Thursday, June 23, 2016

Antonia Haga: "My greatest challenge is myself"

Antonia Haga is a big fan of physical activity and also a brilliant MTB orienteer. When she’s not biking, it’s possible to see her “climbing, doing parkour and other funny things, just to keep the training versatile”. In a more relaxed mood, she likes to draw, learn Russian and dreaming on her own dog; on the other and, she hates lies and the cigarettes’ smoke. Let’s find out a couple of things more about her.

How did MTB Orienteering come to your life?

Antonia Haga (A. H.) - My first touch with MTBO was an evening race arranged near home. I thought it was great fun to ride my bike in the forest looking for controls. I think I started orienteering, ski orienteering and MTB orienteering during the same year. It was about 10 years ago when I started aiming for winning the junior Finnish championships in MTBO, which I did a few years later.

What do you see in MTBO that makes it so special?

A. H. - MTBO is a very challenging sport. You need a huge variety of skills to make it fast through the course. You need to be in good physical shape to be able to ride your bike fast uphill and technical skills for the single tracks and downhill. You need endurance to manage to keep up the speed on the longer courses. Apart from the physical side you also need a fast brain, able to work while your muscles are screaming for oxygen. You have to be able to read the map while riding at great speed and find the fastest route to the control after making fast decisions.

In a land of MTBO huge names, what is to be a Finnish MTB orienteer and belong to the national team?

A. H. - The standards are high in the national team and I want to live up to them. Marika Hara, Susanna Laurila, Ingrid Stengard are all strong riders. They're able to go fast through the course while making little mistakes. That's what I'm aiming for.

We can see Andre Haga also in the Finnish team. Is he your brother? How important is he in your career?

A. H. - André Haga is my brother. It's fun to have him around on competitions. He gives me tips in my training and helps me with fixing my bike.

How do you rate the World Cup's first round, in France? Are you happy with your results?

A. H. - I'm not happy with my performance in the World Cup in France. I'd wanted to do so much better. I had to quit the Long Distance due to the cold and wet weather. I didn't wear clothes warm enough. When I did my warm up it started to rain. I almost missed my start when I had trouble finding my way from the pre start to the starting point. I had to go to the map right away when I finally found the start. Soon after my start it started raining really heavily due to the thunder. The cold rain shower made the temperature drop. I got soaking wet and cold and couldn't concentrate on the orienteering which resulted in mistakes. I decided to quit so I wouldn’t catch a cold.

I had a strong start on the Middle Distance but I still did too many mistakes. At the end I did a big one that dropped me under the top 10. The relay was a nice ride though, where I performed more like I demand myself to.

The next big challenge it's called World MTB Orienteering Championships. Can you feel already some good vibrations about that?

A. H. - I'm excited that the World Championships will be in Portugal. I have been competing there a few times already and I like the terrain and courses. It will be really interesting. I'm expecting physically challenging courses with long uphills. I hope for some technical riding and dangerous downhills. I'd also like to see the sprint to be in and urban area with stairs. I like all the distances and I'm aiming for to be within the top 10.

Who will be your main adversaries?

A. H. - My greatest challenge is myself. I know that the other athletes will be in great shape in the World Championships, so I will have to perform my best to stand up to them.

Joaquim Margarido

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