In the beginning of each season, Portugal becomes a kind of "Mecca" for orienteers from all over the world and, in the recent years, some Brazilians have honoured us with their presence. Ronaldo Almeida is one of those personalities who spoke to the Portuguese Orienteering Blog at the end of the first day of the Portugal O' Meeting. A conversation which has both an outflow and a challenge.
We can see you again in Portugal in this time of the year. What is the meaning of your choice?
Ronaldo Almeida (R. A.) - The quality of the maps and the type of training is, in this time of the year, better in Portugal than in any other part of the world. I am able to compare with other countries, but the training volume and the quality of work leads me to say that, at this time of the year, the best place on the planet to any orienteer is here.
Still, there aren't too many Brazilian athletes visiting us. When will it be possible to watch the “boom” of Brazilian orienteers coming to Portugal?
R. A. - I think that Brazilians still are a little afraid to leave the country. Many feel that Orienteering in Europe is too difficult, that they are not prepared for this kind of competitions and they can't do that. But that's because they haven't come and tried. Those who come for the first time want to return again.
Even taking into account the difference of terrains, is the training in Portugal useful for the rest of the season in Brazil?
R. A. - Yes, it's very useful. I'm competing in the Elite class and my results may not be as good as they could be, but the experience I take from each course is amazing. I'm the coach of a team from the Brazilian Navy and I am here also monitoring some of our best athletes. We all intend to take advantage of this opportunity in order to have a very positive season in Brazil.
How is the Orienteering going in Brazil?
R. A. - The Orienteering in Brazil is improving every year, but unfortunately this evolution is much slower than we would like it to be. We know that the best options for the evolution of Brazilian Orienteering aren't being taken and we don't understand why. There is a lot of work to do, there is too much to improve. We have very good junior athletes, which is something new between us, and some of them are even already starting their international season. We hope that within a few years, Brazil can be recognized not only for the events that we organize but also for the results achieved in the major international competitions.
I realize in your words that Orienteering in Brazil remains very settled.
R. A. - Yes. There are things that we would like to see, as it happens in major international competitions. In countries much younger in Orienteering than Brazil, I had the opportunity to realize that the sport has improved really fast which made us really sad. We know there are many people working very hard, but we'll find out what is holding the Brazilian Orienteering back, solving the problems that have to be solved and taking Orienteering towards its recognition.
We had in 2014, in Brazil, the first international event under the aegis of IOF in South America. What advantage did Brazil take from the organization of the World Masters Orienteering Championships?
R. A. - For Brazilian athletes, to exchange experiences with athletes from around the world was really great. Talking to people who are deeply involved in Orienteering, which are themselves directors of other clubs, we realize the possibilities of Orienteering, not staying in this “sameness” that we see in Brazil, clinging to very traditional things, without changes, it was the best of what the World Masters brought us. It was this legacy and also the will of some people responsible for the clubs in Brazil to organize events within a new philosophy, like that existing in countries where the sport had a dazzling development.
Very recently, we saw your application with one list for the Brazilian Orienteering Confederation's Direction being denied in a controversial process. Would you explain us what happened?
R. A. - We realized that some administrative measures have been wrongly taken by the Brazilian Orienteering Confederation. I would like to say that the Confederation did, in the past, a fantastic job and what Orienteering in Brazil is today is owed to the current Administration. Many good things were made, but also many good things were left to be done. We won and we lost, but we must realize that the number of wins, good deeds, is decreasing every year in Brazil. Countries around us expect very different results and events from those that we have offered, the Elite athletes are having a much lower recognition than they actually deserve and some national races present unacceptable technical mistakes. The Brazilian community is very grateful to the current Administration and to what it has done so far, but sixteen years of a single Administration is enough. It is a huge mistake that we continue to accept one single point of view for the Brazilian Orienteering, that the power remains on the hands of one person. Many of the actions are unilateral and do not help the competitor community as a whole, but only a small group. This must change.
And to change this, you and your list would like to present an alternative, claiming the right to be polled.
R. A. - Exactly. We only ask for removal of any administrative obstacles, that things can be done clearly and that people can actually choose their way. I can tell you that more than half of Brazil's club leaders would like a change, but unfortunately the current administration prevents this from happening.
Will we have to wait another four years?
R. A. - We do not know. We filed a lawsuit last week, we turned to the Justice Department and we will await the outcome of our action. It can happen within a few weeks, but it can also take years until we have a decision. But something will happen, and we just hope that orienteers can be given the freedom to vote, to choose the way forward the next Administration.
To finish our talk, I would ask you a wish to all Brazilian orienteers.
R. A. - I sincerely hope that the athletes can be much more recognized than what they are today and that our institutions, the regional federations, can be more valued than they are. This is the way to develop activities to show the Orienteering to the Brazilian society.