have the chance to fight for the podium.
What can we expect from you for the rest of the season?
E. B. - I look forward for the big relays. We have a great team, Scott Fraser is coming back, Yannick Michiels and Miguel Silva are running for TuMe as well, so we are a young and ambitious team, focused on the big Relays for now. At the national team level, big changes are happening in Latvia, owing to the World Championships in 2018. We have very serious plans, we have a new mentor, a new head coach for the Latvian team, Jari Ikaheimonen, he started his great work three years ago and he knows the deal.
In the beginning of a new season, a wish for the orienteers overall.
E. B. - Keep enjoying what you do. This is a great sport, you never get bored, so keep it that way. And stay healthy. That might be the most important thing, and not only for orienteering.
To know more about Edgars Bertuks, please take a look on http://bertuks.com/.