Thursday, October 06, 2016

Jorge Valente: "If Portugal can, why can’t we?"

TrailO, a challenging and vibrant Orienteering discipline, continues to add new and young athletes to its ‘cause’. In Strömstad, Sweden, we met 16 years old Jorge Valente, a natural born talent and a potential winner. He tells us about an outstanding experience and his motivation to continue to improve.

I would start by asking you who is Jorge Valente?

Jorge Valente (J. V.) - I was born in Madrid, Spain, on the 11th September 1999. After 17 years, I still live here, in a town near Madrid. Right now I’m finishing my last course before entering the University, yet I’m not 100% sure about what am I going to study there, although it will probably be either physics or mathematics (or even both at the same time!). I like playing computer games, basketball, hanging out with my friends, and of course, doing both foot orienteering and trail orienteering.

I can imagine that your connection to orienteering has a lot to do with your family, particularly with your father. Am I right? Would you like to tell about how everything starts?

J. V. - Certainly, I started doing orienteering since I can remember. I went to races with my family for a long time until my mother and sister stopped, six or seven years ago. Since then it has been mostly my father and I. For my dad it all started before I was born. My uncle was a P.E. teacher and knew about the sport and participated in some races. This is how my dad knew orienteering, and since then he hasn’t stopped going to races.

And what about trail orienteering? Was it a matter of curiosity?

J. V. - As it couldn’t be otherwise, it was with my dad that I discovered the trail orienteering. He told me about this new orienteering discipline and I decided to give it a try.

What memories do you keep from the first experience? What happened than? Don't you ever thought in giving up?

J. V. - The first one was in Italy, during the World Masters Orienteering Championships, in 2013, and it was quite a disaster. At the first control, just after receiving the map and the control card, I stepped off the path and ran straight to the kites, just as if it was a foot-o event. I got very surprised when I was told that I wasn't allowed to do that. “How am I going to solve it then?”. Since then, I started learning with each event. First I had a lot of mistakes because of not paying enough attention to the kites' position... but, anyway, I never thought of giving up. It was fun.

When do you “weigh” the foot orienteering and the trail orienteering, which is the heaviest? Why?

J. V. - I have to outweigh foot-O over trail-O, since I've been in foot-o for nearly 14 years and in trail-o around 2. What I like the most in foot-o is that it’s quite easy for you to see why didn’t you win and what you have to do to make it better (maybe run faster, take better decisions, improve your map reading…), while in trail-o you might have three mistakes and fall down completely in the standings, but you still don’t understand why did you fail those controls or, more importantly, what should you do in order do not fail again those kind of controls.

You headed Strömstad with just a couple of races, both in Spain and Portugal. How did you receive the invitation to represent Spain?

J. V. - In Spain there is just one national trail-o event each year, and it’s during the National Championships. Due to the high costs of the participation in the WTOC, there are not enough people to make a full process of selection. As I had good results in the Spanish competitions, I talked to the Spanish coach showing my interest of going to the WTOC and he decided to select me. I felt like it would be an interesting experience to be in a World Championships, and it would also make me to improve a lot in trail-o.

What goals did you set to the first experience at the highest level? Were the results as you expected?

J. V. - My goal wasn’t really the result but the event itself. I wanted to perform well overall, never mind how I ended up in the standings. On the TempO I would maybe have expected something better, but on the PreO my expectations were a little worse than I actually ended up doing.

How was your week in Strömstad? Being quite young, how did you feel in the middle of a crowd of “old chaps”?

J. V. - I think I never felt uncomfortable with the situation there. Maybe sometimes a little bit shy and nervous for being in a WTOC with such good competitors, but, after all, we were all the same, TrailO competitors, whatever our age or physical condition. The atmosphere was much calmer than I had expected. It’s a place with much more focus and quietness than what you find in a foot-o event, where there is noise everywhere and you are moving around the arena.

How do you evaluate the WTOC 2016 overall? Would you like to point the best and the worst?

J. V. - Overall I think it was an amazing Championship. The best part was the online results' system, which allowed to live the competition much closer to reality than before. This was especially outlined during the TrailO Relay, where you could see with your eyes the development of the event that decided the final results. About the negative aspects, I can’t come up with anything really bad. Maybe the timetable, quite heavy, making it hard to do other things while there. It might have been a good idea to change earlier the team officials meeting, so that your afternoon was a bit calmer.

I have a particular question for you: How did you live the TrailO Relay's final moments, particularly when your father was doing the TempO station?

J. V. - My dad and I were on the 3rd leg for our respective countries, and we were together in the quarantine when Libor [Forst, the SEA] announced the starting order for the final TempO station. I was a bit disappointed with the position for Spain, but this feeling disappeared when more and more countries were mentioned but not Portugal. Fourth position! That already was an incredible result. But then, after completing my own TempO tasks, I found out that Portugal was actually third and only a fraction behind Sweden! When my dad headed to the station I was really nervous, and when he nailed it I was overcome with joy. It was incredible!

Do you consider the Portuguese silver medal as the big achievement of the Championships or there are other moments that you would elect as the best?

J. V. - It was, undoubtedly, the greatest moment of the WTOC.

Did you agree with me if I told you that this medal is a little bit of Spain too?

J. V. - I completely agree. This medal for Portugal means that TrailO will grow a lot there; there will be more people interested, more money to invest on new events and training, and so on. And this will also bump up TrailO in Spain because of how close we are to each other. If Portugal can, why can’t we? With improvements in quality and quantity in Portuguese TrailO, Spanish TrailO will learn faster and we can probably put on more and better Pre-O and Temp-O events in Spain

Is part of your goals for the next year a presence in Lithuania?

J. V. - Yes. Before coming to the WTOC 2016 I wasn’t really into TrailO, but now I’m much more motivated for the next TrailO events and I'm already looking forward to Lithuania next year.

Are we going to see you part of the trail-o family for a long time?

J. V. - As long as there are events in Spain and Portugal.

Joaquim Margarido

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