By achieving seven world titles, she leads a particular list, being the most
acclaimed MTB orienteer of all times. But she also ran the Athlete's
Commission since it's conception and, for many years, until Sandor
Talas took over as the MTBO Commission Chair, she did their job
too. Basically, for many years, not only was Michi Queen of MTBO
during competition, she also was Queen of MTBO behind the scenes.
Please, welcome Michaela Gigon.
The turning of one more year leads
us to a meditation on what is past and what is future. What wish will you make for 2016 when the clock sounding midnight the next
Michaela Gigon (M. G.) - I
just wish to stay healthy and to enjoy my life.
Over eight years - between 2004 and
2011 - you've never leaved the World Championships without, at least,
one gold medal on your chest. What memories do you keep from those
M. G. - In 2008 I didn't win
a gold medal at the World Championships, actually, but three other
medals. That was really an amazing time of my life with lots of good
memories. In some races I was really lucky to win the medals. For
example, at my first gold, in Australia, when I was late for the start
and forgot to clear my SI-chip. In the finish the readout showed a
really long list of strange controls and I first thought I had
mispunched. Luckily there were not too many controls in the WOC-race
and the race before because the old SI-chips only registered 30
punches… In other races I could have won more without some stupid
mistakes. Like when I folded away the best route choices twice in the
Long Distance race in Slovakia 2005 and ended up 4th, just 2 minutes
behind the winner.
Is there a particular episode that
you would like to share as your most pleasant memory?
M. G. - Winning the Relay World
Championships with Sonja Zinkl and Lisi Hohenwarter in 2009. It’s
much more fun to win with some friends than alone. We had won some
other medals before and really wanted the gold. When Sonja came in
6th after the 2nd leg I thought that gold was too far away but I was
lucky to have all the short forks and felt really strong that day.
When I came to the last control I did not know my position and could
not hear what the speaker said but the other Austrians were cheering
and celebrating so much that I thought: “This must be gold,
otherwise they would not cheer so crazily.” I still get tears in my
eyes when I think of that moment.
to MTB Orienteering led you to create, from 2004, follow up
mechanisms for the international events, which made of your personal
webpage - www.michigigon.at- the center of the MTB Orienteering's
small world. What led you to take this responsibility? How much work
is on those pages over eight years?
- It was important to me to find the links to all important events
fast, so the easiest solution was to put them on my website. From
2003 to 2011 I was a professional sportsman in the Austrian army so I
had lots of time for doing things like that and didn't count the
hours which I spent. In the years 2004 to 2009 I was also responsible
for calculating the World Ranking List but was quite happy to hand
that job over to Ray Barnes in 2010. I like doing things with Excel.
The dreamteam competition, which Andy Conn and I started in 2006, is
also one of the things that take a lot of time. It helps riders to
get to know other riders better and leads to more communication
between the riders. Having a personal website is very important for a
sportsman, otherwise you don’t exist for sponsors. I guess my
website could be a little more professional but I don’t know too
much about making websites and I wanted to keep it in my hand because
making changes is too difficult and slow if somebody else does it for
Looking even for those important
moments, we can see you leading the Athletes' Commission at the time
of its foundation in 2007. What challenges the MTB Orienteering faced
at the time?
M. G. - In 2007, before I
got the job as speaker of the Athletes’ Commission, I produced a
paper called “My dream of perfect MTBO World and European
Championships” because I was tired of repeated bad organisational
mistakes. Raising event quality and making the mappers use the
mapping standards were the most important topics to me.
Evaluating the changes that,
with your determination and help, were produced, which of them would
you highlight as being of great value to the sport?
M. G. - Mapping standards
have been transformed from something that was very close to FootO to
something that fits much better to MTBO. It is, actually, still an
ongoing process because we have not found the perfect mapping
standards yet. Maps have improved a lot in the past years. Mapmakers
seem to be more conscious about the differences between FootO and
MTBO. The rules were improved. I was shocked to see that e-bikes were
not forbidden until the beginning of 2010 according to the IOF rules.
Fortunately nobody had realized that loophole before it was closed.
Event quality has risen. The sport has become much more professional.
From 2011 we can understand that
you “slowed” a little bit. Still, your presence in major
international competitions remains a constant and your activity in
the Athletes' Commission is an asset to the sport. How do you see the
MTB Orienteering's moment, currently? What is the MTB Orienteering's
M. G. - My army contract
ended in 2011. So I had to find some other way to earn money. Since
2012 I am a Mathematics, Physics and Geometry teacher in a Secondary
School. That’s the reason why I am not so fast and well trained
anymore. In the beginning of my “golden times” I knew I could
easily win a gold medal if I made almost no mistakes. Now there are
many more fit riders and good orienteers than before. If you make a
mistake there is somebody else who will take the chance. Riders are
much more focussed on MTBO and train much harder than before. The
biggest handicap in Austria and many more countries is forest access.
It is very hard to get permission to arrange races. Without races and
MTBO activity in your country it is hard to attract young people to
the sport. Another problem that I can see internationally is that the
number of riders and nations at World Championships is slightly
decreasing. One of the reasons is that those riders from small
countries who don’t see a chance to win anything rather choose to
take part in an international 5-days event like Plzen which is much
cheaper than World Championships where just the starting and
registration fees for one rider add up to 280 € if he does all
Emily Benham is assuming the
coordination of the Athletes' Commission. Did you talk to her about
your ideal for the future? What did you tell her?
M. G. - I did not speak to her
explicitly about my ideals but we know each other for a few years now
and talk a lot so I think she has already found out what my ideas
are. Em as a much younger athlete will certainly bring some fresh
wind and new ideas into the Athletes’ Commission.
At a higher level we have Sandor
Talas, Chairman of MTB Orienteering Commission, Tom Hollowell, the
IOF's Secretary General / CEO and the IOF's Brian Porteous. Do you
think that MTB Orienteering has now a greater support than in
previous years? In practical terms, how does it work?
M. G. - I have the impression
that Brian and Tom seem to be much more interested in MTBO and more
positive to our sport than their predecessors. Brian was present at
the World Championships in Czech Republic and even tried MTBO. I
think they understood that not everything that is good for FootO is
also applicable for MTBO. Good communication and understanding our
sport are probably the most important things and I hope it will work.
Returning to the competition,
how do you rate your performance this season. The results achieved
were meeting your expectations?
M. G. - This season’s
performance was the poorest in my MTBO history but did not come
entirely unexpected. In summer 2014 my boyfriend Tom and me bought a
house which we renovated in the past year. I trained almost nothing
in winter and spring. At the Mass Start race at the World Cup in
Hungary I realized that I was one of the three slowest riders in the
field and could only make up some places with better orienteering. In
the end I was quite pleased with my 10th place at the European
Championships and the 16th place at the World Championships Long
The Austria Team's gold medal in
the Men Relay of the World Championships was surely one of the great
moments of the season. Could you mention other remarkable moments
along the year that is now ending?
M. G. - Nothing can match
with the victory of our boys in the Relay. They worked very hard to
achieve such a result.
Have you already started your
preparation for the next season? What are your goals for 2016?
M. G. - At the moment (end of
December) we have perfect biking weather in Austria. I train much
more than last winter which is not such a big challenge and hope for
some Top-10 results in 2016. Medals are out of reach for me nowadays.
For how long are we going to see
you doing MTB orienteering at the highest level? Do you still have
plans for “the day after”?
M. G. - You will see me as long
as I enjoy it. Even now that I don’t win medals anymore I still
love competing against the strongest riders in the world, meeting
nice people and getting to know new terrains, maps and challenging
Born on 26th
November 2007, the Orientovar soon established itself as a special room of
information of the Portuguese orienteer community. It is now extinguished,
leaving a remarkable documental legacy of eight years in
the history of the Portuguese and World Orienteering.
Part of the “dictionary” of the
majority of Portuguese-speaking orienteers around the world, the word
Orientovar certainly will not be strange to many others, since the
3231 messages published over eight years (an average of more than one per day) were
viewed by almost three million people in 152 countries. Joining two
separate words - “Orient”, the Orienteering's diminutive, and “Ovar”,
the city where its author, Joaquim Margarido, was born - the
Orientovar arose from the desire to share, in a systematic way, the available information about Orienteering, giving it a journalistic
tone. The great acceptance soon made of it a
converging platform of Portuguese orienteers, deserving by the
Portuguese Orienteering Federation a special attention by including
it prominently in its official webpage and selecting it as privileged
“speaker” of their initiatives.
Among the most striking moments of
eight years of the Blog's life, there are some, of course, deserving a special attention. The 1st Cantanhede International Orienteering Trophy's Report, on 09th and 10th February 2008, was the
first of hundreds of national and international events and included
the first interview to a foreign athlete, the Swedish Helena Jansson.
Also deserve a prominent note the series “Come and see ...”,
recording 154 athletes' profiles and “The Youth Years” where 89
young athletes presented themselves in the first person. Although smaller,
items such as “My School”, “My Map” or “Brazilian Space”
also had great acceptance and contributed to Orientovar's recognition and vitality.
With one year of life, the Orientovar
make a wish: that the dream of carrying out in Portugal the first
Orienteering National Day could be a reality. The message received 47
answers, in what is the most commented message of the blog ever. The
warm embrace of the Portuguese community led to the dream became true on 14th March 2009, starting a series that continues until
the present day. The Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Portugal,
demanding attention on the sport is another big moment of the Blog's
life. The Trail Orienteering owes to Orientovar a big part of its success in Portugal, by giving it the visibility and the voice to a virtually
unknown discipline among the Portuguese orienteers. The same may be
said regarding the Adapted Orienteering, whose base document was
presented to the World on the Blog's pages in 06th October 2012.
World of O and the Blog's projection
The admission in the World of O's 2nd
page, on 18th May 2008, was one of the most memorable moments in the Blog's history, because of the projection for
spaces outside the Portuguese language. The friendship with Jan
Kocbach led Joaquim Margarido to accept the challenge of creating an
English version of Orientovar and so, on 12th January 2012, the
Portuguese Orienteering Blog was born. The truth is that the
Orientovar, itself, published occasionally some messages in English,
and the interview with Thierry Gueorgiou, on 16th January 2012, is the
most clear example of it. With 1524 views, written in English, it's the
Orientovar's most viewed page ever.
The deep changes resulting from the
advent of social networks - especially Facebook - together with
the economic crisis affecting harshly Portugal, meant that,
gradually, the Blog lose a huge slice of its “price” in terms of
daily views. This low uptake turned out to be fatal. “The stories
don't mean anything when you've got no one to tell them to” was,
from the beginning, the Blog's motto*. Without a motivational
feedback, the Orientovar eventually closed its doors on 19th December
2015, date of the 25th anniversary of the Portuguese Orienteering
Federation. To History remain the stories, portraits of a beautiful
landscape, for later recall. Goodbye, Orientovar!
* The idea of the Blog's motto - “The stories don't mean anything when you've got no one to tell them to” - arose casually, when reading the legends of Brandi Carlile's song “The Story”. A hidden little story,... until now!
The Portuguese Orienteering Blog
keeps on giving word to young athletes. After
the recent Interviews with Simona Aebersold, Sara Hagström and
Olli Ojanaho - the winner of The Orienteering Achievement of 2015 -,
it is now the turn of Anine Ahlsand to be with us, sharing her most
joyful memories. Divided between FootO and SkiO, the very young
Norwegian has a strong argument to join these two passions: the gold!
The FootO season has finished and
the new SkiO season is already there. In 2015, we could see you on
top of the Junior World Championships' podium in both disciplines,
SkiO and FootO. An amazing achievement, indeed, which put me a
delicate problem: Should I point the Interview to FootO or SkiO? But
first, let's talk about yourself. Please, tell me who is Anine
A. A. - I am a nineteen-year-old
girl from Oslo in Norway. Currently I live in Trondheim and study
civil/computer engineering. I moved here this fall to combine studies
with orienteering and skiing. In addition to orienteering, I also do
a lot of XC-Skiing. This year I study 50-75% of full time, so I have
more time for training. Besides doing sports, I love hanging out and
relax with my friends. If you get to know me, you will learn that I
am a very competitive person and hate to lose no matter what the
competition is (laughs).
I have no doubts about it. So, let's
start talking about Ski orienteering. How did you follow the SkiO
World Cup's opening round these days, at Ylläs? Had you planned to
A. A. - I thought about going
there, but I had to prepare for my exams at home. I also had some
XC-races as a part of my plan that same weekend, and I mainly focus
on the junior-races in SkiO this year. But I will start my SkiO
season this weekend at Sjusjoen in Norway, and I’m excited!
How big is the difference between
the Junior class and the Elite class in SkiO? The challenge is mostly
related with the physical part?
A. A. - I haven’t competed in
the Elite class more than just a couple of times, but I think it is
like most sports, where the Elite class is significantly better than
the Junior class. Of course the physical part is a bigger challenge,
and I also think that the technique should be more stable if you’re
going to perform on a high level in the Elite class. SkiO is a small
sport, and the Elite athletes probably have a lot more experience and
races than the Juniors.
As a Ski orienteer, how did you live
those days at Hamar, last February? Did you expect such good results
[one gold, one bronze and a fourth place]?
A. A. - The Championships at
Hamar was my first international competition, so I didn’t know
where my level was compared to the other athletes. Therefore I did
not have many expectations beforehand. I was very excited before the
first competition, and to compete on home turf was extra fun. Even
though I didn’t expect good results, I sure thought about the
medals (and dreamed about the gold). After the Sprint distance, where
I did a very good race, I could lower my shoulders and just enjoy the
rest of the week. The Long Distance was for me a good race, and the Middle was most fun! I had never raced a Mass Start in SkiO before,
and I enjoyed the action and duels along the course. I really look
forward to this year’s Championships in Austria!
Can you detail the most significant
A. A. - There is one moment I
remember as one of the best. After finishing the Sprint, I was very
satisfied with my race. But I also knew I had lost almost 30 seconds
on the last short loop. I had an early start, so it took a while
before the result was final. I remember changing at the stadium after
my race and listened to the speaker talking about the split times.
After a while could announce that all the medals where won by
Norwegian girls, and that was a good moment I remember very well.
Was it a good preparation for the
FootO season? How did you “jump” from one discipline to another?
A. A. - Usually I focus only on
XC-Skiing during the Winter, and in April I start training towards
the orienteering season. This summer was one of my best seasons, and
that after I had competed more in SkiO than previous years. I think
the SkiO helped me to maintain the focus on the orienteering
technique, and of course both SkiO and XC-Skiing keeps my physical
shape good during the winter season. I believe that changing my focus
from one discipline to another when the season changes, makes me even
more focused and excited when the new season comes.
Does your teammates think that SkiO
and FootO are very compatible?
A. A. - Yes, they kind of
complement each other, so there is no problem doing both. But if I
add XC-Skiing to it all, then sometimes it’s a bit too much. It’s
important for me to plan well before the season's start, so the total
load doesn’t get too hard.
Let's put aside the SkiO for a
while, if you agree. When you reached the last month of July and the
JWOC, in Rauland, did you feel confident and well prepared? Was
running home again an extra-motivation? Tell me about your goals.
A. A. - I was well prepared
before JWOC in Rauland. I had been to Rauland and similar terrains
several times, and I knew it was a type of terrain that suited me
well. I felt confident before the Championships because the terrain
is one of my favorites and I knew I could run good races. Two weeks
before JWOC, the Norwegian team had a training camp with a lot of
good training, so I was also confident about my physical shape.
Running home was definitely an extra-motivation. I had a lot of
friends and family cheering for me at the arenas, and I must say it
helped a lot! I didn’t have any specific goals before JWOC, except
doing good races. In a Championships you want to prove how good you
are, and in order to do that, everything has to work out. And that
was my main goal!
That Middle Distance final was a
tight fight, the six first athletes separated by less than one
minute. Can you still feel the emotions of that day?
A. A. - Yes, a really tight and
exciting race! After the sprint, where I was 23rd, I lost some
self-confidence. It was a bad race technically, and my shape wasn’t
really good either. I began to doubt my physical shape and wondering
if my preparations had gone wrong. In the middle-distance
qualification I started out with only one goal: run a good technical
race. In my last JWOC in 2013, I ran a good qualification except for
two controls, and didn’t make it to the final. This time I knew if
I could finish without any big mistakes, I would qualify. I did a
good race and finished in 2nd place in my group. This made me believe
in myself again and I felt ready for the final. After the
qualification I believed that a podium (top 6) was possible if I had
a really good day. It turned out to be one of my best days, and I
completed a nearly perfect race. It took a while before I dared to
believe it when people told me no one could beat me. When I think
back at that particular day, it makes me smile, and I even get
goosebumps sometimes. And the emotions, I can definitely still feel
When you put SkiO in one hand and
FootO in the other, which one is heavier? Why?
A. A. - I must be honest and say
that FootO is definitely the heaviest. Orienteering has been one of
my favorite sports since I was a kid, and I didn’t try SkiO until a
few years ago. I really like SkiO, but I spend more time practicing
Foot orienteering and therefore it is more important to me.
What are your most important skills
and what do you feel that you have to improve in the next times?
A. A. - I think my physical
shape is one of my most important skills. I am not a typical runner,
but because of all the Skiing I do, I train endurance a lot during
the winter and I get strong. I also think I am good at staying
focused and relaxed in competitions, and don’t let the nerves take
over. I have a lot of things I want to improve! Especially long
distances and orienteering in high speed. I also want to improve my
top speed, witch will help me in the Sprints.
Are you prepared for “jumping”
into the Elite?
A. A. - Oh, not quite yet I
think! I'm glad I have one more year left in the Junior class. But
of course I’m looking forward to it. I think I will learn a lot in
my first years in the Elite class, but still have goals and things I
want to improve before I do.
Have you some goals already designed
to 2016? How is the preparation season going to be?
A. A. - Yes I do, both national
and international. At home, my main goal is to have a good season
overall, and I’m aiming for a gold medal in the Norwegian
Championships. If I run good races in Norway, I will hopefully
qualify to JWOC where I don’t have any result goals yet. If I get
to compete in Switzerland next summer, my goal is to be in a good
physical shape. I know the courses will be real tough this year, and
I think the physical shape will be essential. And if I succeed
technically in the races as well, I will be really happy!
Maja Alm and Olli Ojanaho have been
awarded with “The Orienteering Achievement of 2015″ titles in the
women’s and men’s class, respectively! Alm won the award with a
big margin ahead of her team mate in the Danish National Team Ida
Bobach. Among the men, Finnish junior Ojanaho was awarded the “The
Orienteering Achievement of 2015″ with Swiss Daniel Hubmann in
The vote has been decided by the big
international readership of WorldofO.com – more than 4000 unique
votes from around 60 different countries have been delivered –
making these results very representative for the worldwide
orienteering community. Big thanks go to all voters and to the event
sponsors PWT Five Days Toscana, Andalucia O-Meeting, Easter 4 ,
O-Ringen, Swiss O-week, Antalya Orienteering Festival, Sprint
Scotland, Suunto Games and OOCup.
In the Men’s class Olli Ojanaho won
with 25.2% of the votes ahead of Daniel Hubmann with 21.8%, Lucas
Basset with 19.1% and Thierry Gueorgiou with 14.2%. Last year’s
winner in the men’s class was 96 year old Rune Haraldsson, this
year an 18 year old junior wins the award. In the Womens’s class
Maja Alm won with an impressive 39.7% of the votes ahead of Ida
Bobach with 27.4%, Annika Billstam with 7.9% and Galina Vinogradova
with 7.8%. The Interviews with the winners can be read at
The Orienteering Achievement of the
Year is an annual election organized by the largest international
orienteering presence - WorldofO.com. In this edition of the
Orienteering Achievement of the Year 8 men and 8 women were nominated
for their great orienteering achievements. The nominated runners –
and stories about why they were nominated – can be found at
Alessio Tenani is well known for his
technical qualities but also for his readiness and sympathy. Absent
in last summer's World Championships in Scotland, the Italian could
still reach a place in the top eight (?). Would you like to know how
did he do that? Read the interview, follow Tenani's season and know
about the goals in 2016, including a 'very nice' plan B for Sweden.
One year after your surgery to
Achille's tendon, it's nice to see you writing: “I finally have fun
running again”. How hard was this year?
Alessio Tenani (A.
T.) - This year was hard, but I have to say that the one before
was tougher and that's why I was writing about "finally I have
fun to run again": with a lot of pain during 2014, I tried to
run anyway along the season till the WOC in Italy. No therapies fixed
my tendon and it wasn't nice to run like that, but I had no chances.
I wanted to compete and I had to wait till next autumn for the
surgery, trying to do my best anyway at home World Championships.
Was there some kind of secret for keeping
you motivated, even where weeks were passing quickly and your health
remained the same?
A. T. - Just keep going step by step,
enjoying every single improvement in my foot. If you enjoy the
little things, you can always find a way to smile. My glass was
half full all the time, even in the sad days when I had pain during
some recovery exercises, especially in the first months.
you remember a “up” and a “down” during the recovery process?
Did you ever think that your career was finished?
A. T. -
I tried to compete as soon as possible. I had no big
expectations but it was frustrating to take part in Italian
Championships (Sprint and Middle) with no chances to win. I was
already happy to compete so early, but this was a little “down”
in my mood. I shouldn't have been sad for it, but I was. After this
week-end everything started to be better and better, it was just too
early and little bit risky to compete already. But no, never thought
about stopping to run. Till I will have fun, I will not stop it
What alternatives have you find to keep in action during
the whole year?
A. T. - I bought a MTB and I took a month
of full preparation for it, even competing in some MTBO events
(surprisingly 2nd in Italian Championships Sprint, 2" from the
winner). So I could manage my aim to compete again and at the same
time I continued the recovery program. Then, coaching a lot, course
setting and planning for the autumn, when I could compete at good
You didn't mention TrailO, but I know that it
played another important role along the season. You've been in Croatia,
you did a wonderful job in TempO and you get a bronze medal in the
last race, even unofficial, the TrailO Relay. Please, tell me about
the whole adventure. Did you expect the eight place in TempO Final?
How did you manage to achieve such goal?
A. T. - Yes,
that's right. I took part in some PreO and TempO events in the Spring,
so I was selected for the Italian team in TempO and in the Relay. The
experience in WTCO in Croatia was great, with a PERFECT organisation.
I was impressed, that's the way to make a step forward for this
discipline. I had no idea about the potential of my results, and I
was happy with my 8th place, but I paid my unexperience in some TempO
details so a medal was not possible this time. In the relay we
competed in the right mood and we showed that Italy is one of the
nations that can show something up in the result list.
did you meet TrailO? Was it a causality or TrailO was something that
you was looking for from the past?
A. T. - I was a map
maker and I like map reading, so it was obvious for me to tried this
discipline some years ago.
You're an Elite FootO runner and
I don't expect hearing you say that you're going to leave FootO
because TrailO is your new passion. But, what do you have to say
about TrailO to those FootO addicted Elite runners like yourself? How
interesting can TrailO be?
A. T. - Yes, don't expect it
from me ;) I can say that the quality of the events is improving so
it's really worth to take part on it. Especially TempO can be really
fun for the FootO runners, since it's more similar at the
peculiarities we are used in the sprint, for example: fast thinking,
control description readers, eagle eyes.
Just between you
and me, what is TrailO's big handicap?
A. T. -
TrailO was too “bingo” for some years, and with a lot of protests
connected. It's not easy to come out from this common thinking, even
if now the organisations are nearly perfect everywhere.
or TempO? What do you prefer and why? And what about the TrailO
A. T. - In few words... TempO can be really
amazing, PreO is more risky: the border from boring to bingo is
thin... The relay opens a lot of strategy, I like it. We will see
which version is going to be official for the first time in Sweden
Please, tell me about your goals for
next season. Are we going to see you in Sweden competing in WOC or
A. T. - My priority is the WOC,
as you can imagine. I'd like to show up in one of the relays and in
one individual event: the competition with the “new young power”
in Italy is high and this is a great motivation. But WTOC could be
very nice a B-plan.
The Winter season is here. Are you
planning to compete in the Portugal O' Meeting this year?
A. T. - No, I planned a period
in Spain this year, from 12th to 27th February, competing and
training in Lorca, Alicante and Caravaca de la Cruz with Polisportiva
Masi first and Pan Kristianstad later. Portugal is always a good
option, but this year I'm really looking forward for these days in
Spain to build up the incoming spring season.
Now that a new year is about to
come, I ask you a wish for those who love and are committed with
A. T. - Just do with passion
everything you like, and spread as much as you can our Sport. It's a
wonderful one, and we have to make it more and more popular. We are
worth to be Olympic, don't forget it!
Happy birthday to you, happy
birthday to you... On the day that Portuguese Orienteering Federation
celebrates 25 years of existence, it is towards Portugal that we turn
our attention, recovering a text originally published in the IOF's
newsletter 02/2014 [HERE]
and now updated.
In this big world of orienteering,
Portugal is not only the small and beautiful country where the sun
shines and produces warmth in winter and where, in Carnival mode, the
Portugal O' Meeting takes place; add to this the huge variety of
terrain and the many training camps for all tastes and sizes. Combine
the organisational capacity of the clubs, the quality of the mappers
and course planners, the willingness of the athletes and the
hospitality of the Portuguese people, and you have a cocktail of
ingredients able to attract thousands of orienteers from around the
world to the Portuguese forests every year.
The day when the Portuguese
Orienteering Federation celebrates its 25 years, we make appointment
with the history of orienteering in this “garden by the sea”.
Camilo de Mendonça, Higino Esteves and Augusto Almeida, three of the
five Presidents that Portuguese Orienteering Federation has had
until the present day, join us on a fascinating journey of four
decades, helping us to understand the era between the pioneer moments
of the 70s and 80s and the moment of blowing the 25 candles.
Once upon a time...
Nobody knows for sure when orienteering
came to Portugal. It is recognised, however, that it was in the
military environment that it was first tried, there remaining over
the years in an apparent limbo, unable to overcome the thick and dark
walls of the barracks and get out to the public in general.
The first sure records about an
orienteering event in Portugal are from 1973 and the first Armed
Forces National Championships, held in Mafra, near Lisbon. But it is
in the early 80s that orienteering in Portugal changed direction,
giving rise to the welcome process of “demilitarisation”. It is
around this time that the first contacts with civil society were
established and the first proper orienteering maps were made public
and accessible to all.
Camilo de Mendonça, the first
President of the Portuguese Orienteering Federation, remembers those
pioneering times: “What I remember the most were the numerous
training and dissemination activities carried out throughout the
country, and the contact with people coming from many different age
groups and professional backgrounds. They ran at the time as eager
pioneers to disclose the sport to a population that has embraced it
enthusiastically”, he says.
“Running and orienteering”, an
Coming from an activity known as
“running and orienteering”, orienteering as we knew it first had
to fight a battle to withdraw from its original name the word
“running”, something that could eventually demotivate those who
didn’t like to run and also cutting out the numerous possible other
disciplines, including people with disabilities or those wishing to
practice it by bike or on horseback.
Starting in 1985 several experts,
especially from Sweden, came to Portugal to co-operate in teaching
and mapping. This initiative involved the creation of infrastructures
for the reception of training groups that would come to Portugal in a
mix of tourism and orienteering. It proved highly successful, because
on these groups were some world-class athletes who participated in
the races. And two particular visitors, Sven Kinborg and Rolf
Anderson, were professional cartographers whose work resulted in the
preparation of maps all over the country.
Peo Bengtsson, the “father” of
The collaboration and the immense
interest of the IOF helped in the work of spreading the sport and
monitoring the process of evolution. The foundation of the Portuguese
Orienteering Federation, on November 19th 1990, and the consequent
accession of Portugal to the IOF as a full member, turned out to be
the logical corollary of the whole process. “It was a time when we
overcame all the difficulties, motivated by the ideal of seeing the
birth and growth of orienteering,” recalls Camilo de Mendonça.
In addition to the investment in staff
training abroad, the tourist visits based on orienteering and the
consequent organisation of “international” events eventually
attracted the attention of the media and led to orienteering becoming
known by the public in general. The great promoter of “tourism
orienteering”, Peo Bengtsson, is considered by many as the “father”
of orienteering in Portugal. Other major developments also occurred,
in particular visits of teams from various countries such as Sweden,
Switzerland and Finland.
It is also around this time that Anne
Braggins, accompanied by several personalities from different
countries, carried out some demonstrations of Trail Orienteering in
Portugal. The organisation of the first Iberian Orienteering
Championships, in 1992, was another important step towards the
promotion of relations with Spain, not only based on the competitive
aspects but also through holding clinics in several areas.
“All parents can look back on the
enjoyment of the early years of their children”
In 1994 Camilo de Mendonça came to the
end of his term as President. They were years of intense dedication
to a cause at the expense of almost everything else, and he felt it
was time for the sport to move to a new phase in its life. That
moment came naturally and orienteering went on its way with Higino
Esteves, a man who had accompanied Camilo de Mendonça for some time
and who was, at the time, the solution of natural continuity.
Camilo de Mendonça and his last words:
“I think the way we devoted ourselves from the first moment (whilst
recognising the sacrifices that we subjected our families to and the
damage caused to our careers), the financial resources that we
applied in the project and especially all our effort and enthusiasm,
all contributed to the rapid development of orienteering.”
“This is the feeling that we all
have, and for us a still more rewarding reason. All parents can look
back on the enjoyment of the early years of their children. Watching
them grow and make blunders, educating them for better or worse, it’s
all part of the process. They have their genes, and the records
are always there to remember. They gain autonomy, they mature, they
generate a larger family, but are always our children! I don’t
believe any parents repent of having generated something.”
Higino Esteves, the second President
When in March 1994 Higino Esteves
accepted the responsibility to hold the destinies of the Portuguese
Orienteering Federation, the great challenge was to amplify the
promotion of the sport within the general public, especially in
schools, and to develop orienteering as a sport, with quality events
that appealed to practitioners from all over the country. Thus
appeared the first National Orienteering Championships (today known
as the Portugal Cup), with a set of events supported by the
Portuguese Federation in order to raise the organisational quality.
Higino Esteves recalls: “The early
days were very difficult. We needed an office, a phone, a fax, a
computer, a full-time technician, an administrative service, a car
painted in white and orange...”
In March 1995 the Portuguese
Orienteering Federation’s first Head Office was set up in Mafra, in
the same place where it would work uninterruptedly for seventeen
years. “It was an important moment, coinciding with the
organisation of the Mafra O’ Meeting which was attended by the
IOF’s then Secretary General, Lennart Levin as well as the
Directors of the Portuguese orienteering clubs – I think at that
time there were already 14 (!) - and several representatives of
national sports bodies. The Federation now operated as a sports
federation, in fact in the service of all practitioners, and most of
all for potential practitioners.”
A place on the map
Among the highlights of the eight years
that he was at the helm of the Portuguese Orienteering Federation,
Higino Esteves recalls his participation in the IOF Congress, in July
1996 in Jerusalem, where he promoted his application for being an IOF
Board member, as well as the application for the organisation in 1998
in Portugal of the IOF’s Congress commemorating the orienteering
centenary and also the application for the organisation in Portugal
of the final round of the 2000 World Cup. Despite the hard battle
with some of the major powers in our sport, it was with excitement
that he witnessed the success of all three applications. Higino
Esteves was the first Latin to sit on the IOF’s Council and
Portugal won, in short, a place on the orienteering world map.
Another highlight relates to the
foundation of the Brazilian Orienteering Confederation on January
11th 1999, a ceremony in which Higino Esteves was present on behalf
of the IOF but of course also as President of the Portuguese
Orienteering Federation. Also the victory of Joaquim Sousa in the
Latin Countries Cup in October 1999 was the first major international
result in the Elite category, at a time when Portugal was still in an
embryonic stage in development of the project for Elite Competition.
And we cannot forget the Portugal O’
Meeting which began in 1996. When in 2002 Higino Esteves left the
Portuguese Orienteering Federation’s destinies to his successor,
his mood was of satisfaction for the accomplishments achieved and
full confidence in the future of orienteering. “I had the privilege
of working with a team of giants. As people, as sports officials, as
orienteering athletes”, he concludes.
To take care of finances
In 2002 the economic and financial
situation of the Portuguese Orienteering Federation was anything but
comfortable. For Augusto Almeida, the man who succeeded Higino
Esteves in the lead of the institution, the challenge was to restore
the needed credibility: “In my way of seeing things, it is
unthinkable to live beyond the financial capability of any citizen or
institution. Hence the first concern had to do with the resolution of
the financial troubles and then restoring the good name of the
Federation with the strategic partners – local authorities, the
army, the Institute of Sport”, he recalls.
This mission was accomplished, and so
it was time to face a new phase in the Federation’s life with the
creation of measures focusing on youth, either through facilities in
the affiliation process or in supporting teams who work with young
people. Quickly the number of young participants grew from a few
dozen to many hundreds, and with visible results both nationally and
In 2007, Portuguese orienteering
enjoyed the first gold medal in its history, won by Diogo Miguel at
the European Youth Orienteering Championships in Hungary. In the
following year, Vera Alvarez won the gold medal in the World Schools
Orienteering Championships in Scotland.
World Masters Orienteering
Championships 2008: a milestone
During the presidential term of Augusto
Almeida, the 2008 World Masters Orienteering Championships is an
indispensable reference point. The interest of the Portuguese
Government and its commitment to support the event, along with good
preparation and homework well done, were determinants. The final
result was fantastic and none of the nearly 3,500 participants from
around the world proved to be indifferent to the quality of the
event. Augusto Almeida reveals the secret of success: “Our sport
spins in the strict sphere of volunteering. Indeed we have very good
people, people where everything they do, they do perfectly. There is
an outlook towards very positive, sustained work that makes the
results appear. There are many people working towards the same goal
and that makes for great, consistent and rigorous application”, he
The first decade of the new millennium
ended with the organisation in Portugal of another great event.
Indeed, the World MTB Orienteering Championships held in 2010 in
Montalegre, in the north-east of the country, resulted in a week of
intense competition at the highest level. The event was sadly marked
by a serious injury suffered by the Czech Republic athlete Hana
Dolezalova, but once again the quality and organisational capacity of
Portugal was strengthened.
It is also at this time that Portuguese
Trail Orienteering re-emerged in an organised and consistent manner,
based mostly on the work done within the DAHP – the Adapted Sports
Centre of Prelada Hospital. And a word for the establishment on
November 26th 2007 of the Orientovar, the Portuguese orienteering
blog that quickly established itself as a true platform of
convergence for orienteers world-wide.
Economic crisis hangs evolution
In recent years one can see that there
has been increased attention given to Portugal and its orienteering.
Maybe not so much for the athletes’ results – although Davide
Machado has reached 7th place in IOF’s MTB orienteering ranking,
and presence in the World Orienteering Championships A-Finals is now
much more common – but more especially for the quality of its
organisation. And here the Portugal O’ Meeting emerges as an
authentic flag of the sport in Portugal, especially since 2007. Year
after year, the number of foreigners who attend the country around
the Carnival days is increasing, getting the best out of both the
competitions and the favourable weather conditions at that time of
year, and the many training camps that are on offer.
In terms of membership, Portugal has
now 2284 affiliated in the Portuguese Orienteering Federation, with
145 new members entered in 2015 so far. But the numbers are not more
than numbers, and the reality is that the numbers of Portuguese
participants on the courses organised week after week all over the
country have been decreasing, as a result of the country’s very
punitive economic situation. At least, this is the opinion of Augusto
Almeida: “If we remember that since 2003 our society has been
losing purchasing power, in many cases in a quite dramatic way, it is
easy to realise that, in times of containment, people have to cut out
what is secondary. And this is the fundamental reason for the poor
adherence to current events and to the sport. Fortunately, in the
case of youngsters the situation is less acute. The clubs that work
with the training offer good conditions, providing support for the
various costs. But as soon as the socio-economic conditions of the
people improve, we will see a new ´boom´ appearing almost
immediately”, he says with optimism.
New and larger challenges
2013 was another remarkable year for
the level of organisation in Portugal. First it was the World Schools
Orienteering Championships and later the European Youth Orienteering
Championships, and then the final round of the MTB Orienteering World
Cup as well as the World Masters MTB Orienteering Championships that
brought to Portugal orienteers from all over the world. In 2014,
Portugal hold in Palmela and Sesimbra de European Orienteering
Championships and the European Trail Orienteering Championships. In
2015, MTBO returned to Portugal with the European Championships and
the World Master Championships. In 2016 it will be time for
receiving again, this time at Bairrada region, the World MTB
orienteering Championships and still the first round of the
Unofficial European Cup in Trail Orienteering in Lisbon. Last but not
least, Portugal was appointed for organizing the World Trail
Orienteering Championships, in Viseu, in 2019.
Only very sporadically now do we hear
the question “What is it orienteering?” The competitive level of
our athletes in various disciplines is growing exponentially. 2015 is
a very good example of that, with Luis Gonçalves and Inês Domingues
reaching, in Croatia, the 6th and 7th places in the TempO Final of
the World Trail Orienteering Championships. The challenges are always
great, because the organisational level already achieved is quite
high and still evolving very positively. Above all there is concern
about “democratising” the importance of the various disciplines.
Foot orienteering, Trail orienteering, Adapted orienteering, Adventure Racing, MTB
orienteering and, in 2016, also Rogaining, are disciplines that,
irrespective of their various merits, deserve equal attention for a
16 athletes from 9 countries are
nominated for the annual poll to find the most impressive
achievements in international orienteering. The poll is organized by
World of O – the major internet presence for international
orienteering news. Voting is open until December 21st.
Winning a Gold medal at the World
Championships is always a great achievement – but sometimes winning
a Bronze medal can be an even bigger achievement – based on what
your starting point was. The stories behind the medals and the great
achievements is what makes the sport truly fascinating! In “The
Orienteering Achievement of the Year” these stories are highlighted
– to make it possible to get a background for the amazing
Voting is open from December 16th until
December 21st using the following links:
In the women's class Ida Bobach
(Denmark), Maja Alm (Denmark), Annika Billstam (Sweden), Merja
Rantanen (Finland), Mari Fasting (Norway), Galina Vinogradova
(Russia), Tove Alexandersson (Sweden) and Nadiya Volynska (Ukraine)
are nominated. In the men's class Daniel Hubmann (Switzerland), Lucas
Basset (France), Thierry Gueorgiou (France), Olli Ojanaho (Finland),
Jonas Leandersson (Sweden), Olle Boström (Sweden), Olav Lundanes
(Norway) and Tim Robertson (New Zealand) are nominated.
The international sponsors for the
Orienteering Achievement of 2015 are PWT Five Days Toscana (Italy),
Andalucia O-Meeting (Spain), Easter 4 (Slovenia), O-Ringen (Sweden),
Swiss O-week (Switzerland), Antalya Orienteering Festival (Turkey),
Sprint Scotland (Scotland), Suunto Games (Estonia) and OOCup
(Slovenia, Italy and Austria). Prizes valued to 5000 Euro are drawn
among lucky voters & the ones suggesting nominations.
From the Junior World title to the
Elite World title goes the time of just one year. Andreas Waldmann -
with Kevin Haselsberger and Bernhard Schachinger - made history in
Liberec, last August, holding the first place in the exciting Relay
that ended the World MTB Orienteering Championships 2015. To the
Portuguese Orienteering Blog, the young Austrian athlete remembers
that great moment and much more.
The first question is always the
easiest: Who is Andreas Waldmann?
Andreas Waldmann (A. W.) - I was
born in 1994, in Vienna. I grew up in Vienna, I went to school in
Vienna and, at the moment, I study electrical engineering at the
Technical University of Vienna. Lots of “Viennas” (laughs).
What came first: Orienteering or
A. W. - I always tried lots of
sports and spent many time outdoor. Somewhen, at the age of 10, I had
my first Mountain bike. I liked riding it but I just did it
occasionally. When I was 13, my sports teacher at school took me to a
FootO event. Then I became more and more attracted to Orienteering.
Firstly I was doing the Vienna's school cup, then I joined my
orienteering club, some Austrian Cups in FootO followed and very soon
I did my first MTBO course.
Why MTBO? Can you remember the first
rides and the very first moment when you said to yourself: “ -
That's it, MTBO is my sport!”
A. W. - I really enjoyed MTBO
since the beginning, so I kept going on. I was not very fast at that
time but also not slow, so I joined the Austrian Youth Team and I
started to train on a regular basis. With the time, my training
effort and the number of races increased. It was more a floating
What's the best advice you've ever
received? Is there someone that you admire, that you see as your idol
A. W. - There were so many
advices I've received, from so many different people. And I'm
thankful for every single one of them.
I must confess I was surprised
seeing you taking the JWOC's Long Distance gold last year, and even
more with such a difference for the second placed (almost seven
minutes, as much as I remember). Did you expect it? How did you do
A. W. - I still remember the
exact time difference: 6:47. Actually, I still have no explanation
for that. As 2014 was my last year in Junior class and I had already
won a medal in 2013. my goal was definitely to win a medal again.
Beforehand, in the Sprint and the Middle Distance races, I felt under
pressure. There, I did quite good races and was 6th and 8th. Before
the Long distance I talked a lot with the coaches and they managed
that I was able to see things very relaxed, which was not easy
because I really liked to win a medal. When I started in the Long
distance I was able to just concentrate on the course and didn't
think on results. And, somehow, this resulted in a brilliant race,
free of mistakes!
How was to “jump” to the Elite
A. W. - When I stepped up to
Elite I already had some experience in the Men Elite class.
Nevertheless I didn't really know what results to expect, so I was
pretty surprised when I got 5th in the first World Cup race 2015, the
Mass Start in Hungary! To keep it simple, the system in Junior and
Elite class is the same: You get a map and you have to ride the
course as fast as possible (that's it, isn't it?). The difference is
that, in Elite class, you have no chance to compensate a mistake. The
time you already lost will prevent you to get a top position - at
least this is the way I see it.
What goals have you designed for
2015? How did you prepare for the big challenges?
A. W. - My goal for 2015 was to
reach one top-10 result in a World Cup race and to qualify for the
Austria Relay's first team. As in previous years, I tried to train
according to my plan and reach the peak of my physical and mental
shape at the World Championships.
You could get a great 12th place in
the Middle Distance of the European Championships. Do you feel happy
with the Portuguese campaign?
A. W. - I think this year's
European Championships were brilliant organised! The terrains were
great and the courses were challenging. It was the first time I've
been in Portugal and I liked the Portuguese landscape a lot! I look
already forward to getting back there!
And then, the World Championships
and that fantastic gold medal in the Relay. I was following the race
thanks to the GPS data and I couldn't believe in my eyes, you firmly
keeping the first place against two “sacred monsters”, Jussi and
Anton. Amazing. I have to say that you, the Austrian MTBO Team,
deserve “The MTB Orienteering Achievement of the Year 2015”. I'm
talking too much, aren't I?
A. W. - For me it's still kind
of a dream that came true. When I started my leg, I knew that we were
in a good position but I didn't really think about the current ranking
and, until I reached the spectators control, I didn't realise that
our team was in the lead! Then I tried to go on like I did on the
previous controls and when I punched the last control and saw my
teammates, Kevin [Haselsberger] and Berni [Bernhard Schachinger],
waiting for me at the finish line... it was just unbelievable!
How important was this medal, in
personal terms but also for the MTB Orienteering in Austria?
A. W. - In the Austrian team we
have a very good team spirit and the gold in the Relay was something
very special for all of us. Personally, I'm very proud on this medal,
Taking a look on the Austrian MTBO
team (athletes, coaches, organizers, federation), how do you see the
A. W. - We are all very
motivated and working together really well. This summer the IOF
elected the Austrian application to organize the World Championships
2018. Of course, that challenge is one of our main goals in the
upcoming years for our team.
How do you evaluate the present
moment of MTB orienteering worldwide? Are we following in the right
A. W. - I think MTBO is
developing pretty well. The international competitions' level is very
high and it's even getting higher. Also the live-broadcastings like
we had this year in the World Championships, in Czech Republic, is a
great improvement as well.
Some time ago, we could hear Thierry
Gueorgiou saying that “it's in the Winter that you win the medals
of the Summer”. Do you agree? How are you planning your winter
A. W. - In winter you definitely
have to build a solid basis that you can be fast in summer. Naturally
it is no guarantee that you'll win any medals, but without winter
training you won't have big chances. I will train a lot on the
hometrainer and I will also try to do some alternative trainings like
cross-country skiing. In addition to that I'll do some weight-lifting
and running and maybe I'll go on a trainings camp in the South.
What are your main goals for 2016?
Is Portugal in your plans?
A. W. - As every year, I will
focus on the World Championships. Normally, the Portuguese terrain
fits me, so I look forward to the World Championships 2016. And
hopefully the weather it's getting hot!
What advice do you leave to those
youngsters who are starting now in MTBO?
A. W. - Look at the map, ride
your bike and, most of all, HAVE FUN!!! :)
On the Portuguese Orienteering Blog
we have with us, today, Daniel Hubmann, one of the most complete and
brilliant orienteers of all time. Full of successes over the past
decade, his career met in 2015 some of the highest moments so far
getting the world titles of Long Distance and Relay, winning the
World Cup and achieving the IOF World Ranking's leadership.
We are meeting the end of a great
season and your results along the year will be, naturally, an
important part of our Interview. But, for now, I would start by
asking you about the “gold medal” born on 9th september. How
things are going with little Lina?
Daniel Hubmann (D. H.) -
Things are going very well with her so far and we are thankful for
our little sunshine every day.
What means for you to enter
the father's club? What changes you're facing in your sporting life
and how does it affects your commitment with Orienteering?
D. H. - It means a lot to me
and it's for sure a big step in my life. I have been a professional
orienteer for nine years now and I have the feeling that it can also
be good for the orienteering part to change the routines a bit and to
get some new challenges. The whole organisation around training and
competing will be even more important and I also have to set other
priorities in some parts, so that everything works well
Taking a look over the last months, did you
expect, since the beginning, to do such a great season?
D. H. - I didn't really
expect it, but when you are training hard all winter, you need to
have some goals and dreams. Every athlete knows that a lot can happen
and some things you can't influence, but also knows when you always play safe,
you can't win anything. Therefore, I'm very happy with my
You started the season at Tasmania, with a 2nd
place in the World Cup, finishing it with two victories at Arosa, in
your home country, in the World Cup's last round. Between the first
and the last race, there's a period of time of exactly ten months.
Where is the secret of being on top for such a long time?
D. H. - The good thing about
the races in Tasmania was that they were held a few months earlier
than the other races and I therefore had enough time to get in good
shape again until WOC. It might look as if I was on a good level from
January until October, but my shape wasn't on that level all the
time. Partly because I've planned to have some lows in between, but
also because I had some problems with my shin splints in
Turning our attention to the World Orienteering
Championships, in Scotland, I would like to hear your impressions
about the competition. How did you see the gold in the Middle
Distance, three seconds over Lucas Basset? And what about the fight
in the Long Distance with Tero and Olav and the gold in the Relay?
D. H. - WOC in Scotland
started with a frustration - the sixth place in the Sprint. I felt
well prepared, but even though the race had not the challenges I had
expected, I did a huge route choice mistake. But this made me even
more eager to do well in the Middle. It looks like I found the right
balance between attacking and doing a very stable race. I didn't have
any super leg times but, on the other hand, I managed to run a clean
race. Of course I was also lucky winning the race with a three
seconds margin only, but for me this was kind of a compensation since
I've missed three WOC gold medals by two seconds or less in the past.
Winning the relay one day later was something which has been our goal
for many years and something many Swiss orienteering fans expected
from us. We had tried different tactics and fought many times but we
never managed to get it all together. This year everything was
perfect for us and it almost was a bit strange that the relay was
decided so early.
Having already won two golds took some
pressure away from me, but I still started ambitious into the Long
Distance race. Since we expected a real orienteering highlight, I
really wanted to do well also there. The 2nd place was again a great
result, although it hurt a bit when I realised that I even had some
chances to win it. However, it was a great WOC for me and I'm very
happy about it.
“Great fun to ride with the world's best
mountain bikers”, is something that we could read, recently, on
your Facebook page. Tell me what other things you intend to do, apart
Orienteering, before to start training seriously for the next season?
How important is to feel free from maps for a while?
D. H. - This year my “off
season” was a bit longer and I didn't really focus on training for
six weeks, but it still was a busy time with many meetings with
sponsors and other events. As a professional athlete this is also
part of my job and I really like to do different things and to meet
Are you planning to fly to Portugal next
winter, for a Training Camp? Will you enter the Portugal O' Meeting
2016? D. H. - I've planned to stay
four weeks in Spain and Portugal together with my family this winter.
First I'll train in Alicante and in the end also in Portugal, but so
far no races are planned. Portugal is always nice because there are
so many good maps and the weather is usually better than in
Switzerland during the winter months.
You have the Middle
Distance European and World titles to defend, as the World Cup
winning overall and the IOF World ranking leadership. Will it be
possible to achieve all that in 2016? Are those your main goals for
D. H. - Starting in all
these events as a defending champion is nice, but it doesn't help me
much next season. My main focus will of course be on the
international races like EOC, WOC and World Cup. These are already
several races and there will be a lot of traveling again, which is
not that easy to combine with family life. I might therefore skip
some other races, such as Tiomila or Jukola, in order to get some
free space in between.
For those who see Daniel Hubmann as
an example, an inspiration, specially for the young athletes, what is
D. H. - Train hard, but
never forget to have fun too. You need to know when to be serious and
when not. I usually have some time for funny things in training
camps, for example in 2012 in Portugal [HERE].