Thierry Gueorgiou is back to the Portuguese Orienteering Blog's stage for another great interview. In the next lines, you can read about the French multi-champion's thoughts on a season that hasn't pleased him and his projects for those which will, most likely, be the last months as an elite orienteer.
I would like to start with a “relaxing” question. Being a football fan, how did you feel about the Portuguese victory against France in the European Championships final, last July?
Thierry Gueorgiou (T. G.) - I was following the final in the quiet environment of Sälen, as I was preparing for O-Ringen at that time and it was probably less hysterical than being in France at that time. The game itself, from a technical point of view, was not that exciting, as it is fair to say that those two teams weren't the ones with the best football. But the mental side of the game was really interesting to analysis. When Ronaldo was leaving the field after being injured, in the very first part of the game, the odds were clearly for France. We had our chances early on, but we did a huge mistake by not willing to risk more, and played too safe. But, minutes after minutes, when you realized that you might miss the chance of a lifetime (i.e. home win), the pressure starts to become negative and you let the momentum pass. The right time to press hard was when Ronaldo was leaving the field. It was the perfect moment to tell the Portuguese: “Thanks for playing, but it is not going to be your night!” Instead, they gained confidence seeing the French so defensive, and realized they could make it even without him. At the half-time, I heard Ronaldo did a great motivational speech for his guys, and even if he wasn't on the pitch anymore, he made a difference. That's probably what we were missing that night – a leader who inspired the others. It is no surprise that the only major titles we have won where when we had World class players like Platini or Zidane in our line-up. But a lot of my Portuguese friends were delighted that night, and my frustration didn't last too long.
Someone is the favourite but someone else wins. How often did it happen to you in the last years, considering that you're an “eternal” favourite?
T. G. - I can't really complain, you know. When I was a kid, I was always dreaming big, but the successes I got along my elite career has surpassed, by far, all my expectations. Favourite or not, the hardest challenge in sport is being mentally strong to deal with the disappointments, day in and day out, and still having the energy to come back the next day and to start fresh.
I know you've recently been to Scotland for a lecture and I believe that you had in the audience lots of boys and girls. What's the best advice to the youngsters who dream of being like you?
T. G. - Well, if they have a dream, they have already solved a big part of the problem. I would say that if you don't begin with a dream, if there isn't a reason to push forward, a reason to concentrate, a reason to discipline yourself, it's much harder to succeed. But the best advice I have for the youngsters is to have fun, and always see orienteering as a game. It might sound strange as orienteering has been a job for me the last thirteen years, but it's hard to succeed if you don't really enjoy what you are doing, if being on the start line of a WOC is not a perfect mixture of joy, excitement and stress.
How do you feel about being Orienteering´s ambassador?
T. G. - The kids are always so enthusiastic with me, and they literally fill me with their energy and spontaneity. I feel really grateful you know, and it is just great if I can bring back a little bit of all I got from orienteering.
A couple of days ago, you decided not to give up high competition, at least for another season. What motivates you to keep pushing?
T. G. - Competitive addiction, most probably!? As I've always said, it is hard to stop something you love deeply too.
Are you as "hungry" as you were?
T. G. - Obviously, probably not as much as 10-15 years ago. Each time that you win takes away a little bit of that hunger. Take the tennis player Nowak Djokovic for example. After being almost unstoppable earlier on this season, he got beaten lately by players he has always defeated. I believe it is not about his tennis skills, which are still pure perfection time to time, but more about his will to survive during a game. He is not ready to die for every single point like before, and this is it what makes the difference between the world's bests and the others. So, yeah, my hunger is probably different than some years ago, but I'm expecting to have a last boost of energy as it will probably be my last months as an elite orienteer.
You'll be 38 next year and you've been at the top for a long time. Do you feel your age? Have you had to adapt? Was skipping the European Championships this season an example of “adaptation”?
T. G. - Ahah, of course, I feel my age, and to be honest, when I wake up I feel more like ninety-six... My body no longer feels like my body, especially in the morning. In fact, you have to adapt all the time, you can't hope to press the same buttons to get the same results. You change all the time, all along your career, and what was working two years ago might not work anymore, there's a constant need to find new solutions to reach the same result. It is what makes it interesting. Lately, I remembered seeing Mister Jörgen Mårtensson warming up, when I did my World Cup debut in 1998. I was 19, he was 39. He was quite rusty and looked more like a prehistoric dinosaur, than a cheetah. But that day, in Slovakian mountains, he crushed everyone once again. It is my turn now to find a way to make a good use of my rusty body. I should probably invest more in recovering, and look even more for quality instead of quantity (read: bring back sprint training!)
How do you rate your WOC results? Were you expecting something better than the silver in the Long Distance, and the 4th place in the Middle?
T. G. - Since a while now, WOC for me is about winning or failing, there is not much “in-between”, and therefore, I'm not pleased with the results I got in Strömstad. Especially in the middle distance, where I could have reach my goal with better route in two of the legs. At the long distance, it took me too much time to really find an offensive pace, and it was already too late to challenge Olav. There are plenty of small things I've not been happy with, and I'm already working hard to be better prepared next time. I wouldn't say I enjoy failing, I still hate that, but I find it more meaningful in many ways, and I'll try to use my frustration as a source of energy.
What other moments do you see as really important this season?
T. G. - Spring is never the ideal time (if there is any…) to be injured and I struggled a bit with a shin inflammation in March. I couldn't run for three weeks, and felt like I lost part of the good flow I had all over last winter. But winning O-Ringen in Sälen was, for sure, something special.
What was the best Orienteering achievement of the year, in your opinion?
T. G. - It's always hard to pick only one specific achievement as there are plenty of success who go unnoticed. Of course, the breakthrough of Emily Kemp is clearly one of the highlights of the season. But I would choose the “home wins” of Tove Alexandersson and Jerker Lysell – to be able to deliver the day where the expectations are at the highest means a lot about your character and skills.
We now have a big gap until the next really important competitions. What are your plans for the Winter season?
T. G. - Spend as little time as possible in the Swedish snow and cold ; )