Friday, November 18, 2016

IOF Athlete of the Month: Sabine Hauswirth

Sabine Hauswirth had a tentative start in orienteering, struggling with the anxiety of getting lost. But the love of the sport meant that she carried on, finally making it to the national team. Even a brief retirement from the sport couldn’t keep her away for long, and now she is one of the very best.

Name: Sabine Hauswirth
Date of Birth: December 8th 1987
Place of Birth: Belp
Living place: Belp, ten kilometer from Bern, the capital of Switzerland
Work: Orienteer / part time worker for OCAD
Coaches: Brigitte Wolf, Vroni König-Salmi (national coach), Thomas Bührer (physical trainer), Andrea Binggeli (mental trainer)
Clubs: ol norska (Switzerland), Halden SK (Norway and international)
Highlights: WOC gold relay 2014, EOC gold relay 2014, 2 second places in individual World Cup races, number 4 overall 2016, 7th middle WOC 2016, 10th WOC long 2016
IOF World Ranking: 13 sprint, 8 middle and long
Home page:

From getting lost to retirement and injuries to becoming one of the world’s best

The start wasn’t the best and in early senior age, Sabine Hauswirth retired. Now she’s one of the very best, but there is still something missing.

Hauswirth grew up in Belp, 10 kilometer southeast of Bern, the capital of Switzerland.
– I grew up with two sisters and one brother in a big house with a wonderful garden where we had much room to play and run around, the soon 29-year-old says.

Sabine got to know orienteering at an early age.
– All family members did some orienteering, but now it’s mainly me and my father. Through him, I found the way to the orienteering sport, but because I love a lot of different sports I first started with doing orienteering when I was about 13 years old.

Active outdoor childhood

Sabine loved to spend time outside and took part in a lot of different activities in her childhood and as a teenager. Climbing trees, cycling to school, athletics and cross country skiing were only some of her activities. In the local athletics club, Satus Belp, she did pentathlon until she was about 18 years old.

My favorite discipline was running, especially the 1000 meter. But I also did some triathlons, even though I was not able to do the crawl style swimming. Therefore, I was often the last one out of the water but then I could make up some places on the bike and at the running.

Picking up the map and compass

One of her first memories from orienteering is a training where she got lost before she had even reached the first control.

I was always a little afraid of getting lost and therefore anxious of going alone into the forest, but finally I found out which sport I wanted to continue. That was orienteering.

When did you understand that you are one of the very few that can do incredible well?

I do not know if I have understood that yet, she smiles.

Took a break from the top level

Sabine took part in JWOC both in 2006 and 2007. In 2007, her last year as a junior, she won a medal in the relay when Switzerland took bronze. Silje Ekroll Jahren was on the Norwegian team who won. Silje has been living in Bern for some years and runs for ol norska together with Sabine.
There was a time in early senior age when Hauswirth started to think that she might not be able to reach the world’s top level.

After competing at my first WOC in 2009 I started my studies in geography and suddenly found it difficult to fit everything together – training, studying, work to earn some money and having a relationship. Therefore, I quit the national team after the season 2010 because I wanted to focus on my studies.

The return

Sabine wasn’t away from the top level very long, for she soon understood that her time in top level sports wasn’t over yet.

When I took the break, I realised that orienteering is the best sport I have ever done, and I started to miss the competitions in foreign countries. After one year, I decided to make a comeback, and since then I have been sure that I really want to become better and I have put orienteering first. I wanted to find out where that could lead, and I also knew that I had a lot more potential if I only managed to train regularly, and be more efficient and disciplined.

Struggles with injuries

It took some years to reach great success. After a foot injury in 2012, she missed taking part in the World Championships in Switzerland, although she was a reserve.

It took me a long time to find my way back to a good shape. It wasn’t until the 4th place at the Word cup in Turkey in February–March just over two years ago that my results started to improve.

The secret to success

Why are you doing so well?

I guess one part of my success is based on the orienteering break I had. I really want to become better and try to fulfill my potential. On the other hand, maps are a passion for me and whenever I am without a map I feel a little lost. Nevertheless, my memory of places is very good and it has already helped me many times to find my way back. But it is not just the orienteering technique. During the past few years I was lucky enough to be free of major injuries, so I could build up a good physical base level, which is paying off now.

Sport and work

Sabine has finished her bachelor in geography and is currently on a break from studying to be able to focus on orienteering. But because the Swiss cannot live on the sport she has a part-time job, about 20 percent at OCAD Inc.

The job is also related to geography and especially cartography. I was happy to find a job which combines what I learnt during my studies and my sport and I am also extremely glad that they let me work flexible hours, which means that I am working more in winter and less during the summer when there are a lot of competitions.

Fast boyfriend

Sabine’s boyfriend Rolf Wermelinger used to do a lot of orienteering until he was 20 years old. Wermlinger was member of the regional squad, but never reached the highest level.

– His running speed was always fast but he was not willing to invest more time in the map reading. However, from time to time he still does some orienteering and he especially likes relays. He ran the long night course at Tiomila, and has done for the past two years.

When they lived together in Halden in Norway he did a bit more orienteering and enjoyed the club trainings, and he also cycled a lot and competed in “Grenserittet” and other cycle races.

The Norwegian stay

During the last two years, Sabine has in total spent about six months living in Halden in Norway, just 20–50 kilometres from where WOC was organized in Strömstad.

It was a great opportunity to get more self confidence in the Nordic terrain and the club trainings were always very well organised. I also enjoyed the club life and made a lot of new and good friends. I would like to thank Halden SK for the great support! It is always a pleasure to run for that club.

The last two years with Halden SK have been very exciting and Sabine is looking forward to more years with the Norwegian club.

Double champion

In 2016 you’ve been better than ever, but in 2014 you won relay gold at EOC and WOC, what would you describe as your biggest success?

It’s hard to say! 2014 was a special season. It was my first EOC and then we won the relay gold. Only some weeks later we managed to win the WOC relay too. That was incredible. Running relays is always something special, if you win it is great to celebrate with your teammates and it is not just your achievement but that of the whole team. That makes it special, but on the other hand it is even harder if you do not perform well so that you destroy a good team result. However, in 2016 I managed to perform well the whole season apart from the World Cup in Poland. Winning Jukola together with the Halden Coolchicks is one of the best things I ever experienced!

The fan club

Sabine has her own fan club – The “Sabe Fan- und Gönnerclub”. It was founded in spring 2014 and its goal is to support Hauswirth on her way to the international top. All members pay an annual membership fee and in return there is a fan club event at least once a year. At the moment, the fan club counts about 75. New members are always welcome on, find out more here.

The future

Sabine is looking forward to more championships.

If everything goes as planned I will continue at least until 2018 when EOC is in Switzerland. I have never had the opportunity to compete at an international championship in my home country, but going on what I have experienced at the World Cup races in Switzerland I presume that it will be great. Obviously WOC 2019 in Norway also highly attracts me, but I have not decided yet if I will continue for that long.

There is one thing still missing?

Of course, I dream of an individual WOC or EOC medal, but so many factors are essential to deliver a top performance on the day X. Some of them can be influenced and some others can’t, however I am working on it and as long as I have the opportunity to compete in orienteering on a high level I will fight for that individual medal.

Text and photo: Erik Borg

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

No comments:

Post a Comment