Saturday, May 21, 2016

Øystein Kvaal Østerbø: "I can fight for a medal"

At the age of 34, Øystein Kvall Østerbø almost can be considered a “veteran” in the exclusive group of Elite athletes. But his performances continue to make him one of the great values in the World of Orienteering and the end of his career is far away from being in sight. At the start of the European Orienteering Championships, the Portuguese Orienteering Blog invited him to its pages, making known the man and the athlete.

We are talking in a moment with a very special meaning for Norway, after being nominated, a couple of weeks ago, to organize the WOC 2019. Did you feel any special emotion when you saw the news?

Øystein Kvall Østerbø (Ø. K. Ø.) - WOC 2010 in Trondheim was very special to me, since it was in my hometown, and was a big goal for me for many years. WOC 2019 in Østfold will not have any sprint races, and I’m note sure if I still run on international level then, so I don’t really have too strong feeling about it. But it will for sure give an extra focus on orienteering in Norway.

It will be the first WOC in this “splitting” new life, a “forest WOC”. Do you agree with the new WOC format? Why?

Ø. K. Ø. - I don’t have any strong opinion, but personally I think I would prefer the current format, with all distances every year. From 2019 every second year will only have forest races, and therefore be less interesting for sprint runners like me. (And the same for forest runners the other years when its only sprint.) But I understand the argument that it has been difficult to find organizers every year with todays format.

Some of your biggest achievements seem to be connected with the “sprint” more than the “forest”. What kind of orienteer are you?

Ø. K. Ø. - The first years as senior I focused quite equal on all distances, and would consider me as an all-rounder, even if my best results were in sprint. I have a 3rd place overall in the World Cup, and have been running all 5 different distances in WOC. But I have always liked urban orienteering most, and the last years I have had my main focus on sprint races, but also relays (both for club and National team).

Is there an orienteer that you admire, that has "that thing" you don't have (but you would like to)?

Ø. K. Ø. - Daniel Hubmann has, in my opinion, been the best male orienteer the last ten years, since he is always performing well, in all type of races and distances.

You left Inverness, last summer, with two silver medals in your luggage, the first WOC medals ever in your (long) career. Would you like to tell me something about those medals? Did you expect it?

Ø. K. Ø. - When I was 6th and 4th in my two first WOCs in 2004 and 2005 I thought my WOC medals would come soon, but it took more then ten years. I knew that we had a strong team in the sprint relay last year, but when I sent Hausken out on the last leg it felt a bit too long up to the leading teams. So when she passed runner after runner in the end and finished second it felt really great. That I also won my first WOC medal together with runners I have knows for a long time made it even better.

Did they have a more special meaning than your fourth place in Trondheim, in WOC 2010?

Ø. K. Ø. - WOC in Trondheim was special to me since it was on home ground and had been a big goal for a along time. Finishing 4th there, 3 seconds from the gold, and less than 1 sec from a medal, was a bittersweet feeling. The medals in Scotland were in a way a bit unexpected, even I knew we had good teams in both relays. In previous Sprit Relays we had struggled, and in the Forest Relay I came in as a reserve the day before.

I would maybe say that my biggest achievement is when I came 3rd in the Middle distance in World Games 2005. I was only beaten with some seconds by Thierry Gueorgiou and Daniel Hubmann, that have been dominating International orienteering since then. World Games has always been very important for me, and on least at the same level as WOC, since it’s only organized every 4th year, and has a race format I enjoy.

From those times in Scotland, is there some special performance you keep in your memory and that you see as the achievement of last World Orienteering Championships?

Ø. K. Ø. - Maja Alm was the runner that impressed me most, winning in total 3 gold medals, including the individual sprint with a really big margin.

You've been to Portugal last February preparing the season. How was the experience?

Ø. K. Ø. - I have been in Portugal most winters since I was there first time as junior in 2000, and it’s probably the best place for an orienteering winter training camp. I remember well NAOM 2010, that was in a great terrain (detailed, but with good runability), and where I got the winning overall. After that I have tried to go back to the area when I have been in Portugal. This year I did a lot of good training both in forest and for sprint together with my club IFK Lidingö.

How do you feel right now? What are the next challenges you're facing before the season's big competitions?

Ø. K. Ø. - The season have started quite well for me, and especially the individual 4th place in the World Cup in Poland two weeks ago was great, and showed me that I can fight for a medal in the upcoming European Championships in Czech.

Would you like to tell me what are your goals, both for the European Championships and the World Championships?

Ø. K. Ø. - I have as goal fighting for medals both in the Individual Sprint and Sprint Relay in EOC and WOC, but as long as I perform my best I try to be happy.

How do you see Orienteering in Norway and, particularly, the young generation - Heidi Mårtensson, Jonas Madslien Bakken, Audun Heimdal, Anine Ahlsand? What makes you optimistic about the future?

Ø. K. Ø. - I think the future looks good for Norwegian orienteering, and we have many young runners that do well, also in sprint races, where we have struggled having a competitive team the last years.
I finished with a question related to the beginning of our talk: Will we see you in Østfold for the WOC 2019?

Ø. K. Ø. - I doubt, but never say never.

Joaquim Margarido

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