Sunday, June 12, 2016

IOF Athlete of the Month: Lucas Basset

The IOF Athlete of the Month of May 2016 is Frenchman Lucas Basset (right). From an early age, he has challenged himself technically, and today he is running with the top athletes in the world. At the recent European Orienteering Championships he won the bronze medal on the middle distance, just 51 seconds behind the winner Matthias Kyburz, and 34 seconds behind second place Gustav Bergman. Now an engineering student in Lyon, Lucas has previously trained with OK Denseln in Sweden. Looking ahead, he is fully focused on the World Orienteering Championships taking place in Strömstad in August.

Name: Lucas Basset
Country: France
Living place: Lyon
Clubs: OK Denseln (Sweden), ASUL Sports Nature ( France)
Date of Birth: March 28th1991
Discipline: Foot Orienteering
Career Highlights: WOC silver middle 2015, WOC bronze relay 2015, EOC bronze relay 2014, EOC bronze middle 2016, JWOC gold sprint 2011, JWOC bronze long 2011
IOF World Ranking: Sprint 32nd, Middle and Long 6th

Early route choices for Lucas

From the very start with map and compass, Lucas Basset understood not to follow the taped route. The Frenchman looked for the smartest route choices.

Lucas Basset grew up in Vaulx-en-Velin, a city of 40 000 inhabitants in the suburbs of Lyon, the third biggest city in France. He has two younger sisters, Isia and Juliette, and one younger brother, Marian.
– It’s quite a big family! All of us are orienteers, which means we have a common passion to share and that’s cool, Lucas says.

– Why did you start orienteering?
– My father started orienteering two years before me on the advice of a work colleague. I followed him when I was eight years old in 1998 or 1999.

Skipped the comfort

– Were you good at orienteering from the start?
– In France, we have those taped courses for children under ten years. There is tape all around the course, which means you can follow the tape without reading the map if you want, but there are also places where it is possible to take short cuts if you read your map and if you “dare” to leave your comfort zone. Those courses are really good to begin with and to get self-confidence to be alone in the forest.

– You didn’t follow the tape all the time?
– I don’t think I can say I knew how to orienteer from the beginning, but I did not have major trouble when starting the sport. Anyway it took me a while to escape from the tapes, but when I ended up doing so, and started to win some of those courses, I understood it was worth it!

Lucas won quite many of these taped courses as a kid. In his first year on normal courses he won the French Championship as a M12 runner. At that time he began to understand that he could be good.

– But it was probably my victory at the European Youth Championships in 2007 in Eger, Hungary, that made me think that I have a kind of talent for this sport. That’s when I really started to perform on international level!

Early challenges gave knowledge

Lucas thinks his biggest strength is his technique. From an early age he had the chance to train in really technical terrains, mostly in his region in France, but also in central France near Clemont-Ferrand, and in the South, in the area of Millau and Le Caylar.

– My trainers made me like the idea of technical perfection, and already when I was 15 or 16, I heard sentences like: “at your level, a 1-minute mistake is already too much”. I can’t say I am a perfectionist, but this taught me to be critical towards my technique.

He still loves the very detailed terrains they have in France, but he feels confident in most terrains, and he thinks he has the capacity to adapt quite fast to different places.
– My talent to adapt to new terrains might be my biggest strength. This makes me able to perform when it matters, even if I don’t have the same physical level as others.

JWOC as first year junior

Already in his first junior year he took part in the Junior World Championships. As a last year junior he won the sprint at the JWOC in Poland, and bronze at the long distance in the same Championships. By winning the sprint he fulfilled his biggest dream at the time.

– It was a bigger dream than winning a senior world championship or anything else. JWOC was, and still is I think, the most fun competition there is on the international program. That is where you make great friends from different countries, and already the first time I took part in 2008, I wanted to perform there. The gold in Poland in 2011 was the final touch of years of dreaming! And to be the best in the world at doing something, that is kind of fun when you think about it. I was a bit surprised to win the sprint, as I knew I had bigger chances on the middle for example, but I did not complain, he smiles.

The Swedish year

In 2007 he started to represent the Swedish club OK Denseln, based close to Norrköping, in the middle of Sweden.
– They were very welcoming and I had the chance to come to live in Norrköping in 2010–2011. They were like a family for me back then. And of course I am representing OK Denseln because we have a good team. The fact is, there are not so many Denseln runners focusing on individual or international orienteering, but they know how to prepare and to deliver when it is long and dark at Tiomila, maybe more than any other team. Being an outsider can also be cool.

It was as a last year junior he was living in Sweden
– Apart from being a great and enriching year, I had more time to train there, so I trained more, there were better guys to compete against, so I tried to close the gap to them, and in the end I became a much better orienteer than I was before moving to Sweden.

One of a few

There are a lot of stars in the junior class. Only a few of them become among the world’s very best. Lucas is not really sure why he has managed to take the big step, but there are of course some obvious reasons.

– I have not been injured so much, and I also had the chance to take part so many international events, WOCs, EOCs, World Cups, even World Games. I started to have a certain level of experience, and I also became more professional in my preparation towards important competitions.

He won his first WOC medals last years. First it was silver on the middle distance, just three seconds behind Daniel Hubmann.
– That is the closest I have ever been to the winner of a WOC, World Cup or any senior international race, and to run such an amazing race on D-Day, when it matters the most, that made me really proud. Some people asked me if I was disappointed to be that close, and angry that I fell down in the run-in, losing maybe one or two seconds, but I felt like a winner myself, and I have absolutely nothing to regret.

– Are you mostly a forest runner now?
– It’s hard to say. I really like the sprint, even if I am not as good there as in the forest, and I don’t want to stop racing sprints. In my opinion, the real spirit of orienteering is in the forest of course, but I also enjoy discovering new sprint areas. So no, I prefer to say I am an all-rounder.

In the same district

Lucas lives in Villeurbanne, just between his home town Vaulx-en-Velin and Lyon, sharing a flat with two friends competing in Mountain Bike, X-country and Downhill.

He combines his sport with studies in civil engineering and town planning in Villeurbanne. The studies will take him seven years instead of the usual five for normal students.
– I am now finishing my fifth year. Before this I have been studying languages for three years in Grenoble, and Norrköping in Sweden.

He trains with the national training group, the Pole France, which is based in St Etienne.
– On a daily basis, I train with the juniors and young seniors like Loic Capern, Nicolas Rio, the Rauturier Brothers Maxime and Quentin, Arnaud Perrin, Emilie Backscheider and Lauriane Beauvisage. It is a good group, with young and ambitious runners. We have a lot of fun together. Of course sometimes I would like to have more experienced runners to train with, and not be the “guy to beat” all the time, but everyone is pushing hard, so I don’t complain!

– Why aren’t you living in St. Etienne – isn’t that where most of the “stars” live?
– For a while now, St Etienne hasn’t been the epicentre of French orienteering. Now that Philippe Adamski has stopped his career, it is only Amelie Chataing who lives there. In Lyon, there is one of the best engineering universities in France, and they have a special system for sportsmen which does not exist elsewhere and which enables us to study part time, to miss classes, change exam dates when needed etc. Such a system can be found only in Lyon. Besides being my home town, I thought this was a good reason to choose this city.

When he wants to go to a map he has to travel.
– Lyon is very central in France, with great orienteering maps in a radius of three hours driving. Chambery and the Vercors area are 1 hour and 30 minutes travel away, Clermont-Ferrand is two hours away, Sisteron 3 hours. The problem is that access to local maps means a short drive There is almost no interesting forest within 40 minutes driving. But once you take the car, it is only 1 hour and 10 minutes driving before you get to plenty of maps in the area of St Etienne.

Lucas and Thierry

– What is it like to be a world class level orienteer in France?
– Just like being an average guy. I just get recognized at orienteering races, and sometimes I sign autographs for young kids there. Not more!

Lucas is a team mate of Thierry Gueorgiou, who has won 13 WOC gold so far.

– It is nice to train and talk to Tero. It forces you to raise your level, knowing you are training with the best in the world. He seldom runs poorly or is unfocused at a training, which is impressive. It means that if you want to beat him, you have to deliver a great race, and you can’t hope for him to fail. The bar is set high all the time, and you could not hope for more in your process to improve. I prefer having such a teammate than being the star of my team.

– Are you taking the steps out of Thierry’s shadow?
– I don’t feel so much in the shadow actually. You know, there is not much interest from the media in France as there is for the Swiss team or the Scandinavian teams, even during WOC week. If there are no spotlights, how can you be in the shadow? Seriously, I don’t really know, I think I am not the first Frenchman to have good results at international competitions, François Gonon, Damien Renard, Frederic Tranchand, Amelie Chataing, all got medals at international competitions. Maybe Thierry gets most of the attention, but he is also the one that has dominated orienteering for years.
I will never have his career, but if I can put my name high up on some result lists, I will be happy!

The coming Championships

At the EOC in Czech Republic Basset got a new medal. He was third on the middle distance, 51 seconds after winner Matthias Kyburz.

In the last part of August, the World Orienteering Championships take place in Sweden. Last September, Lucas was in Strömstad for a training camp.
– Since then, the focus has mostly been on winter training and on EOC preparations. Now the focus has changed, and there are three weeks of training camps with the French team planned in Strömstad from now until the Championships.

It will start with the selection races in June. From then all my focus will be directed towards WOC. In France, I will also try to find marshy and tough terrains to get accustomed to Scandinavian ground.
– What’s the goal?
– I want to get as confident as possible with the terrain to be able to run technically clean races. The results don’t only depend on me, but of course I will dream of repeating last year’s success!

– Which distances are you looking for?
– First, I need to run good at the selection races to make sure I can choose the distances I will be running. If I should decide now, the plan would be Sprint relay, Middle, Long and Relay.

About the future

– What’s the goal for the future?
– Just to have fun. I don’t set long terms goals! I am sure I’ll aim for WOC 2017 in Estonia, and then we’ll see. But right now, my biggest dream is winning the WOC relay!

– Is there anything you want to tell the orienteering world about yourself, or about orienteering?
– Don’t forget how great this sport is, and what potential it has. Personally, I sometimes have something like an inferiority complex, seeing other sports in media. But what we do is as valuable as other sports, the level is good, the sport is fun, the values orienteering carry are important and the people are nice! Most people like orienteering when the really try it, and it’s something we should be proud of!

Text and Photo: Erik Borg

[See the original article at Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]

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