Thursday, June 02, 2016

Zdenko Horjan: "Let me first qualify into the Team, then we'll think about medals!..."



Those who are involved with TrailO knows that the name of “Zdenko Horjan” matches with “WTOC 2015”. In fact, he was the Course Setter of the last World Trail Orienteering Championships and I must agree he did a terrific job. So, even if we're here to talk about the present, this long Interview starts by revisiting Zagreb, almost one year after.


You've been the World Trail orienteering Championships WTOC 2015's course setter. What do you keep from that experience?

Zdenko Horjan (Z. H.) - My feelings about WTOC 2015 are divided. On one side, I'm very happy that, still today, many people are coming to congratulate me for what we've done. And that makes me feel very good and proud of our work. On the other hand, I know all the little details which didn't run as smoothly as we've planned. Also, I know all the other things we've planned, things which would make everything even better, but just didn't happen for some reason (lack of time, people, money...). So, I am sorry about that. But memories are nice and still fresh. And, although a bit stressful, it was a really nice experience.

Looking on Tomáš Leštínský's job as EOC 2016's course setter, how do you rate him? Would you do something different in some parts?

Z. H. - All in all, Tomáš did a great job. At the Relay, my course (V1) was very good, but many competitors complained about the other two courses, so maybe there some controls could have been a bit different. I didn't like the TempO controls at all, especially mapping and Z task at station 2. I didn't try it by myself, but at the final station just one person got all correct, so I believe that wasn't also the best station. At TempO Qualifications my only objection is that the fence at station 1 was not mapped. At station 6 I had problems with connecting map and terrain, but I can't really say what was the problem (maybe just in my head). I wasn't in the TempO Finals, but I visited the terrain later. One can't really judge it without competing, but it seems to me that only the last station was questionable.

Both PreO courses were really excellent! Very demanding, but solvable. Generally, maps were very good, very detailed and all the features drawn correctly. All, except some paths! Why everything can be drawn perfectly, except the paths? And that is my only serious objection to Tomáš (and to the IOF controllers, my friends Lars-Jakob Waaler and John Kewley), which still bothers me a lot.

Jana Kost'ova said that, from a media point of view, the ETOC 2016 didn't exist. Do you agree?

Z. H. - I would be very happy if someone disproves this but, as far as I know, I can just say that I totally agree with Jana. For example, starting for the Championships' logo... Do you see the word ETOC anywhere!? Official web page – look at the header: Any mention to ETOC!? Facebook, Twitter... there exists only EOC 2016. Oh yes, there were also some billboards around Jeseník and big posters on the back window of local buses, but guess what – I haven't seen any mention to ETOC. Was there ETOC in Jeseník at all, or we, somehow, participated at EOC? I blame IOF for that! I believe if organisers themselves are not aware enough about all the disciplines, IOF should somehow make them to treat equally all the Championships. Otherwise, why do we have joint Championships at all?

Luckily for competitors, Tomáš made the “unofficial” ETOC web page, where all the relevant and fresh information weas published. Otherwise, with just the official webpage available, we wouldn't have any information about ETOC.

For the first time in the last years, Croatia stayed out of the podium in the team competition, now the TrailO Relay. How was that?

Z. H. - It is well known that our team is very strong in PreO, but not so good in TempO. I did quite well my part of the job, but my team mates were not as good as expected in PreO, so we lost there our chances for a high position. So, it happens. It isn't the end of the World. There is always next time...

What's your opinion about the TrailO Relay format?

Z. H. - I don't like it. In fact, the format is maybe OK, but I don't like how the results are calculated. I don't like mixing PreO and TempO in the way as it is now (translating everything into seconds). I believe that, in TrailO, precision (correct solution) should be primary and speed just secondary to divide those with the same score. Now I feel (I still have to analyze the latest results to be sure) that these two components are equal, or even maybe a bit in favor of speed, considering the extra final TempO stations. Anyway, no matter the rules or how the results were calculated, Italian victory in Jeseník was clear, so once again I congratulate my friends Remo Madella, Michele Cera and Alessio Tenani for their superb performance.

You missed the TempO final for narrow 9 seconds and I believe you've been expected something different. Was your qualifying heat tougher than you expected?

Z. H. - Actualy, I wasn't expecting anything in TempO. With just one or two TempO competitions a year, I know that I don't have the necessary speed and practise to compete with the best in TempO. So, at this moment, entering the Finals would be like getting a medal. Surprisingly, the terrain suited me much more than I expected, but one mistake because of the mapping (really, guys, why that fence wasn't on the map?) on the 1st task at 1st station and one miscounting of the correct flag moved me from 8th to 19th place. Since I didn't expect anything, I don't regret for being first under the line.

I believe the other heat (A) was much tougher then mine (B), but that doesn't matter. The fact is that other competitors in my heat were better than me this time and they qualified. I didn't. Simple as that. If you compete at the highest level, you have to be better than the others, no matter how tough they are.

Finally, you did a great job in the PreO competition, finishing fourth with the same points of the bronze medalist, Jens Andersson, Sweden. Are you happy with your results?

Z. H. - I am extremely happy with my final result! In the first day I made two stupid mistakes (which obviously costed me a medal). I somehow managed to miss the easiest time control (1st on the station 1) and I didn't check thoroughly my answer on the 5th control, after quickly deciding it was a clear Z. There was one more mistake near the end of the course, caused by time pressure, but I can't really say that I would answer it correctly with much more time available. After all that, the 12th place (out of 88) looked quite good, but with so many great names in front a place on the podium looked so far away that I even packed my official uniform deep in my luggage, so I had to borrow it from my team mates for the prize giving ceremony (laughs). And after solving so tough course on the 2nd day, with just one mistake, what took me upfront for 8 places and into the fight for medals, I must be satisfied with my overall performance and congratulate those who were better this time: Stig Gerdtman, Martin Jullum and Jens Andersson.

Would you like to share with us the strongest moments along the two-day PreO competition?

Z. H. - Well, at first, I thought the first day was quite intensive and difficult. Already there, I had some problems with keeping up the tempo of solving the tasks and time pressure in the second half, but the second day we had even less time per control and I was a bit afraid of that. I started well, but then I reached the controls 10-14, all on the big cliffs/rock faces at the other side of the valley and I was just astonished by the view! I tried to solve some tasks there, but just couldn't get anything for sure. To be honest, at one point of time I was really considering answering all those tasks either A or Z. Then I stopped and calmed down for a moment. I noticed some flags nearby, belonging to the tasks in the second part, so I “borrowed” some of my time from the second half to define where they are. After that I turned back to the tasks on the other side and somehow managed to read the map and answer everything correctly, which I'm really proud of.

The next big challenge it's called World Trail Orienteering Championships WTOC 2016. Are we going to see you getting a medal in Strömstad?

Z. H. - Humm... as things are now, you will not see ME in Sweden, so getting a medal could be a bit difficult (laughs). That is because, according to the standings in qualifications for the Croatian Team, I am currently out of the best three. But we still have some additional qualifications in June, so everything is still possible. Let me first qualify into the Team, then we'll think about medals!...

What kind of event can we expect?

Z. H. - I'm expecting a standard “Swedish style” competition. That means, high quality, demanding and interesting courses, with clean zeros. If I come, my recent experience shows me that my only adversaries are my own stupid mistakes.

How do you evaluate the current TrailO moment in your country? And worldwide?

Z. H. - I feel that we're all standing at the same place for the last few years. It was very refreshing to get Portugal and Slovakia in recent years as new and quite strong opponents, but in the other countries things didn't change too much. Also in Croatia, despite our good international results, organisation of WTOC and all our other efforts, TrailO is still not very popular and it is very difficult to get some new competitors.

Is there a key to call people's attention on Trail Orienteering and its beauty?

Z. H. - The key maybe exists, but it's not in my pocket. Maybe we should look for it in some new countries with growing number of competitions and competitors. Portugal for example?

If you had the power, would you change anything in the Trail Orienteering current rules?

Z. H. - Yes, definitely. I would do something to make the Paralympic class more fair. At least, dividing it into “sitting” and “standing” subclasses or something like that. Then I would allow anyone to compete in sitting class if s/he sits in a wheelchair during the competition. I would change the scoring calculation for the Relay, emphasizing precision before speed. Or reinstall the Team PreO competition as it was (only with separated classes), along the Relay as it is now.

Would you like to share with us your biggest dream?

Z. H. - My dream is to live in a normal country without problems, stupid politicians and ignorant people. Yes, I know, it is called Utopia... I like to travel, so my personal big wish is to visit Machu Picchu and Easter Island. I've heard that there they have some nice rocks, suitable for TrailO... (laughs).

Talking about Orienteering, my big wish was to compete in all four disciplines, what I finally accomplished in 2015. You can imagine how fun it was to compete in SkiO without standing on cross-country skis ever before, learning the techniques just from the Internet. But I did it! And I liked it! And, of course, it would be very nice to crown my TrailO results with an individual medal in the Open class, but that is not my main goal. I know - and I've shown )!) - that I'm good enough to compete in PreO with the World's best orienteers, but for the medal you also need a bit of luck too. If you're chasing that little piece of luck, it's very hard to catch it; but if you just go, you might find it when you least expect it. So, good luck to all of us!

[Photo: OK Vihor / facebook.com/OK-Vihor]

Joaquim Margarido

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