Thursday, March 29, 2012

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.

Five years later, which special significance has for you the return to the highest place of the podium at the Portugal O’ Meeting?

Thierry Gueorgiou (T. G.) - I keep good memories from 2007. The present edition of the Portugal O' Meeting was very different indeed. In 2007 we were at an altitude of 1000 meters on a little more open terrains, so it was a pleasant surprise to find here very technical terrains, in wooded areas. I must say that the first two stages were very good but the stages 3 and 4, in fact, exceeded them by far. All the participants will remember for a long time the two stages in Sátão.

How important is starting the season with a victory? In what way may it be an increase on the confidence levels?

T. G. - In winter I need to draw some short-term goals. My ultimate goal, of course, points at the World Championship, but it's really important at this time of the year, to trace intermediate goals for this month or for the next month. The Portugal O’ Meeting was one of them; Silva League, in Sweden, in April, will be another; the Tiomila... This is an important part of my preparation and that’s why I feel satisfied by the good races that I did here, although I’m not very happy with my performance at the second stage of the Portugal O 'Meeting and at the first stage of the XIII Centro’s Orienteering Meeting. There are lots of things to work, clearly, but winning always causes a great deal of confidence.

I had the chance to talk with Olav Lundanes, Daniel Hubmann and Anders Nordberg and, in their words, I could understand how important it could be to beat you. How did you manage with this enormous pressure at the key moments? Is ice what runs in your veins?

T. G. - No, it’s not ice (laughs). I got used to dealing with this pressure, since everyone who sees me at the start of a competition expects me to win. I learned to live with this kind of pressure and things are as they are from ten years until now. On departure to a competition I’m always very relaxed because Orienteering is really what I enjoy to do the most. And then, in the forest, when I run at the maximum, it amuses me greatly. I don’t need to focus on the others runners, just to concentrate in myself and at the pleasure that the practice of Orienteering gives me. In what I do at the moment, in a beautiful forest with a beautiful course to enjoy.

But when you realize that you did a mistake, don't you get unfocused?

T. G. - Yes, precisely. If I do a minor mistake, I seek to re-enter in to the race as soon as possible because the chances of winning are still there. But if it's an error like the one that happened in the second stage of the Portugal O 'Meeting, well... It's true that the frustration is much bigger, I know that the chances of winning or even entering into the first three places are near zero and then becomes much more difficult to regain the right pace. These are things that we realize with the experience. In fact, you can win despite committing two or three small mistakes, although you can lose even if you made a perfect race.

Out of Orienteering, who is Thierry Gueorgiou?

T. G. - Unfortunately, my free time practically doesn’t exist. My life can be divided into stages and Training Camps and, in the intervals, the available time is used to draw the plans in according with the closest goals. So, I would say that 90% of my time is no less no more than Orienteering. But I like discovering new places, new cultures. I usually take the end of the year to travel and I choose places where Orienteering is absolutely absent. My last holidays were in New York and I could enjoy some very good moments. But I have other passions such as movies or fishing. In fact, fishing is my hobby; this is where I'm most relaxed. As for the movies, the last movie I saw was "Millennium" [NR Niels Arden Oplev, Sweden 2009]. I saw it with Annika [Billstam] in the original version and it was fine. I have a good number of films among my favourites, but I shall elect the "Gladiator" above all. And I also like reading, of course. I read a lot, especially sports-related publications. Daily, I read L'Equipe and, from time to time, I also read a book during a stage.

What would you say to someone who is starting in Orienteering?

T. G. - I think the most important, as I often say, is to dream. Having a dream and pursue it, is very important in terms of motivation. So, it might have a translation on a daily basis, depending on the size and scope of the dream. If the dream is to become world champion, you absolutely need to train daily with such commitment and such a desire corresponding to your final goals. There are no limits to dream. We have the case, for example, of this great little orienteer from Canada, Emily Kemp, who is part of our training group. It's true that, in Canada, Orienteering doesn’t have the expression that it has in France or in Sweden, for example. But her devotion is such that she begins to do great things and the results are appearing. When you dream and when you work to achieve the results, you can get there.

Your ultimate goal, as you said earlier, are the World Championships. Are we going to see you repeating the three gold medals achieved in 2011?

T. G. - It will be extremely difficult. We all know that the Swiss Team is practically unbeatable and they are going to be exceptionally well prepared for that. To get the gold, I have to do better than I did last year. I have no doubt that the level of competition will be extraordinarily high. In France, I had this great objective of achieving the three gold medals but now, in Switzerland, I'll be immensely happy if I achieve just one gold medal.

In 2014, Portugal will host the European Championships EOC/ETOC. At this time, what do expect from this event?

T. G. - Portugal has a lot to offer to all orienteers from all over the world. The Portugal O’ Meeting is an excellent example of it and you are, year after year, organizing some absolutely incredible events. I think that you will not waste this opportunity to do something that everyone will remember for a long time. Portugal has magnificent terrains in the mountains, like those we’ve seen here in Viseu, and, once again, everyone will be surprised by the quality of the organization. Personally, I don’t know if, in 2014, I will still do Orienteering at a high level but, at least, I hope to be here among the public to attend the races. I am sure that if you can offer what the best exists in Portugal, we will have a memorable European Championships. In any case, I have no doubt that the organization will be perfect. The number of passionate people for Orienteering in Portugal is so high that leaves me totally confident and relaxed about the quality of the event.

Joaquim Margarido

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spanish Trail Orienteering Championship: Prelada Hospital participates

Five athletes from the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service of Prelada Hospital, Oporto, will be at Plasencia, on 6th April, to compete in the first edition of the Spanish Trail Orienteering Championship. Perspective of an important and full of significance journey for the Adapted Sport in the Iberian Peninsula and particularly for Trail Orienteering.

25 years after the organization of the 1st Spanish Orienteering Championship, Trail Orienteering is required to integrate for the very first time the program of the most important competition of Orienteering in Spain. Traditionally played on Easter, the Spanish Orienteering Championship will be held this year in Plasencia, from 5th to 8th April, organized by CDO Vía de la Plata, Spanish Orienteering Federation and the Orienteering Federation of Extremadura. The big news in the program, this year, are precisely Trail Orienteering. Scheduled for the afternoon of 6th April, the competition will take place at the Los Pinos Park, at 4 p.m., in a map drew by Miguel Ángel Rodríguez (2006, revised in 2011).

The entries closed with the extraordinary number of 120 participants, to which we must add Adriano Rodrigues, Ana Paula Marques, Diana Coelho, Filipe Leite and Ricardo Pinto, all athletes representing the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service of Prelada’s Hospital. Despite their reduced mobility and four of them moving in a wheelchair, the five Portuguese athletes will participate in the Open Class, the only class of competition.

"A rewarding experience"

The Portuguese Orienteering Blog met the big responsible for the introduction of Trail Orienteering in Spain which is the course setter of this Spanish Trail Orienteering Championship. To Roberto Munilla, the invitation of the Spanish Orienteering Federation to the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service of Prelada’s Hospital concerns directly with "the friendship that binds me to Joaquim [Margarido] that made me, immediately, to think that this could be a rewarding experience for the athletes of the Hospital." But he goes further, admitting that "selfishly, I went to meet his biggest experience, since the orienteers and the organizers of Trail Orienteering competitions in Portugal possess valuable knowledge that can and should be shared with the Spanish orienteers."

The course will take the participants to meet the most beautiful places of the Los Pinos Park, offering the challenge of 15 control points and still one or two timed points. Roberto Munilla states that "the Los Pinos Park, being frequented by people with reduced mobility and having a varied topography and enough adequate for the practice of Trail Orienteering, gave to us the chance to draw challenges from many different levels, although the challenges to the level of Elite are not as numerous as it would be desirable. The fact that this is a small park with little depth of vision makes it practically impossible to use some technique (reference lines) and it’s sometimes difficult to find different points of observation to the group of flags. Roberto Munilla also notes that "the orienteers must adapt to a map that was updated within the philosophy of Foot Orienteering and there are some cases that the terrain features are not represented with sufficient accuracy, shape and dimensions as it should be desirable on Trail Orienteering.” And he leaves a warning: “The participants who aren’t well identified with the techniques and rules of Trail Orienteering may experience some difficulties to find the correct answers. The limitations presented before require, in some situations, to make a very precise reading of the terrain, with a reduced margin of observation."

"The beginning of a fruitful relationship"

Invited to comment the fact that there will be only one class of competition, closing the Championship, for now, to Paralympic class, Roberto Munilla returns the question: "Could it be a greater inclusion than to put in competition, in the same category, people with some degree of disability and those who do have not? That is, for me, the ultimate equality. Highlighting the fact that "the only differences in Trail Orienteering can only be established at the level of technical skills and never by the physical abilities”, Munilla particularizes the case of Plasencia’s event: "All the problems were designed taking in mind the handicaps of the orienteers with reduced mobility and the organization has provided an escort in order to assist in the movement of wheelchairs. No one will have reasons to complain of being in a situation of inferiority, comparing to the other participants."

With the number of 120 entries, the expectations at the participation level are fully met, surpassing even the most optimistic predictions. Roberto Munilla expects to see in this competition "an opportunity to deepen the knowledge about Trail Orienteering", but also a stimulus to "draw more ambitious goals, both personally and collectively." And it ends with the expression of a desire: "I hope that the Portuguese participants return satisfied with their performances and with our organization. I also hope to have drawn sufficiently difficult problems that motivate the Spanish orienteers to promote and practice Trail Orienteering." And as integration is a premise of this sport, Roberto Munilla hopes that “this should be the beginning of a fruitful relationship between Portugal and Spain, between orienteers with disabilities and those who have a little less."

All information at

Joaquim Margarido

Saturday, March 24, 2012

EOC/ETOC 2014: Palmela, a handful of opportunities

1. It was announced in first hand by Orientovar – - and the news surprised (almost) everyone. The organization of the European Championships EOC / ETOC 2014 had just been assigned to Portugal, and Palmela, South of Lisbon, would host the event. The initial enthusiasm, however, soon appeared to fade. The dates for the event, the quality of the terrains, the technical capacity to organize the European Trail-Orienteering Championship and the offer of the Training Camps have been pointing out the main questions surrounding the Championships, doubts that have been increasing as time progresses. Portuguese Orienteering Blog accepted to play the role of the "devil's advocate", trying, at the same time, to demystify what can be demystified. And there came to the conclusion that "there are no boots to take off." There is, instead, a wealth of opportunities that cannot be wasted.

2. The choice of Palmela is based on a fundamental pillar. It was an initiative that has its point of departure at the various structures in the County (Schools, Clubs and local Authorities) that, in a coordinated way, came up for the Portuguese Orienteering Federation to express their interests in receiving a major organization of Orienteering, precisely at the moment that the International Orienteering Federation proposed to the Portuguese Federation, along with some other Federations, to stand for EOC / ETOC 2014. It is commendable that things have happened this way, since it is given expression to the genuine interest of a region cherishing the sport.

3. Expressing this concern, Palmela immediately secured the necessary financial conditions for the organization could be a reality. Of course, in the present context of economic crisis, the Portuguese Orienteering Federation couldn't give a step bigger than the legs, risking to put into question its future sustainability. So, the solid assurance of financial support was a “sine qua non” condition for the partnership with Palmela. Separately, the financial factor cannot, by itself, sustain the Portuguese Orienteering Federation's option by the municipality of Palmela. But that is a very important factor, that everyone must understand and accept.

4. In addition to the two aspects mentioned above, there is the question of the terrains, which has been sounded softly by a large pair of voices. The truth is that Palmela is the county with the largest area in the Lisbon metropolitan area, extending its territory until Alcácer do Sal and Vendas Novas. They are not, admittedly, the best terrains in Portugal, but they are, certainly, terrains with the necessary quality that will allow a EOC / ETOC 2014 with all the dignity that the sport requires and that will make Portugal proud of another great organization. Anyway, the "expansion" to nearby counties is on the table and it is hypothesized that shouldn't be discarded, ensuring that there is an understanding between the involved parts.

5. But there is another aspect that recurrently comes up and is debated passionately. We shouldn't forget that, more important than the quality of the terrains, is the route planning. I am between those who argued that a bad course set can absolutely ruin a good map, just as a clever stroke, able to take full advantage of the terrain features, is the best starting point for building real challenges for the participants, raising to the status of some excellent terrains that, at the outset, did not fulfil the conditions considered ideal. In fact, we should never speak about terrains and course set in isolation, but always in binary terms.

6. The question of the dates for the event is not closed yet, pending by a favourable opinion from the International Orienteering Federation to the proposed dates. We are sure, however, that the proposal was made taking into account various factors, including the organization of a WRE in the neighbouring country and the Spanish National Championships, at Easter time. In particular, the relationship between the Spanish Orienteering Federation and its Portuguese counterpart has been fantastic, so the dates given by both sides potentiate rather than inhibit the participation in all the events involved.

7. The issue of Training Camps, which provides an excellent opportunity to attract athletes to our country already in 2013, is another aspect that deserves particular attention. The Municipality of Palmela may not be an hypothesis on this particular aspect, but it opens large windows of opportunities for the Clubs located in the peripheral areas and that own very similar terrains. We must get to work now and bet heavily on this chance. It is unique and it can not come to repeat as soon as we would wish.

8. ETOC 2014: How are going to "take this boot off"? The truth is that there is no “boot” to “take off”. The fact is that, in Portugal, we have almost no experience in organizing major events of Trail Orienteering, but it is no less true that we are in contact with some internationally recognized people in this area and whose cooperation we rely on in order to support us in this organization. This commitment has to be seen by all of us as an unrepeatable opportunity in order to take a huge leap in this discipline in Portugal. And it must be understood from now on! The combination of maps and terrains of exceptional quality, the technical expertise and the kindness of a huge weather, can make of Portugal an oasis for trail-orienteers in the period of winter, attracting top orienteers from all over the world. As, indeed, what happens now in Foot Orienteering.

9. Summarizing the foregoing, the Portuguese Orienteering Federation gratefully supported the desire expressed by Palmela, who advanced to the highest level with the expression of that desire, accompanied by the necessary support and the availability of suitable terrains. No other region, through their local authorities or clubs, ever made it in relation to the EOC / ETOC and we should be grateful and acknowledged by the opening of the municipality to Orienteering. The opportunities offered are unique and its impact and scope can project the sport in our country to levels of excellence never achieved before. It is, therefore, crucial to have the massive involvement of the whole orienteer community, once again, each one giving their best towards the common good. Thus, we are confident that Portugal will return to write, in golden letters, its name in the Book of Honour of the major international events.

[See here the promotional video]

Joaquim Margarido

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Anna Serralonga: "We are climbing in to the results"

Anna Serralonga is a fighter. Orienteering is an important part of herself and she is today one of the safe values of the young and promising Spanish National team. Between the final of the Long Distance race at WOC in France and the recent passage by the Portugal O' Meeting, is an entire course of life that is projected in this interview, made of sincerity and confidence.

As in many other cases, also to yourself Orienteering is a family sport. Do you want to tell me how did it all begin and how important is this sport in your life?

Anna Serralonga (A. S.) - Everything started because of my father. He ran mountain races, marathons and also orienteering. My father introduced me and my brother to Orienteering when we were young, but we only used to run on regional races. Some years later, we asked him to run national races. Soon we got into the youth and junior Spanish team. We haven't stopped training nor competing since then and I hope to follow that way for a few years.

Besides Orienteering, what do you like doing the most?

A. S. - I like the mountain. My parents have an apartment in the Pyrenees and we usually do excursions. I like to climbing to the mountain tops or just to look for new lakes.

I'm putting you these issues in the International Women's Day. Being a woman and being orienteer, does it have a special meaning for you?

A. S. - I think that Orienteering is a sport that gives equal importance to men and women. That's why I'm really proud of being an orienteer.

You've been recently in Portugal, where you achieved a brilliant 10th place at the Portugal O' Meeting 2012. How do you evaluate the event in general and in particular your performances?

A. S. - This is the second time I run at POM and I think that it's a fabulous event. It's fantastic to have such a huge event in the peninsula. It's a big opportunity to compare to the best orienteers at the beginning of the season.

What special affection do you feel for Portugal?

A. S. - I've been running many times in Portugal and I have good memories from all of its competitions. Portugal has many different types of terrains and you are really near Spain, so I like going to Portugal! I also know a lot of portuguese orienteers because we use to meet at competitions, so running in Portugal is like running at home.

Although short, your experience as a competitor is marked by some beautiful moments, among them, surely, is the presence - along with Esther and Annabel - in the final of the Long Distance, at WOC 2011, in France. What memories do you keep from these moments, the Final and your 26th place?

A. S. - It was a big surprise to qualify for the Long Final. I had trained for it, but I wasn't sure I was capable to get into the final. I was really happy that day. Then I knew that the final would be really long for me. As it was my first Long Final, my goal was to finish the race and to enjoy it a lot. It was fantastic to end with a 26th place in such a difficult terrain.

Can you do even better this year in Switzerland?

A. S. - I've never run in Switzerland, but I know that the terrain will be really fast. I'm not a good runner, so I don't think that it will be easy for me to improve the 26th place. My goal this year is to run a good World University Championship in home ground. I'll also try to get into some final at WOC.

Portugal and Spain, two distinct realities, one sport. What approaches us and what separates us?

A. S. - I think that we are really similar countries. We have the same climate and really different type of terrains all over the Peninsula. Both are improving at the same time. I think that, step by step, we are climbing in to the results. Spain has some things to learn from you, for example organizing big events like Portugal O' Meeting.

Are we going to see you soon in Portugal?

A. S. - I'm from Barcelona, but this year I'm living in Madrid, so Portugal it's really near for me now. I like your terrains a lot, so I hope to come back soon!

Joaquim Margarido

Thursday, March 15, 2012

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.

How did you see the Portugal O' Meeting 2012?

Philippe Adamski (P. A.) - It was, in my opinion, an excellent set of races in exceptional terrains. It was very interesting because it was often necessary to take some time to make the best choice in order to avoid the green.

Failing the first stage of the Portugal O' Meeting 2012, you were automatically out of the fight for the trophy. Does this lack of pressure explain your victory in the final stage?

P. A . - No. The goal is always to be the first to arrive. In this particular case, with the mass start, it was very interesting to be able to maintain some contact with the others. It was fun.

But it's always nice to do better than Thierry Gueorgiou?

P. A . - It is true that my goal is to make a good race, but comparing our performance with Thierry's is always interesting, even if the circumstances in this case were very different. He started with ten minutes of advantage, the challenge in his case was not the same as in our case. But it's always interesting to analyse the route choices.

Thierry Gueorgiou, what does he mean for you?

P. A . - Well, Thierry is the one who shows us the way. He is a model. It's my "Master Yoda." It's amazing how he shares his experiences, how we learn from him. It is truly a pleasure to train with him because it is always a challenge and you can progress together. It is a fortune for the French team that we can have someone like him.

And what about you? Who is Philippe Adamski?

P. A . - I met Orienteering at school, under the Scholar Sports, a dozen years ago. I always tried to evolve, to know my potential, but also going in search of new terrains, traveling around the world. To discover always something else, I think that is what is asked in terms of progression in our sport. And this has given me immense experiences, all of them very enriching.

And in your spare time, what do you like doing?

P. A . - I like raids, mountain biking, mapping. And I like simple things, bees, for example. I have some skeps and treat them with Amélie Chataing. We take an enormous pleasure to seize together the happiness that is having the same simple tastes and to love the same sport.

One of the things that you appreciate the most in Orienteering, as I can see, is the cartography. Do you want to tell me a little bit about that passion?

P. A . - Discovering new types of maps, map routes... the challenge is very intense. There are so many new discoveries, there is so much to learn, that it turns out to be a very interesting way to improve.

You have been training in the Norte Alentejo, competing in the mountains, knowing the coastal region... Is Portugal a paradise for orienteers?

P. A . - Yes. At the winter, Portugal is a super destination. Especially with these new terrains that we could experience here in the Portugal O' Meeting, I feel an urge to get back to be able to train here, to explore the terrains that have been offered to us and to get from them new and greater benefits.

Speaking of the great competitions to come and, of course, in the Relay of the World Championships, I have a natural question for you: Are we going to see the French team revalidate the title in Switzerland?

P. A . - We are properly preparing ourselves and we hope to be able to rise to defend the title when the time comes. Us three, we are a team and it's as a team that we must be prepared. In this process we can count also with the Finnish club Kalevan Rasti, as it is with Kalevan Rasti we are subjected to enormous pressure in the great relays, like Tiomila and Jukola.

And individually, what are your goals?

P. A . - Well, I would like to do a race at my level. That's why I'm working at the level of training on a daily basis. I would like to continue progressing and achieve a good place in the World Championships.

Will you return to Portugal?

P. A . - Next year, surely. This year it's the third time that I'm in Portugal and now follows a quiet period in Sweden. But I intend to come to Portugal every year.

Joaquim Margarido

Monday, March 12, 2012

5th MTB-O "Rota da Bairrada": Victories of Davide Machado and Karolina Mickeviciute

On a hot weekend, quite unusual for the season, an important Mountain Bike Orienteering Event took place in Bairrada. Spreading over its forests, climbing and descending its soft hills, 281 athletes rode their bikes trying to achieve the best result. At the end, Davide Machado and Karolina Mickeviciute were the winners.

The nice village of Barcouço, in the borough of Mealhada, was the stage for a weekend with plenty of Orienteering. The 5th Ori-BTT “Rota da Bairrada”, scoring for the Portugal Cup and for the Spanish League of Mountain Bike Orienteering and 1st round of the Iberian Championship were at stake. The great responsible for the organization of the competition, the Desportivo Atlético de Recardães team got from the municipalities of Mealhada and Águeda, the parishes from Barcouço, Cordinhã and Recardães, from Instituto Português do Desporto e Juventude and from FPO some of the essential and necessary support to carry out such an event.

There were 281 athletes in the competition, being 223 of them participating in the 19 competition classes and the others in the two open classes. Beyond all the greatest names of the Iberian Mountain Bike Orienteering, we have to highlight the presence of some of the best members of the French national team, such as Clément Souvray, Stéphane Toussaint, Matthieu Barthélémy, Yoann Garde and Madeleine Tirbois-Kammerer, as well as the Lithuanian Karolina Mickeviciute and the Slovakian Stanislava Fajtová and Hana Bajtosová, this last one being number 9 in the world ranking and having the titles of Sprint World Champion in 2008 e 2009 in her curriculum.

Volte-face in Women Elite

In fact, it was really Hana Bajtosová who, in a very demanding Long Distance race, both physically and technically, seized the opportunity to start the 5th Ori BTT “Rota da Bairrada” winning. Taking 1:21:17 to cover 21,6 km (14 control points ), Bajtosová sent the French athlete Madeleine Tirbois-Kammerer to the second place, leaving for the second stage with a comfortable advantage of 5:47 to manage.

In the second stage - a less demanding Middle Distance race in terms of physical effort, but particularly challenging and requiring the maximum concentration and quickness while taking decisions -, the athlete from Slovakia plumped so resoundingly, getting no further than the 9th place spending 1:24:41 and precisely nineteen minutes and a half more than the winner, the Spanish Monica Aguilera (Tierra Tragamé). Overall, at the end of the two stages, however, the victory in this 5th Ori BTT “Rota da Bairrada” would belong to Karolina Mickeviciute, adding to the fourth place in the inaugural race the second place in the decisive one. Among the Portuguese athletes, Rita Madaleno (ADFA) was the fastest during the first race and Susana Pontes (CPOC) showed her value in the second one ,although Tânia Covas Costa (.COM) was ,after overall results of both races, the best classified , occupying the 6thplace in the final classification.

Referring to the men’s category, Davide Machado (.COM) didn’t feel intimidated by the name of his opponents and proved that “at home, he is the master ”. After almost having guaranteed the achievement of the Trophy blowing away all opponents on the first day – covering 31,7 km in 1:30:47, against 1:37:41 of the second classified, the French Matthieu Barthélémy – the athlete from Póvoa de Lanhoso was once again the best in the decisive race. In fact, in spite of the strong resistence of his most direct opponents, Davide Machado taking 1:01:41 to cover the 15,0 km of the race, imposed himself to the French Matthieu Barthélémy and Yoann Garde, who repeated the second and third places of the inaugural stage, with the differences of 0:11 and 1:14, respectively.

It’s amazing to see all these people competing here”

Davide Machado showed himself satisfied with his result, although technically his evalutation was not the best one: “It’s true that I came here to win and I made it. But I’m not totally satisfied because, both yesterday and today, I made some small mistakes. Due to the competitors, these small mistakes are very negative and could have revealed fatal, which didn’t happen as my opponents failed too”. Classifying the maps and courses “very similar in both days, very technical, very good”, the best actual Portuguese athlete says a last word to the organizers of the 5th Ori-BTT Rota da Bairrada: “A 5 stars organization. Congratulations!”

Karolina Mickeviciute was also a satisfied athlete with the result, although under valuated in a way her victory: “It’s just the start of the season and to be here means mainly new terrains and more experience”. Confessing having chosen Portugal during this time of the year because “the weather is excellent”, the athlete does not regret anything: “Everything was perfect, the maps, the courses, the way we were received. Comparatively to many international competitions, even to the big championships, this one is of the same level. And it’s fantastic to see all these people competing here. I would say that only in Czech Republic and Portugal one can find competitions with so many participants.” To end, a word about the future: “We will see if this victory is the sign of a good season. We are not professionals and this represents a sort of limitation in every aspect. If we have more time to train, the results will be better. Otherwise... we’ll see”.

Portugal leads Iberian duel

The VIII MTBO Iberian Championship had its first two of four rounds and the Portuguese team was preponderant as usual. On the first day, the Portuguese reached 129 points against 86 of the Spanish athletes. On the second day of competitions, the supremacy was again for Portugal with 128 against 92 of Spain.

To Carlos Ferreira, one of the leaders of Desportivo Atlético de Recardães and the Competition Director, “it was worthwhile all the effort, all the work. We are few, but we managed to multiply ourselves and set a high level organization” Similar to what happened on the first day, the athletes congratulated again the organizers for the way how the decisive day went, what leaves that organizer particularly satisfied: “It’s the crowning of a set of experiences along the years, always with the goal of doing more and better.” Demanding courses, athletes’ safety and an improvement of communication and information were won bets of this V Ori-BTT “Rota da Bairrada”, showing that the national MTB-Orienteering is living good days. For Carlos Ferreira, the only thing missing was “the last 6 days of the map’s final revision, that were planned but that, because of an accident, didn’t take place. Due to that, I accept that there were some small dubious details on the second day’s map, but that did not in any way affect the competition level.” The last words are already about the 6th Ori-BTT “Rota da Bairrada”: “We will be integrated in the Cordinhã’s Wine Fair and we will have another new map. It will certainly be another great moment of MTB Orienteering for all this region.”

You can find the maps here [1st day] [2nd day] and also some photos [1st day] [2nd day].

All the info in

Joaquim Margarido

Thursday, March 08, 2012

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.

People usually say that high competition is not compatible with the fact of being mother. You are the perfect example that this idea is wrong.

Simone Niggli (S.N.) -That’s true. It’s not easy to be mother and top orienteer at the same time, because you have to organize a lot your trainings and competitions and sometimes your child gets sick, perhaps. You have to be very flexible. But I just feel this power for Orienteering in my heart and I have a lot of good help of my husband and my parents. Without this help, the things wouldn’t work. This help is very, very important for me.

So, it’s possible!?...

S. N. - Yes, I think so. There are other examples like Vroni Konig-Salmi, which shows that this is possible but, of course, you have to be very motivated to do it, because you must prepared, sometimes to choose between the trainings or your children.

They are not here with you?

S. N. - No, because it's complicated to put three children in a plane and so… They’re at home with my parents and I’m sure that they are having a good time together. But I think of them all the time and now I’m really looking forward to going back to them.

When you run, when you compete, can you forget the children?

S. N. - Yes. Then I’m concentrated on my map. I think that’s also important, that if you want to be back on the top, to be concentrated when you’re training and also to be relaxed after works.

In your way to the top again, how important could this stage in Portugal be?

S. N. - For me these days were important because, after a long winter training, you never know how fast you are, how your technique works. So, I’ve got a very good feed-back specially physically, that I’m really on a good way, and technically I can improve. But we are only in February and we are still some months away from the World Championships, but also here I saw that I’m in a good way and that gives motivation to the next few months.

A four times winner at the Portugal O’ Meeting, what does that mean to you?

S. N. - Mentally it was a very good start for me also, that I knew that I can be the best. I know I’ve got to go on working, I’ve made some mistakes, but I know that in the overall you have to be stable all the four stages, so I was the best on these four.

At the last day of Portugal O’ Meeting we saw this chasing start system. How do you lead with the pressure, not only here but also in the big competitions?

S. N. - I just try to concentrate on my own race because that’s what I can control. Of course, I had a lead of four minutes so I knew that I can go quite slowly first, to get in the map and to get in the race. But you have always that thoughts in your head that, perhaps, someone can catch me… Yeah, that’s the mental part of Orienteering, that you can put away these thoughts and just concentrate on your own map.

Talking about you performances here, how do you feel?

S. N. - I’m very happy with my performances because they were very technical and demanding races. I've made some small mistakes, but I’m very pleased that they weren’t the big ones. So, I controlled the races all the way and that was the most important thing.

Let us know a little bit about yourself. I suppose that, with three children, your free time almost doesn’t exist. Anyway, can you tell me something about your hobbies?

S. N. - My hobbies are my family. I like being with my husband and my children, my parents, my sisters. So, it's a really important part of my life. Then, if I have time, I like to read a good book, going to the cinema and I also like to cook at home.

IOF seems to be very concerned with the media, not as much as with the support to Federations to get more affiliates to Orienteering. Is our sport in risk of getting older and older quickly?

S. N. - I understand that we have to put some efforts on getting more attention from the media. It's hard to say. In one way you have to get the media, in another way you have to get youngsters. The best way to show our sport to the young people is going to the school with some projects. We have a very good project in Switzerland which is called “sCOOL”, so the students learn Orienteering in school, on the school areas, and that's much easier for them than going to the forests. Perhaps there are some that may continue in the future. It's a project supported by the Federation, mainly, and also by the clubs.

One last question: Are we going to see you again next year in Portugal?

S. N. - I think so. I really enjoyed all the times I've been here. You have very good competitions and terrains. It's really amazing the different kind of terrains that we can find here. So, it's really good and I will certainly be back.

Join Simone Niggli in her webpage at

Joaquim Margarido

Thursday, March 01, 2012

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.

Why are you honouring us with your presence here in Portugal?

Jan Kocbach (J.K.) - I’m here with the Norwegian Team, helping them with the GPS analysis. I’m making sure that we have a GPS data from all the Norwegian runners, from all the fast trainings and races. Then, I do the analysis of where they lose time, when they gain time, where they can improve.

How important it can be for the training process?

J.K. - It’s very important to understand where you lose and where you gain time. In my opinion, the after work is nearly just as important as the training, because that’s when you learn. There are small differences between a gold medal and a fourth place. You have to get that difference.

When we talk in little differences and take a look at the greatest teams – Sweden, Norway, Finland, Switzerland,… - where are their strongest and weakest points?

J.K. - That’s a complex question. This is more a question of individual runners than the nations and their each other strengths.

But Thierry Gueorgiou, for example, he is still unbeatable!?...

J.K. - No, no. He is not unbeatable. But I think that, in a tricky terrain with poor visibility, it’s very difficult to beat him, because his technique is very good in that terrain. In a more open terrain, he’s absolutely beatable. We saw in the first day of Orienteerin Meeting of Centro, of course, is not usual that he makes a mistake like that. But, still, it’s much closer in that terrain. In Orienteering you have to be concentrated on every control, so it’s difficult to be unbeatable.

This passion called Orienteering, how did it happen to you?

J.K. - Orienteering has been my main sport since I was twelve years old, so, for many, many years.

To direct this passion through World of O, does it mean that you felt that we are not as good as we should be in these particular matters of Communication and Media?

J.K. - In a certain way, yes. But World of O is an internal site, it’s for orienteers, it’s not for the outside world. It’s very Orienteering specific, even elite specific you can say so, mostly elite but also a bit for a broader. But it’s really for the ones who have a passion for Orienteering.

And how can we expand for the outside world such a fantastic job?

J.K. - That’s a different job. It’s the job of dealing profiles. You have to do it through newspapers, TV… I mean, the work to build profiles outside the Orienteering community has to be done by the outer media organizations. Federations are one part of them, the runners are another part of them, they have to sell themselves.

How should the runners feel this responsibility and, through the media, being ambassadors of our sport?

J.K. - Well, we have some of the Norwegian runners, for example, who are good in the media. And it really helps. And there are other runners around the world that they are also good with the media, they also get better sponsors, of course, and they get more attention. So it’s in their own interest, as well.

It’s an advice that you leave to the top runners?

J.K. - Yes, sure. But the problem is that not all orienteers are that kind of persons. You still have to try but for some is easy, for some is more difficult.

How do you feel here in Portugal?

J.K. - It’s very nice. Actually, this is my first time here in Portugal. It’s nice in the forest, it’s nice organizations, the training camps are very well organized. These terrains here, in Marinha Grande, are very interesting because you have a lot of control details. You can run very fast and still Orienteering is not very easy. But I think the one in the mountains is much nicer for my Orienteering style.

How important can be these trainings and competitions at this time of the season?

J.K. - This kind of terrain here is good for the basic training. The control training is always good, it’s one of the bases. And it’s more tricky than I did expect. In the first day, when I went to a hard walk, I did big mistakes. But in the second day it went a lot better.

This kind of competitions – a Long Distance with almost 20 km, for example – is that what we need for the opening of the season or should it be not as hard as that?

J.K. - They are well trained, so there is no problem with that. The difficult thing is to keep the concentration for so long.

You have a passion for Orienteering, but everybody knows that you have a passion for maps, too.

J.K. - Yes, I like maps! You need a map to find your way. The maps are mostly for my pleasure, also mostly the World of O is for myself. I do the things I like and often people, other people, need the same things as I do.

Sometime we can see you involved in matters that concern to rules or organizations. I mean, the “WOC in the Future” project, for example, you did a little politics. How important is this?

J.K. - A little bit, yes. I try to be objective. I don’t want to push my opinion; I try to show the differences. So, in what I write, I usually don’t put up my opinion, but I try to put up the different facts in an objective way. The other things written in the internet about Orienteering politics are usually from one side. I try to see it from both sides and to balance it, so that people can make up their own opinion. I don’t really do politics. I just try to layout the possibilities.

Do you feel you are someone special in our “family”?

J.K. - I feel that many people know me. So, it’s easy to get contact with somebody if I need something.

Are we going to see you in Portugal again?

J.K. - Who knows!? My problem is that I can’t run now. When I can’t run, it’s not so funny being around if I don’t have a special reason. Now I’m with the team and everything is fine. If the team wants to hold me, I probably will be. If I can run, I will also probably be. We’ll see. But I enjoy to be here.

And about World of O, what are the next projects?

J.K. - When I work with World of O, I have no goals. I do everything from day to day. When I start doing something, if I note “oh, this would be fun today”, it happens. So, I don’t have any long or short term projects. I do what is fun.

One last question: Portugal will host the European Orienteering Championships 2014. I ask you a word to Portugal and to our organization.

J.K. - I’m sure it will be great. I see here that you can do great organizations, you have nice terrains… I’m sure it will be very nice Championships.

Joaquim Margarido