Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Is Trail Running killing Orienteering?

The word “choice” is one of the most employed in the Orienteering lexicon, being part of its essence as a sport. On the 14th and 15th January, in the opening round of the Vitalis Portuguese Foot Orienteering League 2017, several of the best portuguese orienteers made the “choice” to miss the event at Lagoon of Ervedeira. Let's try to know why.

Held in Lagoon of Ervedeira, Leiria, the first round of the Vitalis Portuguese Foot Orienteering League 2017 attracted nearly six hundred participants, a number that should be considered excellent compared to the current panorama of the sport in Portugal. Contrasting with these numbers, however, the Elite category registered a competitiveness index lower than expected, with the best national orienteers missing the event. In order to find a reason why, we talked to Tiago Martins Aires, Miguel Reis e Silva and Leonel Vieito, trying to answer some pressing questions that arise the Portuguese Orienteering currently.

Surely, it was not the lack of organizational quality that motivated such absence. The Clube de Orientação do Centro has always been an organizational bastion in Portugal and its events have the “seal of quality”. The coastal terrains, the micro-relief and vegetation of the Atlantic Forest and the challenge of the courses are enough reasons to attract the best athletes in the World, especially in the Winter. The accessibilities also aren't an excuse to miss the event, since this is one of the areas of this country that can please “Greeks and Trojans”, that is to say, people from the North and from the South of the country. So, what led Tiago Aires and Mariana Moreira, Raquel Costa and Tiago Romão, among others, to not attend the event in Leiria? We might find the answer in Portalegre, in the so called “Trail of the Kings / Delta Cafés”, a Trail Running event framed in the National Circuit of the Trail Running Portugal Association.

Orienteering has no fashion, style, color”

Recognized by many as the best Portuguese orienteer ever, Tiago Aires joined to the first place in the Vitalis Portuguese Foot Orienteering League 2016 the title of National Trail Running Champion, also becoming the best Portuguese athlete in the recent Trail Running World Championships, after finishing in the 13th position. Speaking to the Portuguese Orienteering Blog about his “polyvalence”, he immediately ends all speculation: “Orienteering is, and will always be, the best sport in the World”, he says. But adds: “I think it's too simplistic to look at the Orienteering crisis as a duel with Trail Running, anyway. Orienteering's problems are, in its core, the lack of publicity and the inability to attract new people to practise this sport.”

Analysing what happened at Lagoa da Ervedeira, Tiago Aires notes that “six orienteers were present at Trail of the Kings, in Portalegre, but many others are in Athletics, Triathlon or simply moved away for other reasons. At a time when running is at its peak, associated to the open air and the wide natural spaces, what's happening in Orienteering is obviously our fault. We should, from my point of view, look at Trail as an opportunity to conquer new audiences. It's people that already are in our intervention area who only need to entrench the map reading as something cool, adventurous, challenging, epic, mental resilient, etc. ... all viral expressions”. Tiago Aires explains that “for getting the 'crest of the wave' it's necessary to be in social media networking sites, to have a 'show off' image. Many athletes from the Trail come to ask for information about Orienteering but, as soon as they check the Portuguese Orienteering Federation's site, the will disappears”. For Tiago Aires, “Orienteering has no fashion, style, color; for this reason, the sporting goods companies don't associate to us”. And he warns: “Not to accept these facts is to die alone.”

Many see Trail runners as traitors”

Keeping the criticism tone, Tiago Aires adds: “Whenever I have a chance, I speak of Orienteering, I'm recognized in the world of Trail Running as an orienteer but, unfortunately, Orienteering doesn't take any advantage of this and is increasingly closed in itself. Many see Trail runners as traitors, which is quite representative of the old-fashioned and unrealistic mentality that hovers over some of the decision makers of our sport”. And again: “This is undoubtedly a very relevant subject, but also, to the same extent, difficult to approach. You can always count on me to work for Orienteering, but not in this line, aimlessly, without purpose, without ambition. We've been sailing rudderlessly for too long”, he concludes.

It has never been a priority of the Federation to have a good image”

Miguel Reis e Silva is one of the “traitors” who Tiago Aires refers to, having been out of the team for the WOC 2014, because of being “interested in mountain races only” (see HERE the Interview to the Portuguese Orienteering Blog). But that is in the past and, for him, there's nothing that Trail Running has that Orienteering doesn't: “These are similar sports, which are practised in the same environment, with Orienteering having the additional challenge of navigation”, he says. Miguel Silva started practising Orienteering at the age of 10 and continues to practise it whenever he can, but ... “Orienteering requires intense navigational training and, living in Lisbon, this means traveling at least 100 km to get it done with quality”, he acknowledges. With Trail Running, everything is different and much simpler: “In the Trail, I just need to run, training specifically from the moment I leave home, which gives me a greater satisfaction. In addition, I don't need to travel constantly to practise on relevant terrains, which simplifies the articulation with the less free time I have now”. In brief, Miguel Silva continues to practice Orienteering, but “less competitively, for pure pleasure”, he says.

Addressing specially to the Orienteering crisis, Miguel Silva recalls that his generation came from School Sports. “It was a time when there was an investment from the Government in School Sports, with multiple camps and competitions”, remembers the athlete. The truth is that economic crisis led to a large disinvestment in School Sports and “the main source of athletes for the Federation has dried up and there isn't still a generation to replace us in the Elite level”, he adds. On the other hand, the athlete believes that “it has never been a priority of the Federation to have a good image and to know how to sell it, investing in a serious marketing strategy. This is fundamental, according to the rules of contemporary society and, unlike Trail, the Portuguese Orienteering Federation didn't follow them”, he says. With a long-term investment, Miguel Reis e Silva believes that it's possible to reverse things, because “there are lots of potential orienteers, being the Trail athletes, all without exception, in the first line”, he says.

The numbers are clearly insufficient to sustain a Federation with a minimum of quality”

The Portuguese Orienteering Blog also wanted to hear the thoughts of the events's organizers, that is, the clubs, after all the most penalized ones by the situation. Leonel Vieito is the President of Clube de Orientação do Centro, the club which organized the event on 14th and 15th January, and starts reminding that “for some years now I've been warning for this situation. According to my predictions, we would close the year of 2016 with an average participation of about 300 athletes per event which was not far from the reality. The numbers are clearly insufficient to sustain a Federation with a minimum of quality.”

Like other orienteering clubs in Portugal, Clube de Orientação do Centro has been organizing Trail Running events in recent years. Leonel Vieito doesn't find any contradiction in this “duality”, because “the public of Trail is completely different” and “a Trail Running event is a good source of income for the sustainability of the club”, remembering that “COC's annual budget exceeds 15,000 euros in expenses with Orienteering and it's not organizing one or two Orienteering events a year - not counting those we organize, knowing that will be detrimental, such as MTB Orienteering and Trail Orienteering - that you can sustain a club of this magnitude”.

We continue to neglect the formation and captivation of new people”

Considering that the crisis in Orienteering “has to do with countless small factors that, added to each other, are tiring people, taking them to give up”, Vieito notes that “this sport isn't easy and it takes time to take some pleasure of it. You don't become an Orienteering fan with a couple of participations and if, during this learning process, you're facing obstacles that makes you feel bad, you easily turn off”, he says. “Much more remains to be said, and this is really a subject that must be discussed by all stakeholders. But, from my point of view, we remain very involved with Elite and World teams and athletes and we continue to neglect the formation and captivation of new people to practise the sport”, he concludes.

Photo: Miro Cerqueira / Prozis

Joaquim Margarido

[The Portuguese Orienteering Blog tried to know the position on this matters of the President of the Portuguese Orienteering Federation, Marco Póvoa, but didn't receive any answer to the submitted questions so far]

Monday, January 30, 2017

Sondre Ruud Bråten: "I love to win!"

With the bronze medal achieved in his first presence in a World Championship, Sondre Ruud Bråten exploded from unknown to a Trail Orienteering star in a blink of an eye. Today, he recalls the glorious journey of Zagreb and reveals some ambitious goals for the future.

Let’s start by an easy question: Who is Sondre Ruud Bråten?

Sondre Ruud Bråten (S. R. B.) - Yeah, I’m 24 years old, born and raised in Jessheim, north of Oslo. Now I live in Oslo and I’m 100% Elite TrailO athlete, working as a substitute teacher and orienteering coach in Nydalens SK.

When did you find out that your future would be the TrailO?

S. R. B. - As both my parents were passionate about the sport, I can say I was born into orienteering. For the upgrade to TrailO I have to blame my brother, Vetle. We were injured at the same time, and Vetle tried TrailO at Norwegian Spring 2014, reaching the 5th place in the first day. On the second day I wanted to show Vetle that I would be the best, and managed to win the course. As a competitive person, I love to win. So, I continued.

What do you see in this discipline that makes it so special?

S. R. B. - The fact that all the competitors have the same possibility to manage the course, disable or not, is amazing! And that I’m good!

It's quite unusual to see a newcomer reaching the podium in our discipline, but you managed to do so in the World Trail Orienteering Championships 2015, achieving an impressive third place in the TempO. How did you do that? Did you expect it?

S. R. B. - My map reading skills are quite good after years of orienteering at a good level. I’m also able to stay calm in stressed situations and answer really quick. Even though. I didn’t expect the 3rd place at all . My goal was to fight for a top 10, on a good day, so the bronze felt as gold for me.

Why aren't you that good in PreO?

S. R. B. - My lack of patience is my biggest weakness in PreO, but I have managed some good PreO competitions as well.

What does it mean to be a Trail orienteer in Norway?

S. R. B. - You’re either: old, nerd or super cool. I am super cool.

How do you see the present moment of Trail orienteering? Are we going in the right way?

S. R. B. - Yes, I think so. As a youngster, my plan is to make it cool for the kids! We need to bring the average age down.

We don't see as many youngsters doing Trail Orienteering as we would like. Why is Trail orienteering a less participated discipline? Is it a question of lack of promotion, is it kind of bias (always the wrong idea that TrailO is for disabled people), what is it?

S. R. B. - There is clearly a misunderstanding that PreO is just for the disabled or old guys. My goal is to make TrailO super cool for the youngsters.

In the beginning of a new season, which are your main goals?

S. R. B. - My goal is to qualify for the Norwegian team in both TempO and PreO and fight for a medal in the TempO and Relay.

Now that 2017 is here, would you like to share your biggest wish?

S. R. B. - My biggest wish is to be famous.

Joaquim Margarido

Sunday, January 29, 2017

POM 2017: One hundred entered the TrailO stage

The POM isn't just Foot Orienteering. As usual since 2010, the most important event of the Orienteering Calendar in Portugal also includes a Trail Orienteering stage. The Portuguese Orienteering Blog spoke with Filipe Dias, one of the PreO POM 2017's course setters, who brings us all the news.

It was in 2010, at Figueira da Foz Camping, that Portugal O' Meeting included in its program, for the first time, a Trail Orienteering stage. Since then, Foot Orienteering and Trail Orienteering have been together in the most important event of the Portuguese Orienteering Calendar, attracting an increasing number of participants to experience a different way of feeling and living the sport of the forest.

This year, the Grupo Desportivo dos Quatro Caminhos (GD4C) takes the responsibility of organizing the Portugal O' Meeting, in whose specifications the Trail Orienteering stage holds a very special place. With Fernando Costa as Event Director and Joaquim Margarido in the role of National Controller, Rui Principe and Filipe Dias are the course setters. Looking forward to a time and a space that bring up Orienteering's pleasure to a different dimension, the Portuguese Orienteering Blog spoke with Filipe Dias about the Pre POM 2017 and makes a preview of the event.

The winner will have to be a complete athlete”

“I think the rigorousness of the Portuguese organizations is well-known, the POM being one of the highest exponents of this quality. As we have a Trail Orienteering stage included in the event, the care is the same in order to keep the high standards. So, we can talk about the PreO POM 2017 as a stage that will certainly be part of the organizational commitment, from the technical details to the logistical aspects”, start by saying Filipe Dias.

The event will take place on the afternoon of the POM's second day, on 26th February, at Coudelaria de Alter [Alter Stud Farm], an institution whose main mission is to create and valorize the Alter Real horse, a breed of the Lusitan Pure Blood. With an eye on the unique natural space and another on its potential to host a Trail Orienteering event, Filipe Dias highlights “the rich vegetation, both underbrush and lush, mixed with rocky details”, whose combination will provide quite interesting tasks.

- Could you say something about the kind of challenges?

“I can say that, with such a great variety of features on the terrain, it was everything but easy to choose the most interesting challenges at each control, since it was possible to have several tasks on each place. The competitors will face a set of 23 tasks that will require the use of all the position-fixing techniques, both on the map and in the terrain, from the classic ones, by the position at a mapped feature and position by contouring, to the conventional, by sighting lines, compass bearing or distance estimation, among others. The tasks won't be difficult, but it will be a course requiring a multiplicity of technical knowledgement, so the winner will have to be a complete athlete.”

One-hundred entries' barrier quite close

90 competitors entered the PreO POM 2017 so far, representing 18 countries. Among the most prominent names, it's possible to find Remo Madella (Italy), Zóltan Mihaczi (Hungary), Pete Huzan (Great Britain), Gintaras Mikolavicius (Lithuania), Koji Chino (Japan), Santiago Martin (Spain), Bartlomiej Mazan (Poland) and, on the Portuguese side, Luis Gonçalves and Cláudio Tereso, in the Open Class. As for the Paralympic Class, the Spaniards Miguel Angel Garcia and Carlos Riu will have in the Portuguese Ricardo Pinto, Júlio Guerra and Cláudio Poiares the biggest opponents. With the number of participants registered last edition practically reached (94), Filipe Dias doesn't hide his satisfaction with this numbers but, above all, talks about the quality of the participants: “Many of the competitors are renowned athletes, who leaves us quite pleased by the confidence shown in the organization and brings us an increased responsibility”, he says.

With the registrations open until 14th February (10th February without normal prizes), it's expected that the final numbers will reach the 120 entered in 2015, in an edition organized by the Clube de Orientação de Estarreja and held in Vagos. That's why Filipe Dias' last words goes to the undecided: “Like other events organized by the GD4C, I believe this will be a stage which fits a high quality level. Coudelaria de Alter, the PreO POM's venue, presents excellent conditions for an event of this magnitude, both natural and technical. So, I challenge the undecided to enter the PreO POM 2017, because your expectations won't be frustrated. A pleasant Trail Orienteering afternoon is expecting you”.

To know everything about PreO POM 2017, please read the Bulletin # 2 [click on the image above] or check the event's webpage, at http://pom.pt/.

Joaquim Margarido

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The 2016 Trail Orienteering Season

The two most prestigious TrailO events in 2016, the European Championships and the World Championships, provided both novelties and surprises. We had the first use of an electronic validation system at the European Championships, the first ever participation of an African country in the World Championships and the new TrailO Relay format, which replaced the Team Competition. Among the surprises were the increasing number of young competitors enjoying success in this discipline, and Slovakia and Italy taking the European and World titles respectively in the TrailO Relay and successfully challenging the general Scandinavian dominance.

Both of the top events, the European Championships at Jeseník in the Czech Republic and the World Championships at Strömstad in Sweden, caught the attention of all TrailO addicts and brought to the forefront a new group of young athletes who are already beginning to make their mark. Jorge Valente, Spain, Johanne Biering and Karoline Saxtorph Schulz, both from
Denmark, Tereza Miklusova, Slovakia, Iva Lovrec, Croatia and Daniel Locker, Czech Republic are young athletes with great potential who are taking their first steps in this discipline.

At the age of 19, Iva Lovrec was fourth in the TempO Final in the World Championships, while Karoline Saxtorph Schulz, just 15 years old, was the best Danish competitor in PreO in the Open Class. And what about Daniel Locker? Second placed in his TempO qualifying heat, he finished the final in twelfth place, ahead of many of TrailO’s greatest names. And all this at the
age of 13!

New format and new technology

At the end of May in Jeseník, Czech Republic, the European Championships brought the great novelty of an electronic validation system, used for the first time in international competition with the approval of the IOF. Although there is much still to be refined, the speed of publication of the results and the chance to follow the progress of the competition online were great steps forward in the presentation of the event.

The other great novelty was in the competition programme, and it had a very positive impact. Replacing the Team Competition that has been held since 2004, the TrailO Relay proved to be a thrilling new format. It has a fascinating strategic component and brings fresh dynamism to this discipline. The final results saw Remo Madella, Michele Cera and Alessio Tenani take the European title in the Open Class for Italy, while in the Paralympic Class the favourites Sweden were the winners, the team consisting of Inga Gunnarsson, Michael Johansson and Ola Jansson.

In the TempO competition there was a tight fight between the Czech Pavel Kurfürst and the Norwegian Martin Jullum, with the penultimate task at the last station proving fatal to Jullum’s hopes. In the end, just eight seconds separated the two contenders, with Kurfürst achieving the first-ever gold medal for the Czech Republic in a European TrailO Championships. Sweden dominated the PreO competition, winning four out of the six medals. In the Paralympic Class Ola Jansson got a clear win over Michael Johansson, with the Ukrainian Vladislav Vovk - World Champion in 2015 - having to settle for the bronze medal. In the Open Class Stig Gerdtman was the winner with his team-mate Jens Andersson finishing in third place. Second-placed Martin Jullum finished with the same points total as the winner, but getting four of the six timed control tasks wrong resulted in him missing his goal of the gold medal, in the year in which he announced his farewell to top competition.

Swedes dominated at home

The month of August was heading towards its end when the ‘cream’ of world Trail Orienteering assembled in Strömstad, Sweden. The Europeans were joined by competitors from Hong Kong, Japan, the United States and, for the first time in the history of the Championships, also an African country, Egypt. Using the same competition plan as at the European Championships, 114 athletes fought for the world titles in PreO, TempO and TrailO Relay.

Kicking-off the Championships, the TempO competition had as its great winner the Norwegian Lars Jakob Waaler. After a weak performance in his qualifying heat, he was the fastest and most accurate of the 36 finalists, reaching his first gold medal ever in the World Championships in 13 attempts; he has competed in every World TrailO Championships up to now. The Swede Marit Wiksell and the Finn Pinja Mäkinen took the silver and bronze medals respectively. Ten years after winning the world title in Finland, Martin Fredholm managed to get a tasty home victory in the PreO Open Class. After eight competitors had achieved a full points score at the end of the first day, Fredholm showed his ‘nerves of steel’ on the day of reckoning, being the only competitor in this super-elite group to repeat a clean race. In the Paralympic Class, Michael Johansson was able to pull back a two-point disadvantage from the Russian Pavel Shmatov, both finishing the competition with the same score, but with the best performance on the timed controls earning Johansson his second world title in the last three years.

Kept for the last day, the TrailO Relay had 18 Open and 9 Paralympic teams competing for the medals. Repeating the excellent performance that earned them the European title, Inga Gunnarsson, Ola Jansson and Michael Johansson were the big winners in the Paralympic Class, beating the Ukrainians and Finns, second and third ranked respectively. The big surprises were in the Open Class, with the Nordic favourites well beaten by the extraordinary performances of Marián Mikluš, Dušan Furucz and Ján Furucz, who gave Slovakia the first gold medal in its history. Portugal’s second place was also historic, its best ever Orienteering result in a World Championships.

Text and photo: Joaquim Margarido

[See the original article at http://orienteering.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/orienteering-world-webb.pdf. Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]

Thursday, January 26, 2017

BLOM, POM and ABOM'17: Portugal welcomes the World of Orienteering

The Winter season is here and Portugal becomes, once again, a “Mecca” for the World of Orienteering. In three weeks, Coimbra, Alter do Chão, Crato, Portalegre and Aguiar da Beira will host a triple journey having twelve exciting stages to offer. Rui Mora, Fernando Costa and Rafael Miguel are the Directors of Beira Litoral O’ Meeting, Portugal O' Meeting and Aguiar da Beira O’ Meeting, respectively, and share their opinions with the Portuguese Orienteering Blog.

They have in common the designation “O 'Meeting” [Orienteering Meeting] but it's not all. They also share a short space in time over three weeks, include WRE stages, scoring for the IOF World Rankings, rely on organizations of huge experience and prestige and, for this and much more, promise to attract to Portugal a few thousand orienteers, mainly from the Nordic countries. These are the purposes of Beira Litoral O' Meeting, Portugal O' Meeting and Aguiar da Beira O' Meeting, Foot Orienteering events taking place between 18th February and 5th March.

With this new round of big international Orienteering events on the horizon, it's clear that “expectation” and “anxiety” are terms that perfectly match with “voluntarism” and “work”. This is what about the Directors of each of the events speak of, while emphasizing their sporting dimension, the quality of the terrains, the technical challenges, the tourist counterpoint, the economic value and how important the events can be for the Municipalities where they take place.

To conquer participants and to honor the country

As in 2003 and 2011, Fernando Costa is the Director of the Portugal O’ Meeting, speaking of “a great honor for the Grupo Desportivo dos Quatro Caminhos being the event’s organization for the third time, honoring the Country and having, once again, participants from all over the world”, he says. With 1113 athletes entered so far, representing 32 different countries – the highest number of countries in 22 editions of the event (!) -, the anxiety for showing the Alto Alentejo’s excellence of terrains and quality of maps is huge. Fernando Costa reminds that this region “has in nature its greatest value. In this context, the Orienteering has being playing an important role through the North Alentejo O 'Meeting, organized for ten years now in a sustainable way and considering the environment.”

Fernando Costa is keen to point out that “the organization of the Portugal O 'Meeting has, from the outset, felt a great cooperation of the three Municipalities involved [Alter do Chão, Crato and Portalegre], proving that an event of this nature can also be a good way of bringing together those who work for the region”. A special mention goes to all the landowners where the competition will take place, since “without them none of it would be possible”, says Costa, adding that “it’s very important for the organization that sponsors, partners and media continue to believe it’s worth supporting the Orienteering and the club”. The Event Director also takes the opportunity to thank “all the volunteers who are kindly join the organization and get to know our sport” and makes a wish: “That all participants enjoy the natural beauties, the historical and cultural heritage and the gastronomy of Alto Alentejo, keeping the best memories of the Portugal O 'Meeting 2017”, he concludes.

Coimbra in the Orienteering map

The Beira Litoral O' Meeting 2017 will be the first event taking place, in 18th and 19th February. According to Rui Mora, its Event Director, “ADM- Ori Mondego' organizing skills will be tested by an event that includes two WRE stages, one of Sprint and another of Middle Distance, in the forest”. Mora adds that “the preparatory working is running normally”, leaving a word of appreciation to the Coimbra Municipality and the Council of Cernache “for the provided support”.

Coimbra, City of Students and Fado, is, for Rui Mora, “a city that was lacking in the orienteering route” and whose map “won’t run out, even with the accomplishment of two urban stages”. The Event Director talks about “high level courses with the signature of Rafael Miguel and Bruno Nazário”, adding that the athletes “will want to return”, also because “Coimbra, with its unique culture and heritage, is the perfect place for a short vacation”. The number of 268 athletes registered up to date, representing 14 countries, is still far from the 800 initially pointed out by the organization, but this aspect doesn’t seem to greatly frustrate Rui Mora's expectations: “Regardless of the number, we’ll have confirmed the presence in Coimbra of some of the best athletes in the World, fighting until the end by the victories in the different classes of competition”, he says.

Quality of terrains, the strongest side

Closing this cycle of events, in the first weekend of March, we’ll have the Aguiar da Beira O' Meeting 2017, whose Event Director advances some ideas. Rafael Miguel, stresses “the fluid way how the work has been done” and praises “the support of the City Council of Aguiar da Beira, a Municipality quite motivated for the development of Orienteering in its territory”. With the courses practically set, Rafael Miguel says: “The competitors can count on an incredible forest around Quinta do Meio. The Event’s Arena will be the same as in 2016 Iberian Championship, however the competition area is practically new. As for the Sprint, and since there have been two competitions on that map before, the organization is preparing some surprises, resorting some temporary “walls” to increase the course’s technical level”.

The number of participants is of 305 from 16 countries so far. “The initial goal of our club was the one-thousand-athlete’s barrier, even knowing that March is a month too advanced in the calendar for most of the foreign athletes. Regardless of the final number of entries, some of the best athletes in the World havee already registered for the event, so the competitive level is granted”, adds Rafael Miguel. And his last words: “I would say that the strength of this event is in its venue. In addition to the high quality terrain, the people, culture and gastronomy of Aguiar da Beira will leave all the visitors pleasantly surprised”.

To know more about this events, please consult theit webpages at http://blom.admondego.pt/, http://pom.pt/2017/en/ and http://abom2017.ori-estarreja.pt/en/.

Joaquim Margarido

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Samson Deriaz: "I can't wait to race in the Elite"

With a gold medal and a silver one on his chest, Samson Deriaz was one of the stars of the last Junior World MTB Orienteering Championships. This is the main topic of the interview to the Portuguese Orienteering Blog, adding a set of important details that define him as an athlete and as a person.

The season is over and it's time for a well-deserved rest. How do you feel?

Samson Deriaz (S. D.) - I feel really happy about my season, it was the best in term of results so far. I managed to have good races during the French selections and mostly at the open races organized during the World Cup in Alsace. So I felt strong and self-confident when leaving to Portugal and I think it helped me to race the way I did. The results I got in Portugal have been the perfect ending of the season, and it was an amazing time!

Do you still feel the excitement of being on top of the podium listening “La marseillaise”? How was that day? Let me guess: You wake up and you said to yourself: “It's gold time!”

S. D. - No, I hadn't planned to win this gold medal, even if I wished so. But my state of mind before the race was good and I was motivated and really focused on what I had to do. We listened good music on the way to the course and I think it helped me to be focused. And it was a wonderful feeling to win this race and to be on the top of the podium. I was only 3 seconds faster than Sauli Pietikainen so I was very thankful about winning and I said to myself “At last I achieved this medal!” because it was my first individual one in an international Championships. And I have to say that the “Marseillaise” time, with all the French team singing with me, was really strong and emotional.

After the gold medal, you reached the silver in the Long Distance ...

S. D. - Before leaving to Portugal, I knew my shape was good, as well as my orienteering skills. So my goal was to bring back, at least, one individual medal and another in the relay because, in my opinion, our team was quite strong. But two individual medals, including a gold one, has been more than I could expect. I still have been disappointed about our fifth place in the relay because I think we could have been better.

How boring life can be without Orienteering?

S. D. - For me, Orienteering is a way to make each sport more interesting and more exciting. So, even if I also like to practice MTB or running without orienteering, it's always funnier with a map !

How did you meet MTBO and what do you see in this discipline that makes it so special?

S. D. - I started to practice Foot orienteering when I was a child, and I also used to practice MTB with my father and with friends, but not very often. I think I was ten when I took part in my first MTBO race and I did it because my club needed someone for a relay. After that, as I had enjoyed it, I continued and I finally practised more and more MTBO and less and less FootO. What I like in MTBO is that it makes us able to join MTB and orienteering in the same sport. I also love the speed, the excitement of the races and the total focus that we must keep. And of course, I also love the friendship between riders !

I would ask you about your training routine.

S. D. - I live in Lyon because of my studies, and I'm in the High Level Sport section of INSA, my Engineering School. This section allows us to have lots of time to train and to compete (we do the two first years of the school in three years) and offers us the opportunity to see a mental coach and an osteopath. So I train mostly around Lyon, and mostly on road bike. Baptiste Fuchs is my coach since the Summer of 2014, so he helps me to train cleverly on the physical part. I use to train between five and seven times a week, with intensity, sprint or long bike sessions, but also all body trainings.

What are your most valuable skills? What part do you work the most?

S. D. - With the help of Baptiste, I had a huge physical progression during the two past seasons, so I think I can say it is my greatest strength. The mental and technical parts are my weakness, but I saw the mental coach of my school section last year and it helped me a lot to avoid more mistakes and to be more focused. Yet, I still have a lot to improve and I will keep working this part of our sport, even if, for now, I almost only train physically during the week.

I'm sure that you’re following the big events and all the Elite athletes along the season. What moments / athletes impressed you the most? Is there an athlete which is an inspiration for you?

S. D. - Of course I follow their results ! And I can't wait to race in the Elite on the World Cups. I take inspiration from all the French athletes, but Cédric Beill is for me the most impressive and his four gold medals in 2014 show how strong he is. I'm always impressed about is ability to make the right choices during the race.

Did you already start to prepare the next season?

S. D. - We already had a training weekend with the French team with a meeting to explain how we will be selected for the Summer competitions. And I also restarted to train, but not just on bike. I run, swim and do all body trainings.

You still have one year in the Junior category. What are your goals for 2017?

S. D. - For my last year in Junior category, my goal is to get at least the same results as last year, both in the World Championships and in the European Championships.

Would you like to share with us your biggest wish?

S. D. - My goal is to join the French Elite team and to get a medal in this category. A gold one would be fine!

Joaquim Margarido

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hong Kong TrailO Championships 2016 (PreO): Chui Tsz Ho reached the gold

Chui Tsz Ho reached the title of 2016 Hong Kong PreO Champion. In the clash that gathered 25 competitors in the Elite Class, he was the fastest in the timed controls that eventually decided the winner.

With the Chinese New Year approaching, the Orienteering Association of Hong Kong organized last Sunday the 2016 National TrailO Championships (PreO). Held in Lung Fu Shan, a popular hicking and picnic spot of the “most thrilling city on the planet”, the event was attended by 62 athletes overall, competing in the Elite, Advanced Open, Advanced Youth, Beginners Open and Family classes. Set by Raphael Mak and Yu Tsz Ying, the course extended by 1550 meters over two maps, offering 17 tasks in the Elite class and a “bonus” of four extra tasks in the timed station.

In a well-balanced race, the competitors were able to test their skills, revealing a high rate of correct answers. With the incertitude about the winner keeping up along the course, the maximum of emotion was reached in the two last controls, first with a tricky reentrant to put a lot of difficulties on most of the competitors and to throw Chun Ho Ho detached in the lead, and then, in the very last control, with the same Chun Ho Ho “slippering” in the stairs and failing where very few have failed. In the end of the course, the results showed five competitors tied with 16 out of 17 points and the timed station was really decisive to find the winner. Chui Tsz Ho was the fastest with 19 seconds, reaching the gold. With more 9 seconds than the winner, Tsang Michael Chun Chi reached the second place and Hui Yau Chiu was third ranked, with 40 seconds. Missing one task in the timed station, Chun Ho Ho also missed a place in the podium, finishing in the 5th place with 95 seconds.

For the Portuguese Orienteering Blog, the National Controller, Solomon Luk, left some words: “To control this event was really inspiring. I'm very happy to see many new stars raising up and the way TrailO is developing in Hong Kong”. He also mention the excellent work of Yu Tsz Ying, co-course setter along with Raphael Mak: “She was inspired by the typical scenery and historical buildings in the fortress during her trainings at Lung Fu Shan [Yu Tsz Ying was the representative of Hong Kong in the World Orienteering Championships from 2012 to 2015]. She recommended to the organization committee to hold the Championships here and a small dream came true, turning into a success her debut in the TrailO organization”, he said. Raphael Mak, Mapper and Event Director, was also very satisfied with the event: “I learnt a lot from organising my first TrailO event. The considerations are very different from FootO and a lot of mistakes were made, but the satisfaction is overwhelmingly great. I hope I will have the chance to organise more TrailO events in the future”, he concludes.


1. Chui Tsz Ho 16 points / 19 seconds
2. Tsang Michael Chun Chi 16 points / 28 seconds
3. Hui Yau Chiu 16 points / 40 seconds
4. Wong Chi Yen 16 points / 49 seconds
5. Chun Ho Ho 16 points / 95 seconds
6. Ng Kok Hei 15 points / 43 seconds
7. Kwong Kwok Wah 15 points / 48 seconds
8. Ho Hing Ling 15 points / 227 seconds
9. Liang Chi Hang 14 points / 27 seconds
10. Kwong Man Fai Timothy 14 points / 29 seconds

Find HERE the complete results, maps, solutions and further information.

Photo courtesy of Wai Kit Choi.

[The Portuguese Orienteering Blog appreciate the efforts of Solomon Luk and Chun Ho Ho in sharing such useful information]

Joaquim Margarido

Monday, January 23, 2017

Orhan Kutlu: "Turkey has potential to organize international competitions"

Orhan Kutlu personifies the will and firmness of the young Turkish Orienteering. Interviewed by the Portuguese Orienteering Blog, he talks about his still short career and thinks about what the future may bring with ambition and confidence.

I would start by asking you to introduce yourself. Who is Orhan Kutlu?

Orhan Kutlu (O. K.) - Hey! I'm Orhan Kutlu, a 21 year old orienteer, trying to find the paths towards my dreams. I was born in Bolu, where there's perfect nature to live and train in. I currently live in Istanbul and study business administration. I'm always searching for ways to improve and learn.

How did you meet Orienteering and why did you become “addicted” to this sport?

O. K. - I discovered orienteering when I was in the Military High School at the age of 16. Our commander asked for students interested in Orienteering that were “good at maths and geometry”. While I wasn't that good at both subjects, I said “yes” because I wanted to be close to my friends and train. It was a perfect decision, not only because it gave me the opportunity to travel and stay away from the military atmosphere but also because I grew fond of orienteering and its philosophy.

How would you describe your training and competition routine?

O. K. - Actually, I've only started training seriously last year or two years ago, so I need more time to learn what is good or bad for my training and race routine. I can say that we have good conditions in Turkey during the Winter and we're able to train without snow. In this time of the year, I try to run more. I always train with the same group, so I try to attend races with different and strong runners, to get to know my performance level more clearly.

What's the biggest challenge you're facing now?

O. K. - I'm facing two major problems right now. The first one is not having high quality orienteering trainings. I'm always training in the same maps, which can be boring sometimes. I try to do as much mental trainings as possible to become familiar with different kinds of maps. The second one is the selection system for the National Team. The selection races are too early, with the season starting in November!!! We must be in good shape and injury free at the beginning of the season; on the other hand, it's always a great challenge to reach the top shape in the Summer. There are eleven selection races along the year and the worst two courses are discarded. You can be the best, but if you get injured in three of them, your chances of getting a place in the team for the International Championships are over. We also have an eight-kilometre track test, scoring for the selection system and the percentage in the overall system is quite high. Coaches are always more interested in athletes' physical performances than in their navigational skills, which is another huge problem.

Among all the moments in your career, which ones would you choose as the most relevant?

O. K. - I don't have too much experience, but I would choose the 3rd place at O-Ringen Middle Distance.

Turkey is, perhaps, the country in the World where Orienteering has the highest growth rate. What caused this “boom”?

O. K. - Orienteering is getting more and more popular in the last years. We have many enthusiastic runners and coaches, they put a big effort in making orienteering well-known. Our Federation also started sending more runners to international races, which makes them realise what is happening in the Orienteering World. In spite of the 'boom' in Turkey, it's really hard to train at a high level. If you want to get a little support, you have to accomplish a great achievement. Athletes who show potential to grow don't get support to be better; they're just supported when they are already great. So, if there is a good one during the upcoming seasons, it will probably be because of that athlete's own effort.

Imagine that you're the person in charge of preparing Turkey's application to organize the World Orienteering Championships. Would it be a forest or a sprint WOC? Which region would you choose for the event's venue?

O. K. - I'm sure that Turkey has potential to organize international competitions, both Sprint and Forest. I would organize the Sprint WOC in the middle eastern part of Turkey, especially in Gaziantep, because we could combine culture and demanding orienteering in the narrow and really confusing streets. For the Forest WOC I would choose my hometown, Bolu, because we can find very varied kinds of terrains there. You could have some problems breathing properly because of the breathtaking scenery and high altitude. I live in Istanbul and I like the terrains here; also Antalya, which is a well-known region to orienteers and offers very good conditions. The different climates we have cause us to find different and really interesting terrains.

How do you see the current moment of Turkish Orienteering and how do you expect it to evolve in the medium and long term?

O. K. - Our runners are searching for more and they train more, even though they don't have good conditions. The enthusiasm they have makes our future brighter. There were only one or two good runners in each category during the last years, but this year there are five or six runners fighting for the top positions. If we continue like that, we'll reach impressive performances in the 2020's. The clubs are starting to organise more trainings and support more athletes. SkiO, MTBO and TrailO are also getting better every year. We have good MTBO athletes but, here, they don't get enough support.

Can the climate of tension and the terrorist attacks that have targeted Turkey be a threat to Orienteering's growth?

O. K. - Of course it affects Orienteering in the worst way. The news are always showing what's happening everywhere, which can be a problem for competitors from abroad. However, you can find excellent conditions for Training Camps and races in Turkey and our sport is a really safe one. Antalya O'Days and Mediterranean Championships in Orienteering will not be attended by so many runners. Hopefully, we'll have more runners from abroad in the following years.

Have you already started to plan the new season?

O. K. - I had a calf injury, so I didn't train for more than a week in the early season. Apart from that, my preparation is going well. Till March, I will just have selection races and my Turkish club, Kuzey Geyikleri DSK, will organize a Training Camp, that will be attended by Thor Norskov. In the beggining of March, I'll participate in the MOC Camp and races. During the Spring, my biggest aim is to be part of the team for my club, Angelniemen Ankkuri, in the big relays. To run in such big races would be a dream come true and I'll give my best for it. I'm also planning to have Training Camps with Angelniemen Ankkuri and Arturs Paulins during the Spring.

What are your biggest goals for 2017?

O. K. - I'll be focused on the World Championships, of course, but firstly I must perform well in the selection races. Then, the remaining and most important part regarding the future will be the learning and practising time in Scandinavian terrains in order to improve my technique.

Imagine that you get full support to prepare the World Orienteering Championships in a foreign country. Which country would you choose and who would you like to see in your training group?

O. K. - During the early season, I would have two or three Training Camps in relevant terrains. One camp would be in Turkey, for sure, and the other camps would be in Portugal and Spain. I've never been there but I'm sure I would enjoy my time there and would take great benefits from it. For my training group I would choose my Turkish friends Ozgur Fettah, Huzeyfe Sigirci and Furkan Topal, for cooking and washing dishes (laughs). I would also invite Arturs Paulins and Thor Norskov, for sure. If they were able, it would be perfect to train with Edgars Bertuks and Thierry Gueorgiou.

Would you like to share your biggest dream with us?

O. K. - To reach the top places in the 2020's. I dream about reaching the Middle Distance podium at that time. I want to show to our youngsters that we are able to reach good places in the major World competitions. I always felt that as a duty.

[Photo: Roland Güdel]

Joaquim Margarido

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Egypt - Newcomers on the TrailO map

Egypt made history last summer. For the first time ever an African country took part in the World Trail Orienteering Championships (WTOC), and Ahmed Shabaan - along with Tamer Mehanna, Aytham Ahmed and Mohamed Abdelbaky - was one of ‘the magnificent four’ in the unforgettable Swedish journey. He tells us his story.

Ahmed Abd El Latif Shabaan was born in Shobra El Khima, Kalyobia, Egypt, 23 years ago. For many years he was a successful sportsman in Martial Arts, getting the bronze medal in the Youth World Championships in 2012. Graduating from the Egyptian Military Academy in 2015, Ahmed became part of the Army’s Special Forces and lost a leg whilst on a mission. The accident didn’t prevent him from continuing his sporting career, however, and he started training hard again.
I felt the need to encourage not only myself, but everyone in an identical situation, he says.

How did you discover Trail Orienteering?

Tamer Mehanna, the pioneer of Egyptian Orienteering, has supported me from the
beginning of my sporting career and also after my accident. He asked me to try Orienteering, and especially TrailO. He showed me the basics and started to teach me about maps, control descriptions, symbols, everything. I really liked it and I saw it as a way towards becoming a hero again. I became so interested in participating in WTOC that a new life started for me, really.

An unforgettable week

So Ahmed headed to Strömstad in August, and his first ever TrailO event couldn’t have been more exciting. The memories he keeps from those days are still fresh:
Wow! I was so proud to be part of the Egyptian TrailO Team and so excited to attend a top-level event like WTOC. It was a really fantastic experience and I learned a lot from it. Some of my strongest feelings are about the courses in the forest, something we’re not used to in Egypt. The hardest part was when the kites were really close to each other, making it quite confusing and difficult to choose the right one, Ahmed recalls.

When Ahmed started learning TrailO, he thought it would be easy. Step by step, however, he found how demanding and difficult TrailO can be, requiring hours and hours of training and experience. So not reaching the top placings in the Paralympic class wasn’t unexpected:
I believe that my results were very good, considering it was my first participation ever in an official TrailO event. On the second day, I managed to get 18 right answers out of 24 and I think it was a super result for someone who only had three months of training, he says.

Now he feels able to share his acquired experience, and is inviting other Egyptians to learn more about TrailO.

Towards the Olympics

More motivated than ever, Ahmed Shabaan wants to keep on going on the front line, at a time when Orienteering is growing exponentially in Egypt and TrailO is part of the process.
We are starting to build our TrailO National Team and we will be at the “Egypt International Orienteering Championship 2017” events, which will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh. We hope to have a TrailO event in the Mediterranean Orienteering Championships in Alexandria in February 2018, Ahmed says.

As for himself, the goal is to keep on improving his TrailO skills while looking forward to another great occasion, the next World Trail Orienteering Championships:
We’ll meet in Lithuania, Ahmed assures.

Ahmed’s last words are both an invitation and a wish:
I would like to see all orienteering-lovers come to Egypt to participate and support us in our events, and help Tamer Mehanna and the Egyptian Orienteering Federation in making our wonderful Orienteering into a really global sport, on its way towards the Olympics, he concludes.

Text and photo: Joaquim Margarido

[See the original article at http://orienteering.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/orienteering-world-webb.pdf. Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]

Friday, January 20, 2017

Two or three things I know about it...

1. Simone Niggli is the latest star of the World of Orienteering entering for the Portugal O' Meeting 2017. Having achieved 23 World titles, 10 European titles and 9 World Cups, she is unanimously considered the best orienteer of all time and a true ambassadress of the sport of the forest. Privileging Portugal in the winter season, Simone Niggli is back at the POM to remember “the good old days” and, we are certain, to spread her class through the terrains of Alter do Chão, Crato and Portalegre. It's recalled that Simone Niggli won the competition for six times, firstly in 2002 and, more recently, for five times in a row, in the editions from 2010 to 2014. At this moment, the number of entries is about to surpass the one-thousand's barrier. In addition to Simone Niggli, the Swedish Helena Jansson is a strong presence in the Women Elite. In the men's side, Gustav Bergman and Albin Ridefelt (Sweden), Lucas Basset and Thierry Gueorgiou (France), Baptiste Rollier (Switzerland) and Milos Nykodym (Czech Republic) are the greatest names so far. More information at http://pom.pt/2017/en/.

2. O-Ringen, in cooperation with the IOF and the PWT Travel, is presenting a new model of O-Ringen Academy. The goal is to attract young orienteers all over the world, helping their development and competitor skills. The organization is based on a professional leader-team to secure the idea of O-Ringen Academy and to offer to all participants a fantastic week full of positive experiences and knowledge. The invitation is addressed for all federations’ “young runners” in the age between 15 – 25 as well as young runners/leaders in different ages. In this first step, the organizers are inviting one male and one female from each federation, asking for an answer as soon as possible. “There might be possible to send more persons from a nation but we will try to get as many countries as possible represented”, they say. The O-Ringen Academy will take place in Arvika, Sweden, from 20th to 29th July. Entries should be submitted by 31st January 2017 to Jaroslav Kacmarcik, IOF Regional Youth Development Committee, jkpwt@hotmail.com.

3. For the fifth time in its history, the Clube de Montanha do Funchal is organizing the Madeira Orienteering Festival, a Foot Orienteering event scoring for Madeira Cup of the Portuguese Orienteering Federation. Four Municipalities with excellent conditions for Tourism and Nature Sports (Funchal, Porto Moniz, Machico and Santa Cruz) will be joined in an effort to create an unforgettable event. From 9th to 12th February, the Madeira Orienteering Festival has to offer a Night Sprint (9th Feb) at Funchal, a Sprint race (10th Feb) at Porto Moniz and three Middle Distance races (10th, 11th and 12th Feb), respectively at Fanal, Poiso east and Poiso West. All information at http://oricmof.wixsite.com/mof17-ingles.

4. Larger and stronger! So it is the new NORD, Regional Group that includes the four Nordic orienteering federations - Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden -, now reinforced by the three Baltic federations, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. “It was an inspiring meeting in Copenhagen. We got to know each other better and we do hope to contribute to develop orienteering within our seven countries. I look forward to meeting again”, chairwoman Astrid Waaler Kaas said. As well as the admission of the three Baltic countries to the NORD group, the meeting was about exchanging good ideas and cooperating on different projects. It included discussions about regional development, map scale, anti-doping, TV-broadcasting and International Championships. The full article can be seen at http://orienteering.org/nord-group-extended-with-three-new-members/.

Joaquim Margarido

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Kadir Yildiz and the 2017 World Orienteering Day: "I think that we will set a new record of participants in Turkey”

With the 2017 World Orienteering Day on the horizon, it's time to look back on WOD's last edition, meeting Turkey and the amazing movement around the initiative. Coordinating the whole project in that country, Kadir Yildiz remembers the strongest moments of an exciting day.

“Think globally – Act locally”. On 11th May 2016, the first ever World Orienteering Day took place all over the world. It proved to be a great success, with 252.927 participants at 2013 locations in 81 countries and territories taking part in an orienteering event. Somewhat surprisingly, the biggest contribution for this outstanding number came from Turkey with 49.408 participants, just ahead of Sweden (35.754) and Norway (20.368).

When finalizing the official event calendar for the Turkish Orienteering Federation back in August 2015, WOD was set as one of the officially recognised orienteering activities. Then, the chair of the committee devoted to developing orienteering in schools, Kadir Yildiz, was appointed as the person in charge of the project. He remembers the first steps: “I was assigned for this project by the Turkish Orienteering Federation and every arrangement we did was based on the International Orienteering Federation and its documents/promotion kits for WOD. Then, we formed a group trying to reach all the sports clubs, athletes, coaches and teachers. We also took a good advantage of the internet, specially the social networking sites.”

A secret called team spirit

To overcome the language barrier, guidelines on how to register were developed in Turkish and distributed along with other material. Letters were written to all other Federations to raise awareness and ask for their involvement, as well as to the Ministry of Sports to ask not only for their support, but also their help in getting the Ministry of Education involved. The WOD website was closely monitored and any activity was advertised on the Federation’s Facebook page, thus creating an atmosphere of excitement throughout the country. Along the process, Kadir recognizes “the lack of financial resources and the accessibilities” as major difficulties. But, “if you know a thing or two about Event Management and Organization in Sport management, you are able to solve problems like planning, organization, coordination, communication, control and, most importantly, how to induce the right spirit in the team. Thus, we had a good, cooperating and hardworking team. Without it, the project would have failed”, he says.

- How did you manage the whole process?

“We managed it through the Turkish Orienteering Federation. The Federation gave us all all the means we needed, such as printed documents, flags, punchers, IT systems and so on. I think our strength lied on the fact that we were all volunteers and orienteering fans. This was really important to the whole process. All people worked voluntarily.”

An exciting and colourful day”

The results of this hard and well-coordinated preparative process were a beautiful surprise, representing a good example of what one can manage while getting the support from the Federation, the government bodies and the local communities. Even Kadir recognizes that final numbers were not expected. “Clearly, I didn't expect such high participation level, but I believe that Orienteering is a sport that's easy to join”, he says.

- How was your 11th May? What did you feel?

“My 11th May was exciting and vivacious. We organized an event with our university students, attended by nearly 250 participants. It was an exciting and colourful day for us because, you know, Orienteering is fun and orienteers are enthusiastic.”

2017 will be an Orienteering year in Turkey”

Nuri Dağdelen will coordinate the WOD 2017, but Kadir Yildiz will remain connected to the project. “We completed the WOD's organization successfully last year and this year I will only be participating with my university students.” But he leaves the door open to a more effective participation: “If the International Orienteering Federation or the Turkish Orienteering Federation asked for my collaboration, I would think about it”, Kadir says.

Kadir's expectations for the 2017 World Orienteering Day are even higher: “I believe that we can do well again. If people get involved and support the project, I think that we will set a new record of participants in Turkey”, he says. Kadir's last words stress the same point: “2017 will be an Orienteering year in Turkey and I believe that, with the collaboration of every person involved, we'll achieve something great.”

Photo courtesy of Kadir Yildiz.

Joaquim Margarido