Friday, September 09, 2016

IOF Athlete of the Month: Natalia Gemperle

IOF Athlete of the Month of August is Natalia Gemperle from Russia. Fresh from her success at the World Orienteering Championships, now is the chance to get to know her a bit better. Read the full interview to find out about her challenges, passions and orienteering philosophy.

Name: Natalia Gemperle
Date of Birth: December 9th 1990
Place of Birth: Moscow, Russia
Hobbies: Orienteering, photography, filmmaking.
Work: Professional athlete ( Orienteering)
Coach: Kostylev Vyacheslav (honored coach of Russia), Orienteering – Vyacheslav Kostylev, Strength training – Leonid Vorona, Running – Anatilii Naumov
Club: Alfta-Ösa OK
Achievements: WOC gold relay 2016, WOC silver long 2016, WOC bronze middle 2016, EOC gold sprint relay 2016, EOC long distance 4th place 2016, EOC bronze relay 2016.
IOF World Ranking: 43 sprint, 4 middle and long

I haven’t seen any bears yet”

Where is Natalia Gemperle celebrating her great success at the Nokian Tyres World Orienteering Championships? In the Finnish forests. She is hunting for much more than controls.

At WOC in the municipalities of Strömstad and Tamum, Natalia won three medals. The first one was bronze in the middle distance, then it was silver in the long distance and on the last day it was finally gold in the relay. All the time, the Russian had a big smile on her face, at the press conferences and of course on the podium.

Why are you in such a good mood all the time – smiling and very friendly?

– If you had met me after my disqualification at the sprint relay you would have a different opinion about me, the Russian smiles.

At the sprint relay, she didn’t get the punch at one of the controls, but from then on she had a great flow.

What has happened this year? You have done very well also earlier, but it was terrific at the WOC, which took place in terrain you were not so used to.

– I have just taken it step by step and followed my training program this year. Of course, I increased everything a little bit. Volume, intensity and the amount of exercise and also I tried to recover my orienteering. In the past I lost my ability to run straight, but soon I got it back. When you work for something, the result will come sooner or later.

On the long distance in Strömstad, Natalia was in the lead for most of the race, but Tove Alexandersson was a little bit faster just at the end. The difference between the two was 26 seconds. The gap wasn’t big.

– I was 5th last year at WOC and 4th at the European Championships 2016. So all places higher than 4 I would consider a breakthrough. But of course every sportsperson dreams about gold.

The celebration trip

How have you celebrated the success?

– My husband Rolf and I celebrated our success by having a very nice dinner and talking a lot about the past.

How has the time been since you become a WOC medallist and also a gold medallist?

– We – my husband and I – went up to northern Finland by car to photo hunt for bears! It took us three days to get up to Kuusamo. We have not seen any bears yet, but we have been enjoying the beautiful Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) already.

The start

Natalia grew up in Moscow. At the age of 11, she and her twin sister Olga entered a sports school and that had a big influence on their sports lives.

– I started sports school to do ski sport, but our coach was an orienteer. He took me to my first orienteering competitions and I become hooked. Orienteering is always a challenge, always something new: new course, new terrain, new punching system. I just like it very much.

The coach’s words

At the age of 17, she found a professional orienteering coach who said to her, after watching her for just an hour in the forest: – In three years’ time, you will become a top five world elite.

About three years later, as a first year senior at the age of 20, she was 5th at the middle distance at WOC 2011 in France.

– From about the time the trainer said the words about what I could have possibilities to do, I have had a goal to step up among the very best.

The stop

Just after coming 5th at WOC, there was a big challenge.

– After WOC 2011 I found out that I had over trained and I lost all skills. It took a few years to come back to zero level and a few years more to bring my shape back up to top level.

This season she has really been back. At EOC in the Czech Republic she won gold on the sprint relay. On the middle distance she was 4th.

The success

What are the skills that make you so good?

– My orienteering is about composition. Composition of physical, mental, technical and tactical aspects. When one component does not work, the whole system will have problems. That means all of my skills should be on the highest level. For the past two years I have worked a lot with my husband on strengthening my physical and tactical skills. This has made my orienteering composition much more stable.

The o-sisters

When Natalia won gold, it was the second gold at a World Championship this season for the family. Her twin sister Olga Shipilova Vinogradova, who is ten minutes older than Natalia, won the middle distance at the World Championships in Mountain Bike Orienteering earlier this year. In 2014, Olga won gold in the long distance and the relay. In 2015 she became a mother, and her gold medal this year was won just ten months after giving birth.

– Both of us can do sport on the highest level and at the same time we are not in competition with each other. We can both be World Champions at the same time, like it happened this year.

How important have you been for each other growing up and in sports?

– Very important! We were together all the way up to Elite sport. She was my sparring partner and we grew up in youth because of this. A few times we did training when she was on the bike and the uphill speed for bike and for running could be equal. Now we can join each other only in the weightlifting training.

Why are both you and Olga doing so well?

– Because we are o-sisters.

The husband

At EOC this year, the 25-year-old athlete became a champion with the last name Vinogradova. At WOC her last name was a new one. On June 10 this year, she and Rolf Gemperle married. They met some years ago and have not only orienteering as common interest. They are also both very good with a camera.

– How we met? Our orienteering community is not too big. And even fewer people are in our elite branch. And still fewer people from our elite orienteering group have something to do with photography. That was the reason for Rolf inviting me to the photo tour in Iceland in August 2014. Since Iceland we have been a couple.

For sport, Rolf has been a great help for Natalia.

– He is a man who knows all about our elite sport! Our discussions about orienteering have solved my tactical and mental problems. He helped me to take sport to a professional level. And he is also the perfect sparring partner! We do a lot together: many long runs (25 km by 4.45speed is much better to do together), fast intervals, orienteering, training camps. Most importantly, he explained to me what “Umfeld” means. It is the last but a very important component in a sport career. It is of the same importance as physical, technical, tactical and mental aspects. I did not have it in the past.
The Russian-Swiss couple live in Aarau in Switzerland.

Rolf is a professional photographer. Natalia is also on a high level with the camera.

– I have liked photography for years. My best friend at my disaster WOCs from 2012
to 2013 was my camera. As soon as I met Rolf I began to do photography even more. Rolf is a professional nature photographer and he helped me improve my photo skill. But as soon as I understood that to be as good as him was a long way to go, I found out my another passion: making video! I film all my “passion travelling”. All my videos can be found on YouTube (o-sisters).

Not so prepared

Let’s go back to the WOC success. A lot of national teams had had a lot of training camps in Sweden. Natalia had had no training camp in advance.

– Once I went to Halden for the Nordic Tour, but there I was over trained and could not run well. And in 2014, when I also tried to train really hard in the Nordic terrain I had no success. I got sick and did not take part in the training camp and forest World Cup programme.

The club

Her club is the Swedish club Alfta Ösa, which gives her financial support and good training possibilities.

– We have a very good team with my team mate Galina Vinogradova and very good Swedish runners like Josefine Engström and Sara Eskilsson. From my first Tiomila for them in 2015 until last Jukola we have had only places in top six. It has been the most stable club for the last two years as far as I know. I’m ready to participate with the girls in relays next year.

The level

How will you work on the way to Estonia, where the World Orienteering Championships will be held in 2017?

– I would like to focus a little bit more on sprint next year. Also I want to further improve my technical skill in forest. For this purpose, I am going to a training camp in Estonia in October.

Text and photo: Erik Borg

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

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