Thursday, October 29, 2015

Olli Ojanaho: "My biggest goal is to take the next step closer to the best athletes"

Those who have seen him competing, have no doubts. Here he is, the great successor of names like Janne Salmi or Jani Lakanen, Pasi Ikonen or Mårten Boström who, over the years, glittered worlwide with the colours of Finland. On the Portuguese Orienteering Blog's stage, today, we welcome Olli Ojanaho. Come to know him a little better.

Last 3rd October you ran, at Arosa, your first World Cup stage ever. How important was it for you?

Olli Ojanaho (O. O.) - It was very important to get a first impression of what is waiting in the Elite class. I was sick just before the competitions, had to skip the Long Distance and wasn't able to run well in Middle Distance as it was my first hard effort for over a week - and even made a couple of pretty stupid mistakes. But I think the experience was really important for me. Being in the same competitions with (almost) all the best athletes, running tough and challenging courses and seeing the level the best guys are performing at is extremely inspiring and motivating, something that I value more than my position or even my performance when running a World Cup for the very first time.

The season is over and it's time, now, for a well deserved rest. Can you choose the ideal place for fifteen days of vacation without maps? Are you able to focus in everything else but Orienteering?

O. O. - This year I will spend the off-season at home but, for the upcoming years, the place of my dreams for fifteen days of vacation would be like the following: A place with a temperature between + 25º to 35º C and a lot of sunshine, a comfortable all-inclusive hotel close to the beach, as well as some mountains or beautiful nature around. Most days like on a beach holiday, but a couple of nice hiking days in the mountains/nature as well. One shopping day, one day in a water park and, perhaps, some nightlife in the last night. Good food every day! That kind of vacation could surely make me totally forget orienteering for a while.

How boring life can be without Orienteering?

O. O. - I don't think it would be boring but it's, of course, better with orienteering! It's such a special thing to run in different kinds of forests in different countries, finding your way with a map in places you haven't been before and discovering the beautiful nature on the Earth that way. It's the feeling when you are running in a new place with a new map that makes me remember why Orienteering is my sport for life.

You did an amazing season, first with two gold medals at EYOC and, one week later, with another three gold medals at JWOC. Did you expect it?

O. O. - There are always a lot of guys aiming for medals so I can't say I was expecting to win in total of six medals [also a bronze at EYOC's Relay] before the Championships. But I knew that I was in a good shape as well as able to achieve top results when it really counts. And considering that we had strong teams in both relays, it wasn't a surprise either.

Can you mention one particular moment during these two weeks that lasts in your mind?

O. O. - Definitely! The moment when we crossed the finish line, with Topi [Raitanen] and Aleksi [Niemi] at JWOC Relay. We had known each other for years and been to many training camps together so it was extremely great to end a fantastic week with a fantastic team performance with those guys.

I'm sure that you followed the big events along the season. What moments / athletes impressed you the most?

O. O. - There were so many impressive performances and moments, so it's hard to pick just a few. But one of the most unforgettable experiences of the season as a follower was IFK Göteborg's victory in 10mila. A nice mix with older guys and young talents, running through the night in a balanced way leg after leg and finally, after a tight and exciting decision, winning the relay, to many people's surprise, was something special. The most impressive athlete was probably Daniel Hubmann, doing again a brilliant season and showing once more his ability to achieve absolute top results, no matter what's the terrain or the distance.

Have you a person which is an inspiration for you? Can you tell me why?

O. O. - Let's say the multiple World Champion in Ski Orienteering, Staffan Tunis. I was in the same Finnish team when both senior and junior European Championships took place in Latvia in 2013. I was impressed on his attitude to the sport, the way he prepared himself for the competitions and how he handled the races one at a time when they were over. A lot can be summarized with Eivind Tonna's (the headcoach of the national team) words that I once read in a newspaper: “I have never heard him complaining about anything. He only focuses on things he can affect by himself.”

Searching on the web, we can see that you have a blog - - where you write a lot. Can you present your “work”? How important is it for you?

O. O. - I don't have time to write so much there, but I try to do an overview of what has happened in the past weeks every now and then. Updating a blog takes more time than short updates in social media but I think, and have heard the same from other people, that it's often more interesting to read stories that contain more information, more analysis and are generally a bit more profound, compared to the posts in social media.

I ask you for a comment to Thierry Gueorgiou's words: “It's in winter that you win the upcoming Summer medals”.

O. O. - That's definitely true because during the winter season, when there are not many competitions all the time like in summer, it's easier to focus on specific things that one needs to improve their performance. In winter there is a lot of time to train the basics as well as those specific things and winter creates the basis for the competition season. But on the other hand, every single day of the year is, of course, as decisive if one wants to think it that way.

How will your winter season be? Do you plan to come to Portugal for the Portugal O' Meeting?

O. O. - I will spend my winter mostly at home, in Rovaniemi, going to school and doing physical training. Then it's going to be some shorter training camps in Southern Finland and possibly Sweden or Norway. We'll have a longer training camp with the junior national team in Antalya, in late February, so I unfortunately don't have room for POM in my agenda, even though it would be great competitions and nice to take part as well.

What's your biggest goal for the next season?

O. O. - My biggest goal is to take the next step closer to the best athletes, both physically and technically. Single races or results are not so important; rather I want to have a stable season and progress in every section.

[Photo: Ethan Childs /]

Joaquim Margarido

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