Jens Andersson won, last weekend, the Swedish Night PreO title, closing the best way a successful season. A season that is passed in review along a pleasant talk and that helps us to know a little better the athlete and the man.
I would start by asking you to present yourself? Who is Jens Andersson?
Jens Andersson (J. A.) - I was born 1966 in Degerfors, a small town in Värmland, Sweden. My dad started to do orienteering (Foot-O) in the early 1970’s, I also tried it and I was hooked immediately. My mom and little brother also joined soon and since then we have been a “hardcore orienteering family”. From the very beginning I was talented technically but I had to train hard to improve my running speed in order to have a chance on easier courses. I gradually improved and my peak as a junior was my 4th place in the Nordic Champs 1986. As a senior I managed to get some individual top-10 places in the Swedish Champs 1989-1990 and also won gold in the Swedish Relay Championships 1990 with my club OK Tyr. We also won the 10-mila Relay twice, 1989 and 1990. However, I never qualified for any international championship as a senior and when I graduated from University as a Chemical Engineer in 1991 and started to work full time it was difficult to maintain the focus and training time needed to stay in the top.
Since 1990 I am married with Carolina, also a former elite orienteer and we have a son and a daughter. After 15 years living in the small town Norrtälje, 70 km north of Stockholm, we have recently moved back to Värmland where I grew up. We have built a new house by a beautiful lake, far out in the forest. Professionally I am a sales person in an international Chemicals Distribution company, meaning quite a lot of travelling. When I am not working I relax by spending time with my family and by doing all four orienteering disciplines. I also try to keep myself in shape by doing cross-country skiing, cycling, ice-skating, swimming, triathlon etc.
How did you meet the TrailO and why your interest for such a “quiet” discipline?
J. A. - I had understood from the publicity during WOC in Sweden 2004 that TrailO was no longer only for handicapped people. So I became interested to try it since I have always been good at map-reading and interested in maps. During O-Ringen 2009 I was injured in my leg after three days so I decided to try TrailO for the remaining days. After these two days I understood that this was a discipline that suited me perfectly and I was curious to see what level I could reach.
What's the best part in TrailO?
J. A. - I love detailed and challenging orienteering, both in FootO and TrailO. However, the good thing with TrailO is that you can enjoy this type of advanced orienteering regardless of your physical shape. I also like the equality aspect of TrailO – no gender or age restrictions. In this discipline you get the chance to compete against old childhood idols like Sigurd Daehli and, at the same time, against young talented women like Marit Wiksell and Iva Lovrec.
Could you tell me something about the first steps?
J. A. - During my first year I did some really good races but there were also total disasters, mostly since I did not really understand how the correct positions on the objects corresponded with the control description. I also often punched too many Z’s in the beginning and I had to adjust my own “zero tolerance”. When I won the Elite class in O-Ringen 2010 I felt that it was a breakthrough for me. One week after that I won the Public competition in ETOC in Bollnäs which had the same controls as the “Real” championship class. My result would have given me a 4th place in the Open Class in ETOC, beating world class athletes like Kontkanen, Fredholm, Gerdtman, Jullum etc. Then I knew I could go far in this discipline.
Your results along 2016 are quite impressive. How did you prepare the season?
J. A. - I was very uncertain on my status before this season. My family’s new house project took a lot of time in 2015 so I did not compete as much as needed and it affected my position in the Swedish ranking list. Nevertheless, since I did quite well in some of my main competitions in 2015 (1st in O-Ringen, 2nd in Swedish Champs) I hoped to qualify at least for the ETOC in 2016. At that stage I had no real ambitions to qualify for WTOC in Sweden, that would just be a bonus.
Unfortunately, it became clear that also the 2016 season would mean private restrictions on the number of competitions for me. The house project continued to take a lot of time and I got a new job with more travelling than before. Somewhat disappointing, especially since I knew that I need to compete frequently to maintain a high level at the time controls. In the end I was a little bit surprised, but very glad that I managed to qualify both for ETOC and WTOC this year.
How hard is to get a place in the Swedish TrailO team?
J. A. - Extremely hard, especially in the Open class. I think we are approximately 10 athletes having the ability to make it to the podium in the Open class of any International Championship.
Did you expect the PreO bronze medal in the European Championships? What memories do you keep from the competition?
J. A. - I can’t say that I expected a medal but I knew that I had a good chance when I managed to qualify. From the bulletins I thought that the type of orienteering would suit me fine, lots of small hills, depressions and detailed form lines. I also knew that the courses would be demanding with short time limits and many controls. In my last ETOC and WTOC 2014 I was very nervous and that affected my performance in a bad way. This time I told myself that I am as good as anyone of my competitors and that I would enjoy every moment of the competitions. I actually succeeded and did not feel overly nervous at all, just the little “edge” you need to perform well.
My greatest memory from the ETOC PreO-competitions was that they were the best TrailO-competitions I have ever experienced: The competition areas were ideal and “hand-picked” exclusively for elite TrailO, the map quality was excellent and we faced fair, but demanding orienteering including the zero-controls. No “guessing”. Besides, the Sport Ident-punching, the results came directly without waiting for hours as it has been too many times before. It was also beautiful nature in the Czech mountains and I managed to get some nice running and hiking sessions during the week in Jesenik.
Are you happy with your 7th place in Strömstad, in the PreO competition?
J. A. - A 7th place in the World Championships is not bad, of course, but it was a little disappointing to be just outside the podium and also being behind all the other Swedes. However, it was entirely my own fault since I missed one of the time controls the first day.
Was the TrailO Relay a good experience?
J. A. - Yes, both in ETOC and WTOC I did really good performances myself, but unfortunately my team mates were not that lucky. I really like the Relay format, the mix of PreO and TempO. My personal opinion is that such a format could be added to the individual program as TrailO’s “middle distance” in the future.
If I asked you to choose the Trail Orienteering achievement of 2016, what would it be?
J. A. - I would say the Slovakian Relay performance in WTOC. Three perfect races, leaving all other teams without any chance at all. Really impressive!
Looking to your page on Facebook, I can see that you're also a fan of MTBO. How do you adjust your orienteering activity?
J. A. - Yes, I really enjoy doing MTBO since I love both orienteering and cycling. The special thing about MTBO is the big difference in speed depending on the track conditions and that is very difficult to read the map when the riding is rough. This means very interesting route choice problems and also the need to optimize the speed and to get the “orienteering flow” in dense path networks. It is also important to memorize as much as possible while riding on good paths/roads.
In what way can TrailO be important for the other disciplines?
J. A. - If you really want to improve as an orienteer, regardless of discipline, it is always good to train with a map in your hand and then TrailO is a good alternative, both PreO and TempO. Otherwise, I think especially ambitious Foot-O runners can improve their ability in detailed contour line orienteering by doing PreO. In addition it is also a good way of maintaining the orienteering and doing competitions even if you are injured as a foot orienteer.
Next year it will be the turn of Lithuania to host the World Trail Orienteering Championships. Are you ready to fight for a place in the Swedish team? What kind of event are you expecting?
J. A. - I really would like to qualify but unfortunately it does not look so positive for me. I am not even Top-10 in the national ranking now since I have too few good results besides ETOC and WTOC. Unfortunately, ETOC and WTOC-competitions doesn’t count in the Swedish ranking and that’s where I have my best races this year. Furthermore, I am not sure if I will have the time available to do the number of competitions needed to qualify. I’ll have to see how much travel time there will be in my new job a then see how much time that will be left for travelling to TrailO-competitions.
What are your goals for 2017?
J. A. - No specific goals for the moment, I’ll wait and see how much TrailO I’ll be able to do next year. At least I hope for a medal in the Swedish TrailO-Championships and also doing good in the Swedish MTBO masters championships. I also hope for a lot of snow this winter so I can do some SkiO also.
Are we going to see you next the TrailO family in the future?
J. A. - We'll see. You never know what the future will bring, but I'll keep on enjoying TrailO and all the other orienteering disciplines as long as I can and as long as it is fun.
Now that the season is ending, I'll ask you to make a wish to all orienteers in 2017.
J. A. - I’d like to make a wish to all TrailO-colleagues out there: Whenever you feel the urge to make a protest/complaint after a competition, please think twice! Is it really that important? Do you have a strong case? I think all these protests, arguments and jury discussions after our competitions are hurting the image of our sport as it takes hours and hours and sometimes changes the results completely. Also a message to all course setters – please, listen to experienced advisers and remove/change controls that he/she says may be questionable. Maybe a few controls less or maybe somewhat easier, but in the end it can give better competitions and save hours of jury meetings and hard feelings.