Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in Review: The 20 most popular!

Joaquim Margarido

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Michaela Gigon: "Not everything that is good for FootO is also applicable for MTBO"

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 31st December?

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 days?

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.

Your dedication to MTB Orienteering led you to create, from 2004, follow up mechanisms for the international events, which made of your personal webpage - - 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?

M. G.
- 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 you.

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 biggest handicap?

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 races.

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 Distance races.

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 courses.

Joaquim Margarido

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Orientovar (2007.11.26 - 2015.12.19): A Blog has died

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!

Joaquim Margarido


* 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!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Anine Ahlsand: "I'm glad I have one more year left in the Junior class"

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 Ahlsand?

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 be there?

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 moments?

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 them!

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!

What's your biggest wish?

A. A. - That’s my little secret.

[Photo courtesy of Anine Ahlsand]

Joaquim Margarido

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ojanaho and Alm: Orienteering Achievement of 2015

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 second.

The vote has been decided by the big international readership of – 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 - 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

[Press release: Jan Kocbach / World of O]

Monday, December 21, 2015

Alessio Tenani: "My glass was half full all the time"

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.

Can 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 level again.

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.

How 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.

PreO or TempO? What do you prefer and why? And what about the TrailO Relay?

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 next summer.

Please, tell me about your goals for next season. Are we going to see you in Sweden competing in WOC or WTOC?

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 Orienteering.

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!

[Photo courtesy of Alessio Tenani]

Joaquim Margarido

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Celebration: Portuguese Orienteering Federation blows out 25 candles

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 inconvenient concept

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 Portuguese orienteering

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 internationally.
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 concludes.

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 process

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 sustained growth.

Joaquim Margarido

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Orienteering Achievement of 2015: Vote now!

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 achievements.

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.

[Press release: Jan Kocbach / World of O]

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Andreas Waldmann: "The gold in the Relay was something very special for all of us"

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 bicycle?

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 process, actuallty.

What's the best advice you've ever received? Is there someone that you admire, that you see as your idol in MTBO?

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 that?

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 this season?

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, naturally.

Taking a look on the Austrian MTBO team (athletes, coaches, organizers, federation), how do you see the future?

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 way?

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 season?

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!!! :)

[Photo: Rainer Burmann /]

Joaquim Margarido

Monday, December 14, 2015

Daniel Hubmann: "When you always play safe, you can't win anything"

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 together.

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 season.

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 April.

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 other people.

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 the season?

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 your advice?

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].

[Photo: Swiss Orienteering / Rémy Steinegger]

Joaquim Margarido