The first IOF Athlete of the Month for 2017 is Swedish SkiO star Erik Rost. Last season, Erik Rost won the overall World Cup in SkiO for the second time in his career. Since his first overall WC victory in his breakthrough season 2007/8, he has had elite careers in both FootO and SkiO, experienced ups and downs, and continuously increased his list of merits. And the list is nowhere near complete yet.
Name: Erik Rost
Date of Birth: 30th May 1985
Lives: Falun, Sweden
Work: Forest management
Discipline: Ski orienteering
Club: Alfta Ösa OK
Merits: Overall World Cup victory: 7/8 & 15/16. WSOC silver: Relay 2007, 2011 & 2015 WSOC bronze: Relay 2009, Sprint 2015, Sprint Relay 2015. ESOC gold: Long 2008 & 2015, Middle 2011, Relay 2008, 2010 & 2016, Sprint Relay 2015. ESOC bronze: Middle 2008 & 2016, Sprint 2010, Relay 2011 & 2012, Sprint Relay 2014
IOF World Ranking: 1st
It is mid-February 2015 and Norway is the host of the World SkiO Championships (WSOC). The two first races are finished and Erik Rost has had a great start, winning his first ever individual WSOC medals, with a bronze in Sprint followed by another bronze medal in the Sprint Relay. The championships have the potential to be the most memorable ever for the 29-year-old Swede. In the end, it is one he will never forget, but for other reasons than sports.
After the two first races with Erik Rost at the podium, Erik Rost’s father and life-long supporter passed away. Some would have dropped out of the rest of the races, but Erik Rost finished the three last events. Both Middle and Long led to second positions but in the Relay, he was fastest of everyone, contributing greatly to the Swedish silver medal.
The following season, 2015/16, Erik Rost came back with renewed energy and achieved the best result of his career so far:
— My biggest achievement in SkiO is the overall World Cup last year. It meant a lot to me. It was a tough period after WSOC in 2015 due to my dad’s death. He meant so much to me. He has been around at events and supported me through the years. It was great to fight back after the grief and show that I could win, Erik Rost says about winning the overall World Cup.
Erik Rost’s big goal for last season was the overall World Cup. Three races in three rounds counted in the standings and the plan was stable races. With nothing worse than a fifth position he lived up to that, and with three out of three wins at the second WC round in Germany, the victory was almost secured. He just needed to do decent races in the last round:
— I have never been as nervous as I was before the three last races. I realized how much taking the victory meant to me after what happened with my father, he says.
Erik Rost handled the nerves and took the overall World Cup victory four points ahead of the Norwegian Lars Moholdt.
Erik Rost raced his first elite SkiO season in 2005/6 and already in 2007/8, he won the prestigious overall World Cup:
— I was 23 years old when I won the World Cup for the first time. At that time, I did not think that much about it and it more or less just came to me, compared to last year when I really aimed for it, he says.
Skiing in winter and running in summer
Erik Rost has his best results in SkiO, with the two overall World Cup victories as highlights, as well as the European Championships title in Long in 2015. However, for many years he spent the summer time on FootO instead of SkiO. And with an overall victory in men’s elite class in O-ringen 2011 and participation in both WOC and EOC in 2012 for Sweden, it was by no means on a recreational level. His way into the sport was, on the other hand, very ordinary:
— As is the case for many orienteers, I started at a young age when my parents took me along to orienteering. Since I enjoyed it, I continued when I got older. From when I was little, I did orienteering in summer time and SkiO in winter, he tells.
At the age of 16, he went to a sports school where he practiced orienteering, SkiO and cross-country skiing. He continued with SkiO in winter and FootO when the snow melted:
— The SkiO and FootO seasons are separate. It was not that difficult to focus on both, and I think the training for one helps in the other. Of course, competing in two seasons was tough, but not too tough, I would say.
All the way up to 2013, Erik Rost considered his focus on FootO and SkiO to be on an equal level. He had the best results in SkiO, but it was first in 2013 when finishing his studies and getting a job, as well as a foot injury which kept him from running, that he began to focus only on SkiO. Having experienced elite level in both FootO and SkiO, Erik Rost thinks the mind-set for the two disciplines is quite similar:
— Comparing FootO and SkiO, the setup for events are different. There is more people and more publicity at the FootO events. But the attitude and energy the athletes put into the sport is the same. I would even say that Ski Orienteers train a little more, because you can have longer trainings on skis without getting injured, he says.
In 2015, Erik Rost came back from his foot injury and started running again at club level for his club Malungs OK. Rather successfully, in fact, as he was a part of the relay team which came second in the Swedish championships 2015, and he ran the first leg when Malungs OK were eighth at Tiomila last year.
A bank of knowledge
Now Erik Rost is settled in the Swedish city Falun. He works part time; usually in between a training session in the morning and one in the afternoon. Falun is the centre for Dalarna Sports Academy, with excellent conditions for training:
— In Falun, I am mainly training ordinary skiing and then when we go on camps I practice SkiO. There are 8-9 athletes racing SkiO at international level and, together with the high-level cross-country skiers, Falun offers great conditions for training, Erik says.
With more than ten years of experience at elite level, Erik Rost has learned some tips and tricks, but the excitement about orienteering is that it always offers new challenges, no matter how experienced you are:
— The years in the sport have made me feel calm in myself. For instance, at major championships, I have learned to move my focus from the surrounding things to what is important: the races. I have found myself in many different situations, which has given me some experience, but the tasks in orienteering are never the same. Of course, you can be placed in situations that remind you of something you have experienced previously, and then it is nice to have a ‘bank of knowledge’, Erik explains.
The missing medal
As the World Cup in SkiO is biannual, Erik Rost is reigning champion for at least one more year. But it does not mean that this season is of no importance. Almost the opposite. When the World SkiO Championships start in March, Erik Rost has a dream that is still to be fulfilled. He has six WSOC medals, but none of them gold:
— My aim for 2017 is WSOC in Russia. I am in good shape and I think it is realistic finally to take a victory. I do not focus on any specific distances, so I will go for them all, he says.
Erik Rost is in no doubt about highlighting WSOC as the goal of the year. He will race the European SkiO Championships in Imatra, Finland, 7-12 February, but it will be a step on the road towards WSOC.
The first test of his 2017 shape came at the six-race event Ski-O Tour, held in Switzerland and Austria, where many of the big names were racing. Erik Rost won the two last days and finished second overall, after Eduard Khrennikov.
Whether or not Erik Rost will achieve the missing WSOC gold medal will be decided in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, 6-11 March. Placed number one at the SkiO world-ranking list, and winner of the World Cup last year, Erik Rost must be considered among the favourites. Orienteering can be unpredictable and tough, and so can life. But it is always worth trying to fight back.
Text: Henrik Rindom Knudsen
Photo: Malin Fuhr
[See the original article at http://orienteering.org/januarys-iof-athlete-of-the-month-is-erik-rost/. Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]