Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Year in Review: The 20 most popular!

On this last day of the year, we look to the 78 messages posted within the Portuguese Orienteering Blog in its first year of life. Athletes, organizations and events looked by our eyes, in the 20 most viewed. A time to remember!

1. Emily Kemp: “I take advantage of every opportunity...”
Small in stature, huge in want, Emily Kemp headed to France searching for the dream. Today she is already a safe value in this world of Orienteering and the future opens up before her, wide and promising. About herself and his career, she spoke with enthusiasm to the Portuguese Orienteering Blog. Et voilá! [more...]

2. Portugal O' Meeting 2012: Annika Billstam and Thie..
Thierry Gueorgiou and Annika Billstam arrived together at the Event Center in Viseu. With their usual kindness and disponibility, they agreed to speak to Portuguese Orienteering Blog. An interview made by maps and terrains of top quality, an excellent organization and a great desire to confirm their favoritism and win the Portugal O 'Meeting 2012. [more...]

3. Edgars Bertuks: “I am my own idol”
When, at the end of the year, Jan Kobach's “World of O” launches a new edition of "The Orienteering Achievement of ...", Edgars Bertuks – I am sure! - will be the leading candidate to the victory. Two medals, one of them of gold, at the recent WOC 2012, did fall the spotlights on this Latvian born in Aluksne, on the first day of 1985. Here and now he speaks to the Portuguese Orienteering Blog, telling us a little about himself and this dream that he's living. [more...]

4. Thierry Gueorgiou: “There are no limits to dream”
Thierry Gueorgiou doesn't need an introduction. At the aftermath of his recent victory at the Portugal O' Meeting 2012, the Portuguese Orienteering Blog spoke to him. Here you are the result of this conversation, getting to know a little better the man and the athlete. [more...]

5. Philippe Adamski: “I like simple things”
It's one of the major names of the moment and an athlete to take account for the big competitions that lie ahead. Philippe Adamski was in Portugal and left the Portuguese Orienteering Blog some important notes. [more...]

6. Jan Kocbach: “I do what is fun”
Jan Kocbach is in Portugal and the Portuguese Orienteering Blog went to meet him. From a very pleasant conversation in the crowded and noisy Arena of the XIII Orienteering Meeting of Centro, at the King's Forest (Marinha Grande), here you are, broadly speaking, the highest points. [more...]

7. Eva Jurenikova: “I want to go forward in this coac...”
Eva Jurenikova was recently in Portugal and the Portuguese Orienteering Blog found her at Oporto City Park, doing... Trail Orienteering. In this Interview, she describes the last few months, speaks of the new challenges ahead the Halden SK and projects the next season. And she also talks about Portugal and Trail-O. [more...]

8. Portugal O' Meeting 2012: The courses of the winne...
Thierry Georgiou and Simone Niggli were the winners of the first stage of Portugal O' Meeting 2012. We can see now the options on their maps and also some comments about the races. [more...]

9. Oleksandr Kratov: “To win a medal in Switzerland i...”
One year later, the winner of the last edition of Portugal O’ Meeting returns to Portugal. Portuguese Orienteering Blog talked to Oleksandr Kratov at Quinta dos Ribeiros, in Alpalhão (Nisa, North Alentejo), and here you are the most significant moments of a pleasant interview. [more...]

10. Eva Jurenikova: “Like Training in Paradise”
She left behind the freezing forests of Scandinavia and surrended to the beautiful green of Norte Alentejo. It was like a dream. Eva Jurenikova spent a few days in Portugal and the Portuguese Orienteering Blog spoke to her. Behind a fragile appearance and an almost whispered voice hides a person with an enormous inner strength and an orienteer who lives and feels the sport like few. [more...]

11. Portugal O' Meeting 2012: Options / Impressions of...
I’m very pleased with my race. When I looked at the map, I understood it was a fantastic terrain and I tried to do a good race. I tried to be always focused, reading the map frequently and it was a clean race with only a few hesitations. [more...]

12. Portugal O' Meeting 2012: Options / Impressions of...
Once again, Portuguese Orienteering Blog talked with another two athletes, searching about their Middle Distance races of Portugal O' Meeting's second day. Here you can find the opinions of Philippe Adamski and Lina Strand, as well as their maps and route choices. [more...]

13. Matthias Kyburz: “A day full of smiles”
Now that the 2012 elite season is over, it is still a surprise to many to see the name of Matthias Kyburz appear at the top of the IOF World Rankings. The current best sprinter in the world talks about his orienteering life, reflects on the season just ended and tells of his hopes for the future. [more...]

14. Portugal O' Meeting 2012: The party is here!
The 17th edition of Portugal O’Meeting is about to begin. From tomorrow on, the municipalities of Viseu and Sátão will host the biggest regular competition of Foot Orienteering in Portugal. Really close to the big Orienteering party, now is the time to check the last news from the event. [more...]

15. XIII MOC - WRE 2012: Nordic victories at Marinha G...
Near the beginning of the second stage of the XIII Orienteering Meeting of Centro, in Marinha Grande, we take a look at the Long Distance race, that was held yesterday. Counting to the WRE, it tested both physical and technical capabilities of near 1200 participants, and saw the Norwegian Olav Lundanes and the Swedish Linnea Gustafsson take the victory. [more...]

16. Emily Benham: “I just got it right on the day”
She opened her participation in the WOC MTBO 2012 with a historic result. Emily Benham, our guest today, tells us about this sport so special, setting its challenges and drawing some future projects. And she also talks about a silver medal that, finally, did not represent more than “a job well done.” [more...]

17. Matt Ogden: “Euphoria!”
Thursday, July the 12th 2012. In the forests of Izra, Matt Ogden gave to New Zealand its first gold medal in a Junior World Orienteering Championship ever. Two months later, he is the Portuguese Orienteering Blog's guest of honour. Still living in a state of euphoria, here he's willing to share memories, dreams and projects in a simple, direct way, enabling to know better the athlete and person. [more...]

18. XIII MOC - WRE 2012: Thierry Gueorgiou and Linnea ...
Full stop on the Orienteering Meeting of Centro - WRE 2012. On the second day of races, Thierry Gueorgiou and Linnea Gustafsson proved to be the best, joining to the stage victory the conquest of the respective trophies. [more...]

19. Portugal O' Meeting 2012: Thierry Gueorgiou and Si...
What a great atmosphere at the end of Portugal O' Meeting 2012! Almost two thousand participants celebrated around the Sanctuary of Sr. dos Caminhos, in Sátão, applauding Thierry Gueorgiou and Simone Niggli, the winners of the event. [more...]

20. Simone Niggli: “I knew that I can be the best”
After a long period of absence, Simone Niggli is back to competition. The recent victory at the Portugal O' Meeting shows that the athlete is in the best ways to recover the World sceptre. With her eyes on the future, here are the statements of an excellent athlete and, above all, an excellent person. [more...]

Joaquim Margarido

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Valentin Novikov: "Run, run and run"

With eyes wide open over the next months, the Portuguese Orienteering Blog talked with Valentin Novikov. The Vice-World Champion of Middle Distance is one of many orienteers that has chosen Portugal for the start of the season. Here you are his impressions.

When we look at your curriculum and we see that you won the Relay at the JWOC1994 (Gdynia, Poland), it means that you are on top for a long, long time. Can you tell me how did you start doing Orienteering and how important is it in your life?

Valentin Novikov (V. N.) - My parents were coaches of Orienteering, and they still continue doing it with much pleasure. My memories are about to travel all the time to Training Camps or competitions. Of course, when I was two or four years old, everything was an adventure for me. I didn’t run at that time but I would always see runners, maps and forests. I learned the map symbols and the understanding of the terrains came by the same way. I like this lifestyle a lot, because it combines the training routine and a lot of traveling, which allows me to see the World. And of course the competitions, where I can enjoy the races, be with my friends and meet new people.

In both major events of the year – European and World Championships – we could see your amazing performances in Middle Distance, winning the correspondent two silver medals. Where is the secret of such great results?

V. N. - I still have a big motivation to keep myself in a high level. I try to improve with progressive training technologies, finding the best one for me. And, at the same time, I gain more experience.

For three different times you've been the IOF World Ranking's nº 1. What are the most significant moments of your career, the ones that you keep deeply in your heart?

V. N. - For me, such moment was my first title in WOC Denmark 2006, at the Relay race. I really felt like I was flying in the forest. And when I finished the race I felt like I had just had an extraordinary experience.

How do you see the present moment of our sport?

V. N. - I can only say that we should keep the level of technical difficulty in every distances. That’s what makes Orienteering a sport where you need to think, a sport extremely attractive and interesting for all.

You are about to return to Portugal for the pre-season. Why did you choose Portugal?

V. N. - Every winter, I do Training Camps where there is no snow and I can find a comfortable weather for training. This winter I decided to come to Portugal because you have interesting terrains and updated maps with exercises, which is good for trainings. And you have enough competitions for speed practice.

This is not the first time that you're in Portugal. Can you tell me something about your best memories, namely the Portugal O' Meeting 2010?

V. N. - That year I was injured and I only walked or ran really slowly in the forest, but that did not stop me from seeing great prospects for training in the future. I could see that you try to offer very competitive races.

And what are exactly your plans?

V. N. My plans are to run, run and run. I will run in Norte Alentejano O' Meeting, Portugal O' Meeting and Meeting Orientação Centro. I may not be full speed in all of them.

What are your main goals for the next season?

V. N. - I will focus on WOC, World Games, CISM and Scandinavian relays. There, I'll be on top shape.

We are about to turn one more year. Would you like to leave a wish to all orienteers?

V. N. - I wish everyone to understand how unique our sport is, compared to others, and to appreciate that. And a happy New Year!

Joaquim Margarido

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Matthias Kyburz: "A day full of smiles"

Now that the 2012 elite season is over, it is still a surprise to many to see the name of Matthias Kyburz appear at the top of the IOF World Rankings. The current best sprinter in the world talks about his orienteering life, reflects on the season just ended and tells of his hopes for the future.

Everything has a beginning. Can you tell me something about your first steps in orienteering?

Matthias Kyburz (M. K.) - Like many orienteers, I started orienteering through my parents. At first, I wasn't interested in reading a map, so it was quite some time before I started hunting for controls in the forest. At the beginning I took part in some team competitions with my brothers, and I had the task of punching the controls while they read the map. I eventually did my first race alone at the age of 12. Before that, I was more interested in playing football or doing gymnastics.

What are your best memories from the early years?

M. K. - I have so many good memories…One of my best is from my first European Youth Orienteering Championships, in Sumperk (Czech Republic) in 2005. For me, everything was so new. So many competitors taller than me, strange food, unknown terrain and me, performing for the first time in a Swiss vest… We won the relay in the M16 class, and I think it was the only gold medal that didn't go to the Czechs. So I was really proud at that moment, and I thought I had won the most important race ever in my career!

The Sprint title that you won at the World Championships, in Lausanne, is for sure the peak of your career until now. How was it like to be there, the “three Matthiases” on the podium, in your own country, the gold medal on your chest?

M. K. - That was just incredible. The target of competing in WOC 2012 on home ground was a long-term project for me which started in 2008. At that time, I said to myself that this was surely an achievable goal. In the last few years I have improved really well, and this ambition became more realistic from day to day. The first big step was when I made it into the team. After the World Cup in St. Gallen where we, the “Matthiases”, finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th, I thought - that would be a nice result at the World Championships! But when we did even better in the most important race of the year, it was just amazing. It became a day full of smiles, so much so that one guy asked us if we were doing some kind of advert for toothpaste...

What was the secret behind your victory?

M. K. - If it were very easy to answer, then I wouldn't tell you! One reason is that we train Sprint quite often, and we also like to run Sprint races. Another reason is that the standard of Sprint training and competition is quite high in Switzerland, and so we gain something from every race.

Was it a part of your ambitions to reach the end of the season in first place in the World Rankings, and at the same time win the World Cup?

M. K. - The World Cup was of course one of my major goals this year. That was quite obvious for me, because I wanted to perform well at the European Championships and the World Championships, and all of them were World Cup races. Before the season started I was hoping for a top 6 placing in the World Cup overall. But when I went to the World Cup Final already in 3rd spot, I hoped I could get even higher...

Is there an athlete who you regard as a “model”, as an “idol”?

M. K. - No, not any more. Of course when I started orienteering at the age of 12, I was really impressed by the performances of the top Swiss orienteers. When Simone Niggli won every gold medal at WOC 2003 and Daniel Hubmann and Matthias Merz were collecting a lot of medals at JWOC, I was a big fan of theirs and it was they who motivated me to start to train seriously.

You started this fantastic season in the South of Europe, namely in Portugal, in February. What does Portugal mean to you?

M. K. - So far, when I was in Portugal for Training Camps, I always had a good time and could profit a lot from the nice and demanding terrains. Even though I do not have the best memories from this year, because I slipped on a stone and hit my head quite badly. But I will come back next year and run the Portugal O' Meeting and a two days event one week later.

What do you think of this “bulge” of Sprint races at the most important competitions?

M. K. - Like many other athletes, I think that there should be more Middle and Long races in the World Cup and fewer Sprints. For example, I do not understand why there are so many Sprints at the Nordic Orienteering Tour, when they have such great terrain for Middle and Long distance. It felt strange this year to drive for four hours from Oslo to Göteborg through the most beautiful terrain, and yet not take a single step into the forest. But on the other hand all the Sprint races this year were well organized, and I had a lot of fun competing in front of big crowds.

What are your main goals for the next season?

M. K. - My main goal is to defend the Sprint title at the World Orienteering Championships in Vuokatti. But I believe I should also be ready for my first medal in a forest discipline… I also want to be on the podium at The World Games in Colombia.

We are almost in 2013. Would you like to make a vote to orienteering and to the orienteers in the whole world?

M. K. - I wish to every orienteer nice races in 2013 and I hope to see you on the 16th March and the 14th August at the beautiful races in the Fricktal.

Joaquim Margarido

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Orienteering Achievement of 2012!

Read about the fantastic achievements of the 13 athletes and 3 teams who are nominated for The Orienteering Achievement of 2012. Then post your vote for your favourites, and be part of the drawing for prizes worth nearly 4000 Euros!

2012 has been yet another year full of great orienteering achievements – and as we now are moving towards 2013, we follow the tradition and decide the greatest of achievements of the year. New this year based on many request: Teams can now also win the achievement of the year – this year three teams are among the nominees! The annual poll to find the best Orienteering Achievements of the year is organized by the major source for international orienteering news on the Internet, World of O –

In the vote for “The Orienteering Achievement of 2012″, the best achievement of the year is to be named – and not necessarily the best orienteer of 2012. On December 4th, all nominees are presented at World of O. The winner is decided in a vote amongst all the readers of World of O between Tuesday December 4th and Monday December 10th. The winners will be announced December 13th.

Please, vote here:

Joaquim Margarido

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Eva Jurenikova: "I want to go forward in this coaching work"

Eva Jurenikova was recently in Portugal and the Portuguese Orienteering Blog found her at Oporto City Park, doing... Trail Orienteering. In this Interview, she describes the last few months, speaks of the new challenges ahead the Halden SK and projects the next season. And she also talks about Portugal and Trail-O.

What are your best memories, six months later, of the European Orienteering Championships 2012, where you were the Middle and Long Distances' course setter?

Eva Jurenikova [E. J.] - What I remember the most is the cooperation with various people, when we were preparing the TV production. Tom Hollowell, Jan Kocbach and some other guys worked hard to make it happen. Collaborating with the TV director Karel Jonak and realizing what you can do for a good TV coverage without compromising orienteering, was motivating. But the TV production was just a part of my EOC work, I was involved in many other things.

Was it an extra-challenge for you, as a course setter. It would be easier without the TV?

E. J. - Until February, I was not sure if there would be TV or not [from the middle distance]. I had two or three little bit different course alternatives, but the main concept of the course was set. I didn't have to make big changes because of TV. They used many kilometres of TV cables. I only adjusted a few controls after being in the forest with Karel Jonak, the TV director, in the autumn 2011.

How important was for you to be a course setter in this event?

E. J. - It was important because of the experience. It might help me in the future to get some other tasks or some other jobs connected to orienteering. But that wasn't what I was thinking before. I had too much terrain knowledge to run the competitions anyway so I said “OK, it will be fun to be on the other side”.

One month later and there you are, in Lausanne, competing in the World Orientering Championships. How did you find the WOC, this year?

E. J. - After all, there are a lot of positive feelings about the WOC. In May, just before the European Championships, I was not sure if I would be participating in the World Championships because I was not training properly for a couple of months. I am pleased that I managed to get there and, at least, to be in the best shape of the season. I felt that, in the Long Distance, I managed to get the maximum out of me.

So, you are happy with your result?

E. J. - I was fourth last year, I was sixth this year but some of my competitors were missing in 2011. Just looking blindly on the results… they might not be telling the whole truth. Technically, I had a better performance this year than the last year. So, I am very pleased with that.

What did you feel seeing Tomás [Dlabaja] and the two Jan [Sedivy and Prochazka] winning the historic gold medal on the WOC's Relay?

E. J. - I could feel tears coming to my eyes when Jan Prochazka was on the way to the finish, it was a great thing to see. They had been fighting for this for quite a long time.

Did you expect such result?

E. J. - To expect... (laughs) If you see the Relay races, the margins are so small. I think the guys believed that it could happen. Maybe in the previous years, some parts of their race were very good and they could feel that they could be on top, but some small things didn't work. This year, everything worked out greatly. It was cool!

In a couple of days, you'll be travelling to Norway, to take the place of coach of one of the biggest orienteering teams of the world, Halden SK. What does being the coach of such a great club mean to you?

E. J. - I know it's a big challenge and I've been thinking a lot about it. I feel that I'm ready for that, so I made the decision. In Halden, they really want me for this job, I got the feeling. I will be working part-time so that I can still continue to be an elite athlete, to go to the World Championships, to prepare myself as I want and, at the same time, to be a coach. I think that it's important to make a change sometimes. I want to go forward in this coaching work, and that's a great possibility for me, now.

Can you share with us some ideas that you still have for this job of being the Halden's coach?

E. J. - My main task will be the technical training. I feel quite confident that I can prepare interesting courses and organize trainings. Halden is a very successful club with many victories in Tiomila, Jukola etc., but I'm more thinking like what, in a practical way, can I do to help the runners to develop one step further.

Is it the challenge?...

E. J. - Well, the first challenge is, probably, getting their trust. If they don't trust me, then they won't listen to me. I want to listen and to understand how the club works and what the runners want.

Now you are here in Portugal, helping Fernando Costa and Orievents to organize some Training Camps in Norte Alentejo. Please, tell me, do you still think that Portugal is the orienteers' paradise in the winter?

E. J. - Yes. I mean, it's nice to see how Orienteering continues to be developing here, more maps are made, the quality of the competitions is really good, you have good weather and nice terrains. It's attractive. I like to work with enthusiastic people and Fernando is such a person.

How many times can these maps and terrains be used?

E. J. - I have been training 5-6 times at some areas here but I can still get a good training there. Some of the maps are very detailed; you do not “learn” such a map in a few trainings. Here in Portugal you seem to be often trying to find some new terrains. I got to know, for example, that the club which will organize the Portugal O' Meeting next year uses areas pretty far away where the club is located. I really like the idea that you are searching the whole country for the best terrains, not just looking what you have close to your home town. This approach is not very common in Scandinavia. And I guess there are many interesting areas in Portugal which have not been mapped yet.

Next year, the World Orienteering Championships will be played in Finland. Any expectations for the WOC?

E. J. - My goal is to come to WOC in a very good shape. I have high expectations on the quality of the races. After seeing the Finnish world cup races this year. I got a feeling that the WOC organizers are focused on making the best possible courses and that brings extra motivation for me.

About yourself, any plans for the future?

E. J. - Next year I still want to do my best as an athlete. After WOC I will make a decision about the following year. I do not know now. I am just about to turn 34 but I still find a lot of motivation to challenge myself and to explore areas where I can improve as an orienteer. At the same time I am excited about my new job in Halden where I am moving in the beginning of December. I can see myself working as a coach even in more distant future, but I cannot say now what I am motivated to do in, let’s say, in 10 years.

And here we are, in a pretty warm morning, at Oporto City Park, where you could try for the very first time a TrailO course. How did you feel about it?

E. J. - I think the main principles, how it works, how you look at the details, are not new for me. I put many controls in the forest when I'm preparing trainings, and often I face the same kind of challenge. Deciding if you should put it here or five meters further away, looking at the compass, comparing the directions with the objects around, so the process itself was not unfamiliar for me. But still, you have to be focused on what you're doing. If you're not focused, you'll easily make mistakes. I did two such “ bad concentration” mistakes on the course.

Can it be a good training for Foot orienteers? As the coach of Halden, for example, will you prepare some TrailO trainings for your athletes?

E. J. - I think that it's nice for everybody to try, you can still learn something new. But I wouldn't exchange the FootO training for a TrailO training. If I have an opportunity, one day, of doing TrailO with my athletes, well, why not? But I am not sure I would like to organize a TrailO training myself. I understand that it is much more work than preparing a FootO training.

Joaquim Margarido

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Emily Kemp: "I take advantage of every opportunity I get"

Small in stature, huge in want, Emily Kemp headed to France searching for the dream. Today she is already a safe value in this world of Orienteering and the future opens up before her, wide and promising. About herself and his career, she spoke with enthusiasm to the Portuguese Orienteering Blog. Et voilá!

When, last March, I interviewed Thierry Gueorgiou, he said that "there are no limits to the dream." And, following his idea, he gave as an example “this little big athlete from Canada”, Emily Kemp. Emily, will you please introduce yourself?

Emily Kemp (E. K.) - Yup I guess I am known as the little big athlete from Canada, or in France, la petite Canadienne. I have been living in France for two years now, studying physics and chemistry and training with the best training group anyone could ask for, le Pôle France. Every day I get to live my dream of competing, training and living as an elite athlete and it’s really “de la bombe de balle”! 

You left behind the city of Ottawa where you were born and your country to settle in France, more precisely in Saint Étienne. All this because of Orienteering?

E. K. - At 18 it was a big, huge, really scary deal moving all the way across the ocean; I remember saying goodbye to my family, walking through the security gates with a one way ticket to France and thinking “what on earth have I gotten myself into”? Thankfully, France has become my second home and I haven’t regretted the decision since. I’m not sure how many people know the story of how I came to St. Etienne, but in brief Thierry was on vacation in North America and while I was already researching universities in Europe he invited me to train with le Pôle. I am studying at the same time but if I ever have to choose between training and class it’s always the training that wins ;)

After all, what you see in this sport that makes it so special?

E. K. - For me orienteering has always been the challenge of the balance between speed and navigation. I’ve been orienteering for almost 13 years now and I’m always super excited to travel to new places and run in new types of terrain. I think that we have a really unique sport when you think about how you have to adapt your technique and speed to each new map that we run on. I will never get tired of searching for that edge where everything is flowing so smoothly but you know that one slip in concentration could be the end to a perfect race. 

As you mentioned before, you are part of Thierry Gueorgiou's training group and, surely, you have learned one or two things with him. Would you like to tell who Thierry is, what he means for you and what is the most important thing you learned from him?

E. K. - Thierry is the reason that I’m actually in France and he’s always been there to look out for me as I try to manoeuvre my way through life in France and become an elite athlete. I have learned so much invaluable information from him about orienteering techniques, mentality, nutrition, analysis, that I don’t think I could ever thank him enough. Moving to a different country, with a different language and culture meant that I went through a lot of change and Thierry was always there to make sure that I was in good spirits and on the right track with my training and studies. I think that the most important thing he made me realize was that when you have a goal, or a dream that you would like to reach, every decision that you make from the time you wake up to the time that you go to bed is in order to succeed. He is an impressive athlete and I can only hope that one day I will be as committed to orienteering as he has been throughout his career.

One of the greatest moments ever in the Canadian Orienteering has to do with the bronze medal that you won in Kosice, in the Long Distance race of the JWOC 2012. Were you waiting for this medal or were you hoping to do even better?

E. K. - Ever since running my first JWOC in Sweden 2008 I have dreamt of being up on the podium myself. However, just the idea of it made my heart rate sky rocket because I knew that it wasn’t the type of thing that happens by accident. The thought of giving everything I had to my last JWOC was what made me run that itsy bit faster during my intervals and gave me the motivation to get out for that second training of the day all throughout the winter and spring. The hardest part was knowing that everyone around me wanted me to succeed as much as I did which was a lot of pressure leading up to the races. However, in the nick of time, I realized that I was doing this sport because I loved it, because I loved the feeling of running at full speed but navigating cleanly, because I knew that I could only control my own race and not the results of others. Standing on the starting line for that long distance race I had the biggest grin on my face because I just could not contain my excitement. It was then that I knew that this was going to be one heck of a ride but that I was ready.

In addition to this fantastic result, it was possible to see you in excellent plan in other races, mainly at the Portugal O 'Meeting 2012, with a 7th place on the first day. Would you like to share your memories of the good times of the season and that trip to Portugal?

E. K. - My results at that Portugal O ‘Meeting came as a bit of a surprise since I had spent the last 3 months of winter working a lot on my technique and I wasn’t entirely sure if everything would fall into place once I added a bit of speed. I think what I loved the most was running against the elite women and just seeing how strong they were technically and physically and knowing that is where I wanted to be as an athlete. The terrain was also absolutely spectacular and the weather was beautiful as usual! It always boggles me to think that a few years ago in Canada I was just dreaming about orienteering in February but still had two months to wait!

What is going to change, passing from the Junior class to the Elite class?

E. K. - Running with the seniors is definitely a different kettle of fish but I’ve been fortunate enough to have already experienced my first WOC in France in 2011 and run other World Cup races in the women’s elite category. For better or for worse I already know what it’s like to compete against the big girls and after running five consecutive JWOCs I’m definitely ready to take on the challenge. 

What are your goals for the next season?

E. K. - Seeing as I’m trying to finish my degree this year, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to attend many of the World Cup Races in the spring but I’m really quite excited about WOC in Finland. What I would really love to do is put in a super duper winter of training without any serious injuries. One of the difficult parts of being in France to orienteer is that I’m always so excited to train that I take advantage of every opportunity I get. “Four hours of training during the day plus a night training? Sure! Let’s go!!” And then I realized that I have been injured for the past two years… Out of all the mistakes that I’ve made in the past when it comes to injuries, I think I’ve finally tuned into my body and what it needs to not fall to pieces. My goals for next season don’t include a certain placing at a final at WOC, just a solid, injury-free preparation and then I’ll see what happens after that.

Is a return to Portugal and to the Portugal O 'Meeting 2013 in your plans?

E. K. - Definitely! February has become a much brighter month now that I know that my season starts off with some awesome training in Portugal :) Looking at the schedule, I wish that I could spend the whole month in the Portuguese sunshine but I might have to be selective as to which weekends I’ll be able to run. In other words, I wish my schedule is yet to be determined.

One last idea?

E. K. - I am extremely lucky to have been able to follow my dream of moving to Europe and training full time and for a while now I’ve wanted to share what I’ve learned, and am still learning, as I experience new and exciting things. We already have a Canadian Team Blog but I’m very proud to say that there is now an Emily Kemp blog. My brother, Eric Kemp, is completely to thank for the awesome layout and I hope that with this I’ll be able to share my excitement for this crazy sport!

Joaquim Margarido

Monday, September 17, 2012

Emily Benham: "I just got it right on the day"

She opened her participation in the WOC MTBO 2012 with a historic result. Emily Benham, our guest today, tells us about this sport so special, setting its challenges and drawing some future projects. And she also talks about a silver medal that, finally, did not represent more than “a job well done.”

I know that you started by doing Foot-Orienteering at the age of 11 and then came the MTB Orienteering. How did it happen?

Emily Benham (E. B. ) - I came to MTBO when I had just turned 18, and I started because over the winter of 2006/2007 I had overtrained and done too much running. I needed a break and time to do something different from running. I jumped on a 5 a.m. train, travelled for two hours, biked to the event, raced on a battered old giant with spoke protector and chain guard and then went home. I came 6th in a race where Helen Winskill, Janine Inman, Karen Poole and Heather Monro were racing. I think I was about 10 mins behind them, but I loved it. I loved the speed of navigation and the different challenges the sport presented, and I was lucky to be selected to go to Italy off the back of my first race.

What do you see in this sport that is so special?

E. B. - The combination of mental, physical, technical and bike repair skills! With MTBO you need to be fast and have very good bike handling skills - whether it's biking up steep hills, down steep hills, across roots and rocks. When you move faster, the track junctions come up quicker so your decisions have to be spot on. Then there's the added dimension of needing to be able to repair a bike in the heat of a race, which is made harder by a heart rate of 190 as you panic it's race over!

This year in Veszprém, you've won a historic medal for yourself and for the MTB Orienteering in Great Britain. How did you live these moments?

E. B. - First, I was overwhelmed. I finished with a two minute lead so I knew I had had a good race. I carried out my post-race routine, calmed myself down and waited to see the final result. Then I went back to the accommodation and ate. I didn't do anything special as I had other races to think about. I always imagined winning a medal would feel different and more special. But in reality, it just felt like a job well done.

It was a great achievement, especially after two seasons of a relative “eclipse”. Which was the secret of “to come, see and (almost) conquer”?

E. B. - I think the Ski-Orienteers would call it the “love factor”! I wasn't aiming for a medal, it hadn't really crossed my mind. The two months prior to WOC were very hectic and busy. I spent a month travelling Scandinavia, then a month map making in Norway. Finally I was coaching Foot-Orienteering in Scotland for two weeks. Over the winter/spring I was only 'training' when I felt like it (when it wasn't raining, which wasn't very often!). I started doing some training for WOC in early June. There isn't a secret though. I just got it right on the day - although I think all the foot-O helped!

You won the medal in what is precisely a distance unloved by many. Sprint is really your speciality?

E. B. - I've always enjoyed sprint races. Historically, I'm a “forest” sprinter. I find the zone much more easily and understand the nature of forest sprints. I've never had good results in urban sprint races, so I thought I would perform better in Hungary. The Sprint is an “all-or-nothing” event. You have to commit 110% to every route choice and be on the ball with your navigation for the entire course. There are no down times where you can just bike fast. You always have to think hard. I think this throws a lot of people as one mistake will cost you many places, but if you get it right, the sprint always rewards you.

And what about this WOC MTBO 2012, in general?

E. B. - Well, the World Championships in Hungary have finished. Normally, by this stage, there have been several comments about areas of the organisation or maps or transport. WOC this year passed by without anyone batting an eyelid and I guess this is a sign the organisers did a fantastic job, making it the best WOC I've attended. Their 'olympic village' worked well and the pizzeria across the road enjoyed feeding hungry athletes! The maps were excellent and courses well planned. The areas were chosen to give the athletes a range of terrain to compete on, which added an extra dimension to the week. Even the quarantine zones were kept short and sweet. The bulletins were published in plenty of time and even the admin process was uncomplicated and stress free. Well done to the organising team (when can you organise the next one?!).

I know that you're living in Sweden and this is one of the countries that are now starting to turn to the MTB Orienteering. May we have, in the next years, a strong MTB Orienteering team in Sweden as it is in Foot Orienteering?

E. B. - The Swedish team already have two strong athletes: Cecilia Thomasson and Linus Karlsson Mood, both of whom have potential to get great results. Swedish MTBO is growing, but I think it will take some years for it to catch up to Finland MTBO in terms of elite riders. They have events on every month now, mostly around Stockholm and up to 4 hours away from the capital, so there are plenty of opportunities. It will take time to develop strength in depth.

Overall, how do you evaluate the evolution of the sport? What did you think of the latest changes to the rules, in particular about to move off the tracks?

E. B. - I like the direction the sport is heading. I would like to see more head-to-head races over long distances but they must be properly gaffled (the Hungarian system of 2009/2010 worked really well). I would also like to see more mixed sprint relay events similar to ski-o. The sport has to develop to be more spectator friendly and head-to-head races and sprint relays are possibly the way forwards. I like events where there is an option to shortcut through the forest. The maps have to be properly made, especially in areas where shortcutting is likely. I don't think it would work on every area, but in Hungary it certainly added an extra navigational challenge. MTBO to the control circle. Then orienteer properly to the control.

However, I think in the future the carrying of personal GPS devices should be permitted (well done to the Hungarians for permitting devices without a map - finally a step forward). It would take me far longer to programme my GPS with where I wanted to go in a race, than it would to use my brain to get there. GPS units could be declared before the event with the make and model. Organisers could carry out random (not at the start) checks on those that have map capability to check there are no orienteering maps on the device, and “GPS” could be written after athletes names in the results so everyone knows who rides with their device. I use my GPS to collect my HR and speed data, but I have no information on any major events, which would be interesting to see for training purposes. So many athletes now own GPS units, but I can't imagine anyone would gain much time by cheating given that it would be obvious to other competitors - an athlete riding along solely looking at their watch ...

And now? Did you started working for the gold in 2013?

E. B. - For now I'm settling into life in Sweden. Learning my local trails, and trying to love roots and rocks! I'm not going to make the same mistakes I've made in previous years, what I did this year works for me. I've been persuaded to go to Estonia recently, and I'm looking forward to experiencing the maps and terrain there in preparation for WOC next year. As for gold in 2013 - we'll have to wait and see, you can never expect medals. My main goal for now is not to finish last in a ski-o race this winter!!! :-)

Joaquim Margarido

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Matt Ogden: "Euphoria!"

Thursday, July the 12th 2012. In the forests of Izra, Matt Ogden gave to New Zealand its first gold medal in a Junior World Orienteering Championship ever. Two months later, he is the Portuguese Orienteering Blog's guest of honour. Still living in a state of euphoria, here he's willing to share memories, dreams and projects in a simple, direct way, enabling to know better the athlete and person.

A historical result, your first place at JWOC's Middle Distance. Was the gold medal in your plans?

Matt Ogden (M. O.) - Yes, a very historical result! It was New Zealand’s first ever medal and the first even non-European male medal. Those two historical facts alone convinced me that a gold medal was close to impossible. I did dream of being a World Champion though but that was buried deep within my thoughts and only ever surfaced when training got tough and I needed a source of motivation. So when I crossed that finish line, it was a pretty surreal feeling.

How did you start in Orienteering?

M. O. - I was first introduced to Orienteering when I was 10 years old at primary school. My mate and training partner, Gene Beveridge, asked if I would be interested in giving orienteering a go. I then did it throughout high school. Gene’s dad took us to all the schools events, travelling the length of the country where we competed at all the schools events. My first ever club nationals I picked up the middle distance title and I also won the national secondary schools title in my final year of high school. This kick started my orienteering career and when I experienced Europe into 2010 there was no going back.

Returning to Slovakia and to JWOC, how did you prepare for the gold medal?

M. O. - My preparations began two years ago, when I competed at my first JWOC in Denmark. I placed 70th in the Sprint, 84th in the Long and qualified in the Middle to eventually get a 46th place. One of my strongest memories from that A-final was being passed by Gustav Bergmann. It was then that I would realise the orienteering speed required to be near the top of field. After a solid training period I was back in action last year in Poland where I had a good race in the Middle Distance to finish 15th (30th and 21st in the Long and Sprint too). Following JWOC in Poland, I did some travelling and competed in the Croatia 5-day and OOCup. The OOCup would have to be the most fun I have ever had orienteering. The event was amazingly well organised and the terrain was just out of this world! It just so happened that the Middle final this year in Slovakia was held in quite similar terrain (maybe not such a coincidence). This year I made sure that I was running at 100% at JWOC. I arrived in Slovakia three weeks prior to the competition so that I could fully adapt to the climate and terrain while also recovering from jet lag. I ran numerous trainings with two Australians, I ate well and I was injury free so when I was on the start line of the sprint I was 100% prepared.

What are the strongest images you keep from that day? Did you wake up in the morning saying to yourself “let's go for gold”?

M. O. - I don’t think any orienteer ever wakes up and says “let’s go for gold”. That is the beauty of Orienteering. The winner is the athlete who can forget about the result and focus entirely on their technique. I had slept well after the night before the final and I was calm and relaxed going into the race. For every race at JWOC I had a set routine which I once again executed before the race. One emotion I did not expect to feel was sad. This was going to be my last individual JWOC race, but this also made me very excited as I knew it was my last chance to do something special as a junior. All the hard work, all the pain, all the training came flooding to me just before the race. A customary hi –five with my coach and I was heading off to the start. The strongest image from that day was definitely the NZ support coming into the arena mid-course and at the end. There support was unparalleled, and I believe, made that crucial difference in the last part of the course. The best feeling though would have to be collapsing across the finish line knowing that I had given everything; physically, technically and mentally. I knew that I had done all that I could to have the ‘perfect race’. Then when that was coupled with the commentary “Matt Ogden has taken the lead” there is only one word that can describe the feeling, Euphoria! And that has been the feeling ever since I won the gold.

In which way can this title be important for Orienteering in New Zealand?

M. O. - I think I have shown to all the juniors in New Zealand (and Australia) that being based in Oceania is not necessarily a bad thing. We have some fantastic terrain and with the right attitude and dedication anything is possible. Hopefully my success will inspire a new breed of New Zealand orienteer’s who will take the orienteering world by storm. I have done a lot of coaching with the New Zealand juniors and I definitely think that there are some real talents coming through. The saddest thing about orienteering in New Zealand is its appearance in the media and public eyes. It is seen as an ‘activity’ that you don’t really need to be skilled at. I think by winning a world champs, people have begun to realise the true essence of orienteering and how difficult it actually is. Hopefully because of this, orienteering can grow to new heights in New Zealand and become a nationally recognised sport (maybe a bit hopeful :P).

Tell me a little bit about you. What kind of person is Matt Ogden?

M. O. - Currently I am studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Auckland. I live about 40 minutes from the university so I spend a lot of my time driving each day. As much as 2hrs! So I think if I ever retire from Orienteering I would make an excellent limousine or taxi driver. I love food, any kind, as long as there is lots of it. I also really enjoying down time, sitting on the couch playing my ps3, watching a movie or laughing at Family Guy! I don’t really detest too many things as I believe it is best to have a positive outlook on as many things as possible! In the future I hope to move to Sweden; well it is becoming more of a reality. In 2013 I will finish my studying, so I will be a 21 year old qualified mechanical Engineer living the dream in Europe (that is what I hope to do at least!).

Do you have an idol in Orienteering? What does he (or she) have that you don't?

M. O. - I admire all top orienteer’s like Gueorgiou, Hubmann and Lundanes. But I don’t really have an idol. I liked what Edgars said about being your own Idol; I thought it was true in many ways.

Next year, the World Cup will start in your country. What are your chances of a good result, playing at home?

M. O. - It is really nice to have the World Cup in New Zealand. It is time for the Europeans to suffer at the hands of jet lag and travel fatigue! This will be my first senior race which I am targeting so I am not expecting much when it comes to results. My focus once again will be on the technical and physical performances. I think that the older athletes who have had experience at the senior level will do really well, especially Ross Morrison, who is somewhat unbeatable in his home terrain (the location of the third and final world cup race).

Talking about her goals, Lizzie Ingham, athlete of the month of September 2012 of the International Orienteering Federation, intends “to be the first Kiwi on the podium at WOC”. Are you going to break her dream?

M. O. - Haha. I don’t really want to break someone’s dream. My dream was to be a Junior World Champion and somehow it was realised. It will take some months for the high of winning JWOC to settle and for me to re-focus and begin to dream the biggest one of all, but I imagine it will be something like-to be the kiwi, first on the podium at WOC. But like JWOC it will not be my goal. Dreams are merely a source of motivation for me, my real goals are things that I control. The one consistent goal I have had throughout my orienteering career is to always be improving my technique so I will spend the next few years really focusing on that. I have never experienced a WOC so I have no idea what to expect, but I have heard that it is a million times harder than any JWOC. One person, or group, that could break Lizzie's dream though is IOF. One reason that New Zealand has grown so strong over the past few years is our WOC athletes returning home and improving the level of competition. If the changes to WOC are made then we will have less runners competing at WOC, which will be detrimental for Orienteering in New Zealand. In my opinion they looked at the problem the wrong way; Instead of “how can we change WOC to make it more TV friendly?” they should have really looked at “how can we change TV to make WOC more of a spectator sport”.

Joaquim Margarido