Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mikhail Vinogradov, Part II: "The weak organizational level is one of the biggest problems in modern Orienteering"

After having presented Mikhail Vinogradov, the Portuguese Orienteering Blog shows you today the remaining part of the Interview with the coach. On it, he addresses a wide range of subjects about the present and the future of Orienteering, showing a peculiar point of view in many aspects, based on a solid and objective reasoning.

What skills are most valuable to an elite athlete?

Mikhail Vinogradov (M. V.) - I believe they are the tolerance to high training load and pain, the patience during typical problems (e.g. injuries, slow progression in performance), a professional approach in all details and to be diligent and keep focused on self-improvement.

On the way to excellence, what is innate and how much is acquired?

M. V. - It is difficult to specify the exact proportion for Orienteering. Actually, in any sport, the success depends on the following conditions: Genetics, a good environment (including social and economical support), a healthy status, the coach’s qualification and the athlete’s character. Without one of these conditions, to succeed in sports is almost impossible.

Do you prefer to work with young people or the approach and the improvement of an older athlete?

M. V. - My focus is in elite sport. Youth sport requests another way of thinking.

Looking at your blog, we realize that the Relay is the distance in which your results as coach are more valuable. Is it true that Relay deserves, actually, some special attention from you?

M. V. - The first reason why you see a high number of medals from Relays is because at the official IOF competitions the struggle in Relay events is not as big as in the individual distances. The second reason is that I was a main coach in Halden Skiklubb and my job was to win Relays. In fact, the Relay is a very special event in any sport and there are a lot of particularities in Relays. I guess that I got some important features of O-Relays and victories from my runners in all types of international Relays that you can see like a sign of it. Like a personal, National or club coach, I got victories in the World Games, WOC, EOC, JWOC, Tiomila (women and men), Jukola, Venla, 25Manna. “When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer” (laughs).

You've been a little bit bored with the IOF's policy in the last years. But is it a “crime” to work towards a greater awareness and recognition of the sport? There's nothing worth in Brian Porteous' initiatives? Not even the Mixed Sprint Relay?

M. V. - I am not familiar with anyone on the IOF staff. I don’t know who is Brian Porteous and what are his initiatives. I like the Mixed Sprint Relay and I always was a supporter of new events in the WOC program. But what’s the point in cancelling the Middle and Long qualification? That action led to the introduction of quotas for countries and it's the wrong way to get started with protocols based on questionable IOF rankings. One of the reasons was to give the option to the top runners to participate in a full WOC-program. I think that there weren't any elite runners who participated in the full WOC-2014 program. I am pretty sure that it was possible to introduce WOC Mixed Relay without other unreasoned changes. And what’s the point to send an IOF delegation to South Africa (WADA conference)? I don’t think that doping is the number one problem in Orienteering and I don’t think that a really expensive trip was necessary (the WADA conference was broadcasted on-line).

What do you think about the organizational level?

M. V. - The weak organizational level is one of the biggest problems in modern Orienteering, specially because we're talking about WOC/EOC organizations. I can refer to you the WOC in France (2011) as the most terrible I have ever seen! We got the information about the Sprint final that the Finish was going to be at the beam line. All runners had been informed about this but, actually, the timing was based on punching on the Finish station! I can also tell you about the bad prediction of the winner's time. It is totally different being prepared to run a Long Distance in 1:30 than in 2 hours. There were a lot of electric shocks during the forest events. Galina Vinogradova was electrocuted during the Long Qualification and she suffered for several days! Moreover there were no English-speaking doctors at the Arena (!). There was a bad map quality, extremely poor course setting in the qualification for Middle Distance and so on. I counted 12 or 14 problems with the organization that influenced the WOC results and the Fair Play.

After few years, in 2014, we faced again a poor level of organization at EOC in Portugal! (By the way, before EOC I was pretty sure about competition's high-quality). Fools never learn? Looks like the IOF does not count its own failures. We often face problems with bad map quality (last cases were the Middle WOC-2013, the Middle and the Sprint WOC-2014). For me, it is obvious that after the competitions, special people must analyse (and ask the top runners) about the organization, the maps, etc. and take conclusions for the future! And the next WOC-organizers must count on previous bad experiences. I could spend weeks telling you about problems in the IOF's work, but the general conclusion, in my opinion, is that the IOF is such a conservative organization that it is impossible for them to adopt something new. Just take a look at the discussion about the scale for the Long Distance at WOC-2011 and you’ll see what I mean.

If you had the power to do so, what steps would you take in order to make orienteering a more participative and sustainable sport?

M. V. - First of all, I'd stop wrong spread-out-around-the-World actions (such as the World Cup overseas events or the intention to invite small exotic countries to the IOF). Instead of inviting Nepal to the IOF, it is necessary to keep focus on the development of orienteering in such big countries as Germany, Spain, Poland... Some points you can find here: and here: And I will write about it in the future (when I formulate some ideas in a clear way), like my posts about Sports Statistics/Performance Analysis in Orienteering.

It´s interesting to hear you talking about the Sports Statistics, because it was something that I would like to know your opinion about.

M. V. - I think that the development of sports statistics/performance analysis is an important step to lift up orienteering to the next level. That’s important not only for coaches and runners but also for media and fans. I'll give you an example: during the World Games 2013 the speaker said «What a big surprise that Nadya Volynksa won the medal!» But for me that was obvious that the Ukrainian runner was one of the favorites. I based my forecasting on the careful analysis of international races in 2013. With good statistics arrangement it is easy to get access to results’ dynamic of a particular runner, his/her chances on the particular terrain/event types, statistics of success/victories against other runners in the heat, etc.

Take a look at the differences between tennis and Orienteering. Tournaments and single matches in tennis are quite long. Why do the spectators go on looking on the players for 2-4 hours? Something happens in a tennis match every minute! And there is a lack of ‘something’ in orienteering broadcasting (it is impossible to cover all the forest with TV-cameras). That means that in Orienteering we have to fill empty time (the lack of athletes near the cameras) with professional speaking (based on sports statistics and expert opinions) and nice graphical information of performance analysis.

Orienteering in the Olympics. Would you like to comment?

M. V. - I am against Orienteering in the Olympics. It is a false goal. For the moment, I believe that Orienteering is a clean sport (post ‘Doping in Orienteering’ in our blog is coming next month with analysis of several positive cases and estimations of effectiveness of the current IOF anti-doping policy). Moreover, most of the people believe in ‘Fair Play’ in Orienteering (not 100%, but close). But everything would be gone in the Olympics. We would see the current generation (who respects the Fair Play) gradually losing their positions. With doping would happen unfair access to forbidden areas, bribes for knowledge of event courses, and we would be at same dirty level as cycling, track & field athletics or weight lifting. The current Olympic movement is far away from the ideals of Pierre de Coubertin and we can see multiple huge scandals of doping in Kenya, USA, Russia, and the corruption in some international federations just confirms it. I believe in Fair Play and my athletes share my life values. But new runners without moral restrictions will come. Do we really need that?

What are your projects and goals in the short term, as a coach?

M. V. - As I said before, right now I’m working with Galina Vinogradova, Valentin Novikov and Olga Vinogradova. And all my projects and goals are related with the trainings and performances of these three athletes.

Thinking about the future, would you mind sharing with us your greatest wish?

M. V. - I wish that every runner in Orienteering will be healthy, injury free and enjoy our sport!

[Photo courtesy of Mikhail Vinogradov]

Joaquim Margarido

No comments:

Post a Comment