What are your feelings after the two days of competition at NAOM?
Olha Panchenko (O. P.) - I've had a really nice experience here. The Middle Distance of the second day was more technical, more interesting than the one of the first day. I did some small mistakes but I'm satisfied with my performances overall. I felt, maybe, a little bit more tired on the second day, which is natural. The training camp in Spain, the week before, was hard and saturday's Sprint in Marvão broke my legs. Any way, I can't say that I felt fresher than the day before but I really enjoyed the last stage of NAOM.
How important are these moments on your preparation?
O. P. - They are quite important because I can have an idea about how I am dealing with the winter training, the things that I must improve in my planning, how do I feel after a hard training. But I must say that this week showed that I'm on the right way, with two nice results here. I need to work a lot my physical shape and also the technical part. These are the most important things in Orienteering.
And the mental part?
O. P. - I don't know if I can say that it is the most important in Orienteering. But I think that I'm mentally well. I can remain concentrated during all the courses and I was able to understand that this weekend. I need to be physically stronger and I also need to improve my technical skills. The mental strength will come as a result of improving both physical and technical aspects. I'll have some more training camps and important races as well before the World Championships, so I'll have enough time to reach the state of self confidence I need.
You've mentioned the World Championships and I believe that your big goals for the season are in Scotland. What would be a good result for you in the World Championships?
O. P. - I don't know, we'll see (laughs). I dream about a medal, of course, an individual one. But I'll be very happy if the medal is achieved in the Relay. I believe in my team and in myself, individually. We'll see...
Do you have a favourite distance?
O. P. - I prefer the Middle Distance and, maybe, the Sprint. I'm not sure about the Long Distance. I think I'll skip that.
And the Mixed Sprint Relay? Ukraine, with you in the team, got an impressive 5th place last year...
O. P. - It was an amazing experience. I ran the first leg and it was a wonderful feeling in an absolutely incredible atmosphere in Trento. And the final 5th place... I can't describe the happiness we felt. To improve the fifth place in the next World Championships is, also, a big goal. I believe that the most important thing to the Ukrainian team is to keep the concentration on our orienteering, from the beginning until the end. And then we'll see about our result.
Have you planned some intermediate goals until the World Championships?
O. P. - The big ones are Tiomila and Jukola, two big relays that I really like. And we also have the World Cup in Norway and Sweden. These are the four most important competitions for me before the World Championships.
What's happening with Orienteering in Ukraine right now?
O. P. - Well, I live in Sweden but I follow the present moment of Orienteering in my country. The situation is very difficult and it's really hard to keep concentrated in what you would like to. There are a lot of people who work continuously, showing that we are a strong nation. What we want, most of all, is to have peace in our country.
Even when are we going to see you doing Orienteering?
O. P. - (Laughs) I don't know. Orienteering is my life and I think that I'll do it until my last days, when I'll be really, really, really old. But, as a professional, I want to run a couple of years more. Maybe in five or six years I'll give birth to a child and I'll face the possibility of leaving the high competition but, for the moment, I want to keep it this way. We have a good national team, we have good results and we want to show that we can be even better.
Will you continue to come to Portugal in that occasion, when you are really, really, really old?
O. P. - Yes, I think so. For an athlete, Portugal is the perfect place for the winter training. And the people seem to be very happy and really helpful. If you come to some place and you need help, everybody has a smile and tries to help you, even if they don't speak english.
And what about our food?
O. P. - Well, that is something very special about which I don't have an opinion because we cook for ourselves. To us is important to know what we eat. But I promise that I'll return and, when I'm really, really, really old, without concerns about my physical shape, I'll try your national food.
I would like to ask you one wish to all the orienteers all over the world.
O. P. - Enjoy Orienteering. It's really the best sport there is.