Thursday, January 12, 2017

Christian Spoerry: "The focus has to be in event quality and not in new formats"

The transition into retirement can be filled with fear and anxiety but this is not the case of Christian Spoerry, to whom everything seems to be flowing quite smoothly. He talked about a weighed decision to the Portuguese Orienteering Blog, reviewed his career and analyzed the current SkiO moment.

I would start by asking you to introduce yourself. Who is Christian Spoerry?

Christian Spoerry (C. S. )
- I was born and grew up in Switzerland, a bit outside of Zürich, in a non-orienteer family. I started my sports career in xc-skiing, in a very active ski-club. At the age of 15, I tried ski-orienteering as a complement. After high-school, I moved to Umeå, in Sweden, to combine my university studies with my sports career. After five years of bachelor and master studies I went on with doctoral studies.

How hard was it to take the decision of retiring from the high competition level and how are you dealing with your “new life”?

C. S.
- The transition has being quite smooth. I'd already decided, two years ago, that the
 2015/2016 season would be the last one on international level and since I have always combined my sportsmanship with studies and work, I was well prepared. I still like to train - even if I have reduced the training time from 15-20 hours to about 5 hours per week -, and I still compete in a few races.

The first record in your IOF Eventor file is from a “free of punching” race in Vålådalen, Sweden, at the age of 17. Do you still remember those moments?

C. S.
- This was my first race in Sweden, when I was an exchange student for six months at the Ski-orienteering high-school in Mora. I started out in ski-orienteering inspired by the successes of Remo and Boris Fischer, from my ski-club, at the Junior World SkiO Championships. After having skied my first international races in the Czech Republic in 2002, I realized that I should improve my orienteering skills and applied to Mora Skigymnasium in Sweden. I met 
many good friends there who have also been some of the hardest competitors throughout my career, such as Erik Rost and Andrey Lamov.

What's the most beautiful part of being a top orienteering skier? And what's the most difficult part?

C. S. - First of all, ski-orienteering is just a great sport and it's really fun in those moments when you’re able to navigate at full skiing speed on bumpy tricky tracks and still feeling that everything is under control. I also like to attend the competitions with the team, meeting friends and going to places that, otherwise, you’d never visit, such as Schuchinsk in Kazakhstan, Rusutsu in Japan, Lake Tahoe in California or Dospat in Bulgaria.

The most difficult part was not being
 able to compete on my level in nearly half of the seasons, due to airway problems with allergic asthma and recurrent infections. Luckily, I got cured from these troubles and I could compete without medication during the last four years.

Could you tell us some of the most pleasant moments along your career?

C. S.
- The most pleasant was definitely to finish second in the Long Distance at the European SkiO Championships 2015, on home soil, in Lenzerheide. It was a big relief to finally reach the podium after many years of hard work, especially after a knee injury in spring 2015. The medal in the Relay at the World SkiO Championships 2007. in Moscow, came a bit earlier in my career to provide the same joy, even though it’s always nice to win with the team. The worst moments were when I got lost...

During your career, you surely met all the strong names of our sport. What was your most impressive rival?

C. S. - Erik Rost, because he is very consistent and hardly ever makes a mistake. Peter Arnesson's golden week in Kazakhstan 2013 was also very impressive.

How has Ski Orienteering evolved in the last ten years? Is it going in the right way?

C. S. - Many things have improved. The international race calendar, for example, is planned earlier and with GPS and TV production we get more visibility. Unfortunately, there’s still lots of mistakes in the organizations, with a real impact in the competition’s fairness. It’s very important to have excellent IOF Event Advisers when the organizers are a bit unskilled. At the same time, organizers in the Nordic countries have a lot to learn with the small SkiO countries with regard to creating a good atmosphere. I believe the focus has to be in event quality and not in new formats. I really like the way the World Cup is established, where you have to show good skills in very different types of terrains and track-systems.

I would ask you to comment on three particular topics: “Doping”, “Olympics” and “Environment”.

C. S. - Having my background in life science, I’m very interested in doping issues. The global sport is definitely in a big crisis and, given all scandals, even I start questioning myself about the purposes of professional sport. I hope the lack of money has protected us so far from doping, even though we have had one known doping case in Ski-O. I, myself, have only been tested once during my sports career and that is, of course, far too little.

To be part of the Olympic Games would, for sure, be great and would make it possible to spread our sport. I think to get there we should focus, besides lobbing, on event quality and try to keep the spirit and fair-play of our sport.

Even if global warming is apparent and winters get shorter, there has never been a cancelled international competition because of lack of snow during my international career. International competitions should be concentrated between January and March, when snow conditions are still good. Big problems are, of course, the training possibilities and national competitions in many countries. Uncertain snow-conditions demand a high degree of flexibility from both organizers and competitors.

If you could go back in time, would you choose a different sporting life?

C. S. - I would maybe start earlier with foot-orienteering, trying to improve myself as a youngster in it. There are many other outdoor sports I would have liked to have picked up, but I don’t regret to be focused on ski-orienteering.

What's the best advice you can give to the youngsters who are trying the SkiO for the first time?

C. S.
- Have fun and, if you like it, go hard! In a small sport as ski-orienteering you might have to fight and organize a bit yourself to get the right premises. For sure you’ll get the chance to meet many friends and travel to special places, as well as taking part in a great sport.

The new season is starting now. What will you miss the most from “the good old days”?

C. S. - I will miss the preparation training camps and the feeling of being in really good shape when skiing. How will I feel like, following the international races online instead of being part of it, I don't know yet...

[Photo: Martin Jörg]

Joaquim Margarido

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