Saturday, December 10, 2016

IOF Athlete of the Month: Veronika Kubínová

Four gold medals out of four possible was the outstanding result for Veronika Kubínová after the Junior World MTBO Championships this summer in Portugal. Raised into the sport is no disadvantage but behind the clean sweep is a special talent, an incredible amount of training hours – and a home-assembled bike.

Name: Veronika Kubínová
Date of Birth: 29th April 1997
Living place: Karlovy Vary, the Czech Republic
Study: University of West Bohemia – Physical Education and Sport for Education (Pilsen)
Coach: Honza Novák
Club: TJ Slovan Karlovy Vary
Highlights: 7 JWMTBOC gold medals: 2014: Sprint and Relay, 2015: Sprint, 2016: Sprint, Middle, Long and Relay.
IOF MTBO World Ranking: 32nd

Four medals in four races at JWMTBOC was the culmination of the season of a junior career that still has one year left. In Veronika Kubínová’s summary of the week, the word dream recurs:

– The hardest race was the first one – the sprint. It was a big achievement for me to make a hat trick in Sprint [she won gold at JWMTBO Sprint in both 2014 and 2015] and do it in 35 degrees. I really hate heat! I focused on the race and I tried to forget about the uncomfortable weather. After the first victory at the championships, I felt so confident. At every race, I used all my powers and I still had enough speed on the Relay. I was unstoppable this week. I usually have weird and impossible dreams but the week in Portugal was more than the weirdest dream I have ever had, she says.

No surprise

The results Veronika Kubínová delivered at JWMTBOC 2016 were amazing but they did not come from nowhere. At the age of 16, she won a bronze medal in the Sprint in her debut at a JWMTBOC. She had previously competed in the European Youth MTBO Championships, but JWMTBOC was her first big challenge:

– I regard JWMTBOC in Estonia in 2013 as my first major event. I remember every single day, especially the day when I achieved my first medal. I found new friends, gained valuable experience and had an amazing week, she says.

The following years she proved that it was not just a lucky sprint race she did in Estonia in 2013. In both 2014 and 2015, she won the Sprint distance still being among the youngest in the field. In 2014, she also got a second position in Middle, third in Long and was a part of the winning Czech relay team. Those years made the foundation for the great achievement in 2016:

– JWMTBO in both 2014 and 2015 developed my mental preparation towards events. At the sprint race in Poland in 2014, I had to be third or better to improve from 2013. I was nervous, as I had never been before. My dad and my coach helped me really much but the last minutes before the start were only my fight. I made it – both in 2014 and 2015. Achieving a gold medal on the Sprint distance taught me how to keep calm before start, she says.

Talent, training and luck

The way into MTBO was not that complicated for Veronika Kubínová. Her father was a part of the Czech MTBO national team 13 years ago and together with her sister and mother, the family has often spent part of their holidays orienteering:

– My father introduced MTBO to the family but he did not push me into the sport. I started to do a few MTBO races but for a long time I just did MTBO together with my family on holidays. It is perfect that I can share the joy of orienteering with some of the people I have closest, she says.

Even though you have been riding MTBO since your childhood, winning a medal at JWMTBOC in the age of 16 and every year since is not usual. Veronika admits that she might be especially talented:

– Talent is not everything but I agree that it is important. I think I am kind of talented for endurance sports and for working with a map. However, my success is built on training. On the other side, you also need a little bit of luck. You race on a bike so there are many risks of something breaking, she says.

As well as talent and a huge amount of training, an important part in Veronika Kubínová’s success is placed in the Czech MTBO community. The Czech Republic has managed to build up a strong groups of juniors which is described in a separate article here.

A bike from a box

For many mountain bikers a bike is not just a bike. Veronika Kubínová would not say she is that nerdy with equipment for her bike, but it is definitely not random which one she rides:

– Gear and equipment do not mean that much to me. But of course, I have had a vision of my dream bike. Dreams come true and since August, I have had a new bike from Thömus. I liked that bike since the first touch. I customized it on my own. And the best thing is that I built it on my own. Step by step pieces in a box grew to my beautiful bike, she says.

From 2017, Veronika Kubínová and her beloved bike will get the opportunity to compete in a new format with the addition of a mass-start to the programme for major MTBO events. Personally, she is not that much into mass-starts but thinks it will be good for the sport:

– Honestly, I do not like mass-starts no matter what kind of sport it is. From a spectators and media’ point of view I can see it being attractive so I think it is a good idea for the sport. For athletes it will be a new challenge. It will be hard to race five times in a week but it will no problem in the junior class. I like all types of distances so I do not want to skip any, she says.

Junior with large ambitions

2017 will be Veronika Kubínová’s last year as junior, although she has already been racing in the women’s elite class, most recently at the final World Cup round in 2016 in Lithuania. She raced both Sprint, Middle and Long, with her best performance in the Long an 11th position as best Czech female rider – beating world champion on the Long distance from 2015 Martina Tichovska.

The senior class provides more challenges with stronger rivals and longer distances and Veronika aims to get more experience in the senior class. However, next year will still be with focus on the junior class. With the mass start added to the programme, a fifth medal is within reach for Veronika Kubínová.

You have won everything possible to win as junior. You still have one year left. What motivates you to JWMTBOC next year in Lithuania?

– Achieve 5 gold medals! No seriously, I would like to prove that my success in Portugal was not by chance. It is not hard to achieve a title; the hard thing is to defend it. I do not lack motivation. I love this sport, Veronika Kubínová says.

Text: Henrik Rindom Knudsen
Photos: Joaquim Margarido and Veronika Kubínová

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

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