Ján Furucz met Orienteering at the age of 10 and the first years were really successful. But six years later I had to stop, because a heart disease. Now, at the age of 44, he is organizer, director, controller, course setter, map maker... and Trail orienteer.
What do you see in TrailO that makes it so special?
Ján Furucz (J. F.) - The fact that you can practice TrailO almost in every age it's amazing. And it’s not only for recreation, but you can do it, also, at the highest level. If someone ever told me that I would be in the World Championships, I wouldn't believe. TrailO represents what I like in Orienteering the most. The mental challenge and the ability to navigate. The physical aspects are not important. For me TrailO is the best way to do Orienteering.
Can you remember your first steps in TrailO? Was it “love at first sight”?
J. F. - I met TrailO a few years ago and, in the beginning, I thought it was only for disabled people. I could get some detailed information from Tomáš Leštínsky and I found it very interesting. Three years ago, I took part in a multi-day Orienteering competition in the Czech Republic which included also a TrailO competition. I was thinking that my orienteering skills were at a high level so it would be easy to succeed. There was about 40 competitors and the goal was pretty clear: I should reach the top 5. Then, the shock came. I was 5th from the end! I didn’t understand why. I was really surprised. I have a brother whose Orienteering skills are similar or even better than mine (we've been rivals our whole life) and we decided that we would try it together. Our first real competition was in Prague. We studied many TrailO materials before this competition. The first steps are everything but easy when you're a beginner and the Czech colleagues sometimes like more geometric exercises (laughs). After the first competition we've been unhappy, but the second day (in the forest) showed us how real fun TrailO can be. And we loved it!
What are your most valuable skills as a trail-orienteer?
J. F. - The navigational part, imagination, good map reading and fast thinking.
What is the most difficult part in TrailO?
J. F. - Concentration is very important. Sometimes I create lots of imaginary mistakes (typically zeros). I have a big mental problem with geometric exercises, I don’t like to solve problems like sighting lines or vegetation boundary by tree branches.
In your daily routine, what part is TrailO? How do you do for training?
J. F. - I think you're going to be surprised. I don’t train TrailO specifically. I love maps and orienteering is my life. The ideal training is to prepare competitions, design maps, set courses and, of course, compete. Many competitions means many practical experience. There, we discover new techniques, new tricks. My only special training, which I invented, is to drill the English answers for TempO. I just look for the third flag and I know that's Charlie. I train flags from left to the right, from right to the left, from center to the left, from center to the right... I have one funny story from my first World Championships, in Italy. First TempO qualification, first station. The correct answer was the first flag from the right. It was so clear that I immediately said “Foxtrot”. But there was only five flags in front of me (laughs). Sometimes I am training TempO on computer simulators, but there is a problem with the 3D vision. Therefore, I'm looking forward to a reallly orienteering simulator, hopefully developed by our third brother, Peter.
Last season, you achieved an amazing 2nd place in Croatia, in the World Trail Orienteering Championships' TempO competition. Did you expect it? Can you point the key for such a great success?
J. F. - I wasn’t expecting a medal. OK, somewhere in the most secret dream, where everyone turn into a beautiful and wealthy prince, maybe I could find the desire for a medal. I remember well those days. In the Qualification stage I was really unhappy, because the day before I had had so many stupid mistakes in PreO. I was really afraid that I could miss the final, which would be a big disappointment. I was very nervous before the start. In the first station I made one mistake and change tactics immediately. I needed to be faster to recover from the mistake and I was satisfied with my performance. Surprisingly, I took the 9th position, just before Marit Wiksell, which was a wonderful feeling for me. I see Marit and the Finnish competitors in the TempO's Olympus. OK, I was in the Final, set satisfaction. Next day we were the first in the quarantine. We studied the demo map and the very detailed terrain. Personally, I don’t like park terrain and map, I prefer a more detailed terrain with many contours. I don’t have problems with map reading so this was, maybe, one of the reasons for the good result. The Final, in the golf course, was difficult (specially the 2nd station) but really nice. The 15 minutes after finishing have been terrible for me but finally I could taste the silver medal, a perfect, amazing, unbelievable feeling. And what about the tactics? Very easy. Of course, the best is the one without mistakes and the fastest. But TempO’s Olympus is not for us, our tactics are different. I have my own rule: Be able to solve problems in 30 seconds or simply forget. A couple of mistakes are acceptable, but speed is essential. This is TempO. Being slowly, even without mistakes, you won't get a victory.
How do you feel about your 34th place in PreO?
J. F. - It was a tragedy. Me and my brother specialized to different disciplines. I have rather PreO and he likes TempO. But, when things count, we are more stressed in our favorite disciplines. The pressure of being in the World Championships is enormous and not always easy to manage.
What general ideas do you keep from the competition overall, both technically and organizational?
J. F. - In my opinion, TrailO is a random competition sometimes. Not everyone finds the correct answer by logical reasoning. Of course, this primarily depends on the Course setter. TrailO is inflexible sometimes. I liked the Relay model which could be applied to individuals. The combination between PreO and TempO is very interesting. And I would suggest the Sprint PreO, with half of the regular time limit. Or why not zeros in timed controls? It would turn things more difficult.
Please tell me about Orienteering in Slovakia and, particularly, about TrailO.
J. F. - Slovakia is a small orienteering country. We have about 200-300 registered orienteers. In TrailO we are beginners. For the first time we're trying to join a few TrailO competitions together with Foot orienteering events. We are teaching about TrailO. Many myths, many untruths. It's not an easy way for us.
Is TrailO improving in the best way? How do you see the present moment of the discipline?
J. F. - I do not know. We are only beginners, we are doing it just a little over two years but our opinion could be interesting. Basically, we need to be closer to the classic orienteering competitors. Course settings is very important. My motto is: “More orienteering, less geometric exercises.” No special TrailO techniques, no half-meter Zeros, no sighting lines, no bearing, no measuring, … . Just read the map and terrain. The compass should be used only for right orientation of the map. We should solve only terrain details, contours, … . This is the right thing for classic orienteering competitors. I also defend more generalization to maps. Absolutely accurate maps aren't good for orienteering, it turns things very easy for all. Less time and more stress to PreO. I love PreO because I am building symbiosis with the map, terrain and course. On the other side, dynamics of TempO is amazing. TempO is extreme focus on speed and understanding. The TempO is super, but the competition time is short. A very special problem is the definition of PARA competitors. My (extreme) opinion is that PARA category should be cancelled. The basic idea is still the integration for TrailO. We want to merge, don’t divide these two worlds (OPEN and PARA). Maybe giving them more time and not another category. Different adding time for disabled by disability level. It is my (maybe extreme) opinion, but is better than current status (walking vs wheelchair competitors).
What would you do for getting some more participation and media attention?
J. F. - It's a difficult question. Where to find more competitors? We can look to another orienteering disciplines, but we should be closer to them. More orienteering, less geometric exercises... And don’t doing some isolated races, but combined with the organizers of other disciplines. We are the discipline which integrates disabled with non disabled competitors. This is amazing. Many organizations are focused on helping disabled people, so why don't we focus on it, too. I think we have large reserves from the IOF to individual federations. And maybe that's the way to get media attention. Let us try bring PARA TrailO to the Paralympics. Why not?
Next May, you'll host the European Cup in Trail Orienteering's 2nd round. What kind of event can we expect?
J. F. - We have two major goals. The first, we want to show that TrailO is for everyone, not just for Trail orienteers. “More orienteering, less geometric exercises”, this is our goal. We have selected two different types of terrain. PreO is around the castle Červený Kameň, with a mixture of land form and point objects. Not only TrailO competition, but together with two Foot orienteering competitions. TempO is the classic sandy terrain (flat terrain with a lot of details) on Záhorie (Borský Mikuláš). About the second major goal, we want to show quickly and online results, both in PreO and TempO. For PreO we will use SportIdent and for TempO will use tablets (with Ant software).
How is it going to be your season? What goals did you set, both for European and World Championships?
J. F. - It is difficult to talk about goals for the European Championship, since I spent much time and energy preparing the European Cup. So, the European Championships will be just a way to relax after ECTO. My personal goals are situated around the 15th place. Especially we look forward on the Relay event where we have high hopes. But my personal highlight of the season is the World Championships in Sweden. My dream is orienteering in Nordic terrain. Last year, we visited Sweden (the first time in my life) within the Nordic match and I think it was an important step for the understanding of maps and course setter techniques. The 15th place would be awesome. And the Relay, of course, which we look forward and secretly hoping for a good result.
In the start of a new TrailO season, I ask you a wish to all orienteers and trail-orienteers in particular.
J. F. - I would like to wish everyone good health. I would like to invite all orienteers to try any TrailO competition, exploring the beauties and difficulties of this discipline. What I would like to wish to TrailO orienteers? Let's us be more, let’s have more quality competitions. Let’s be more orienteering and less geometric exercises. I look forward to see you also in Slovakia ECTO 2016 and, two years later, in the ETOC 2018.