Monday, November 23, 2015

Maja Alm: "All of my three gold medals mean the world to me"

By achieving three gold medals, Maja Alm takes the most prominent place in the history of the recent World Orienteering Championships, WOC 2015. This great Danish athlete rises today on the Portuguese Orienteering Blog's tribune, sharing the unforgettable memories from these moments and designing, already, the upcoming season.

Two weeks ago, you've been in Göteborg, representing Denmark on NM Cross in Athletics (which is your second sport, I believe). Don't you ever stop?

Maja Alm (M. A.) - I ran that Cross competition just for fun. I like to compete and it's nice to travel with other national teams, which I always do, to see how they work and how they think about their sport and training.

We often see orienteers performing highly in Athletics but not the contrary, you being a good example of that. Have you tried, some time, to get some of your friends from Athletics into Orienteering? Is Orienteering a “difficult” sport?

M. A. - No, I haven't tried to get them into orienteering. I think it's too difficult for them to read the map and they're only able to run the easy courses. On the other hand I've heard that some sprinters and triathletes run a variation of orienteering in their off-season to straighten their running style.

You're ending the Orienteering season as no. 1 in the IOF Sprint World Ranking. Would you label this season as your best ever?

M. A. - This is, definitely, my best season. It was really incredible to win at the World Championships and now be the number one on the IOF Sprint World Ranking. I had a speed at this WOC that I haven't had before, and succeeded really well in the competitions mentally. I'm really proud of that. Another season of special meaning is of course last year, where the whole Danish team did so well and won six medals for Denmark. Last year we saw, for the first time, that we could win and I think that's why we really believed in ourselves this year.

Would you like to tell me about your three World titles and the meaning of each of them?

M. A. - All of my three gold medals mean the world to me, but in quite different ways, actually. The individual Sprint medal is, of course, really important to me. It is nice to show that I have the level to win an individual medal. In the individual distances you need to perform close to perfection to win a medal. In the Relay I see it more like three stable performances. I don't think the medals in the Sprint this year were a surprise. Nadiya was 4th last year, one second after me, so I knew that she was really strong. It was more a surprise that I could win with such a big margin.

The women’s Relay medal is also very important to me. Ida, Emma and I have been training and competing against and with each other for so many years now, and I really think we have improved each others’ levels. At the World Championships we really competed for each other as a team and I really think we deserved to win the gold together. The Sprint Relay is important to me of course because it was the first gold I have ever won. We have had high positions in almost every Sprint Relay we have been running, and finally the margins were on our side. It is very nice to compete together on a team with the boys. The way girls and boys think before a competition is quite different and it is really inspiring to see how the boys do it.

And what about the Danish “Dynamite” Team? Are you, Danish girls, unbeatable?

M. A. - Ha, ha... No, of course we aren't. At WOC 2013, in Finland, we didn't succeed as a team in the women’s Relay and I think that has inspired and motivated us. We know that we have to run the relays with a certain amount of respect, but we are not afraid of making mistakes. We have been running together on relay teams so many times now and I think this is a big advantage, that we know each other so well now. I really admire Emma and Ida, and I think the inner respect from each other is what makes us so strong.

If I asked you about a moment – the great achievement of the Championships – what would it be? And the Orienteering achievement of the season?

M. A. - I think the big achievement has been after the World Championships. We have received a lot of attention on our success in Scotland. When you are at the World Championships, there isn't much time to enjoy your success. I had five competitions in six days, so I didn't have much time for celebrating. It was much more about being ready for the next competition.

What is your winter training going to be like? Is Portugal - and the Portugal O' Meeting 2016 - in your plans?

M. A. - I have been training on a low level since the World Championships. Our tough winter training will start in January 2016 in an attempt not to make the season too long. We will go on a two weeks training camp in February and it will be to either Portugal or Spain. Our coaches will decide where.

Next season, you have three world titles to defend, as well as your leadership in the Sprint World Ranking, but we can see that you're still far from the World podium in the Middle and Long Distance. Is a medal in a forest distance your main goal for WOC 2016, in Sweden?

M. A. - I have a Silver medal in the Middle Distance to defend at the European Championships, so I have some results in the forest as well. I will try to improve in the individual forest distances, but I still want to be in a position where I have the chance to win the individual Sprint. The terrains in Sweden are quite different from those in Denmark, so my individual goals in the forest are more for WOC 2017. To have the chance to win the Relay gold next year, I have to improve my running in Nordic terrain, so my forest goal for the next season is pointed at the Relay.

For those who see Maja Møller Alm as an example, an inspiration, especially for the young athletes, what is your advice?

M. A. - Find your own way of doing things and remember to enjoy your running. I really like what I do, but here, in the off-season, I like to do other things than orienteering; I like to see my friends from outside orienteering. It is important that you are balanced as a person and I think that can be quite individual.

Now that a new season is about to start, I ask you a wish for those who love and are committed to Orienteering.

M. A. - I wish that they can achieve their goals and keep having fun with orienteering as much as I do.

[Photo: Kell Sønnichsen /]

Joaquim Margarido

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