Monday, April 27, 2015

Timo Sild: "I'm excited, like every year in spring"

After a successful winter season, the time of the big decisions is approaching and Timo Sild want to be part of history. To the Portuguese Orienteering Blog, the athlete focuses on the World Championships, highlights the strong internal concurrence and points some goals for 2015, 2016 and... 2017!

What does Orienteering mean to you?

Timo Sild (T. S.) - The meaning of orienteering to me has been different in the past and will be different in the future, but in the present it's my profession.

How did you start Orienteering?

T. S. - I've been an orienteer as long as I remember. Both my father and my mother were active orienteers when I was born and orienteering was always just a normal part of my life.

Was there a moment, a “click”, where you said to yourself: “That's it. Orienteering is what I really want to do!”?

T. S. - Yes. The move from the M20 to the Elite is not easy, although some exceptions among the elite orienteers might make one think that way. I ended my last year as a junior bashing my knee into a stone, which meant that I couldn't train properly for at least a year. Around the same time, I enrolled in the University and it was time to think of my career. After two years in the University I was called into the military service. So one day, I happened to talk to my father about “throwing in the towel” and we had a proper father-son discussion about orienteering. I re-evaluated some things in life and that's why I am where I am right now. My father won't probably remember the talk, but that's old age for you.

What was the best advice you've ever been given?

T. S. - Many athletes probably develop a philosophy of their own sports at some point of their career and try to implement it in other areas of life besides sports as well. For example, boxers might say "Life is a fight (struggle)" or something like that. I've got advice from the philosophy of orienteering: "Do the hard part in the beginning, that way, it should be easier in the end" or "Think before you act" or "Simplify" and so on.

What has been your biggest challenge in Orienteering? How do you manage it?

T. S. - I haven't been in my best possible shape when it really matters: the WOC. I am still working to solve this challenge, but the work is being done towards it. Ultimately, the goal is to make the perfect race: a race that I'm satisfied with, on a difficult course, with a strong field of runners on a day that really matters. Notice that a perfect run doesn't necessarily involve winning.

What is your favorite memory about a course?

T. S. - My favourite memory is a horror story, not a fairy tale. It happened on a windy and rainy evening at a training camp in Barbate. I knew that I was going to run night legs at 10mila and Jukola and therefore I did night trainings at the camp. Normally there was always some company, but due to bad weather no one else was willing to join me that evening. But, it doesn't matter, I don't mind training alone even at night. On my way to start, as I was climbing up a pathless ravine in the forest with my lamp alight, because it was already pitch black, I almost soiled myself when a man with an axe came down the same ravine. I have no idea what he was doing at that random place in the forest without a light and I surely wasn't going to ask him at the time. Later, I must have missed every control on my course and took a few looks over my shoulder to be on the safe side. The whole situation was just so surreal that it turned into one of my favourite memories about a training and a course.

Is there a specific athlete you look up to? And why?

T. S. - No, there is not a specific athlete I look up to. But I draw inspiration on other athletes' stories and try to find ideas that would work for me as well. I guess I'm afraid that I could be dissappointed by people, but ideas can't dissappoint in the same way.

How do you feel in this moment of the season? Was it useful your winter training?

T. S. - I'm excited, like every year in spring. A full training season in winter is quite a tough thing to manage in Northern Europe, especially for running sports. Fortunately this year I was able to have one full training cycle near Alicante and Murcia, in Spain. In short, winter training has been useful.

How much time do you normally spend practicing and training?

T. S. - It depends on the time of the year. In winter I do 10-20 hours of training a week, mostly physical stuff. In spring I increase the amount of orienteering in my trainings. In summer, all the trainings are built around the competitions. Sumarizing, I do around 650 hours a year, with the brunt being done in winter and spring. My typical training week with near perfect conditions is something like this: Monday – p.m. aerobic night orienteering; Tuesday – a.m. running excercises and alactic sprints + easy orienteering; p.m. orienteering as a recovery run; Wednesday – a.m. orienteering intervals; p.m orienteering as a recovery run; Thursday – a.m. long aerobic orienteering, p.m. strength training + recovery run; Friday – a.m. easy swimming; Saturday – a.m. uphill speed bounds and uphill intervals, p.m. night orienteering as a recovery run; Sunday – a.m. long run in the mountains.

What are the biggest steps before the WOC?

T. S. - The biggest steps before the WOC are the training camps in Scotland and the selection races in May and June, both in Estonia and in Scotland. Estonia has only two places for both forest distances at the WOC and many willing runners, so it won't be easy to make it into the team.

Is it in your plans to do the same as your father did, 24 years ago – i.e. to win the bronze medal in the WOC Long Distance?

T. S. - The plan is to do better! Otherwise I'll always be son of Sixten Sild for the commentators at international orienteering events. For my brother Lauri it's even worse, he is son of Sixten Sild and brother of Timo Sild. But seriously speaking, I have been in the top 20 in Long Distance only once, so I have to build upon that. In the Middle Distance I haven't even been in the top 30. As follows, the goal for this year is the top 20, the top 15 for the next year and the top 10 for WOC2017, in Estonia. I regard both Long Distance and Middle Distance equally high.

What do you need to be the best?

T. S. - No man is an island - most importantly, I need the help and support of my family, friends and sponsors. After that, comes systematic and uninterrupted training. And finally love for orienteering and the willingness to do everything possible to become the best, or more exactly - the best that I can be! I want a lot of my orienteering to be automatic or subconscious, and that's what I'm trying to improve upon, but it takes a lot of time.

Is another one of your goals to reach the top 10 in the IOF World Ranking in the end of the season?

T. S. - No. World Ranking doesn't mean anything to me and it's just numbers. I have a pretty clear opinion about several elite orienteers and that subjective ranking is enough for me.

In the start of a new season, I would ask you to make a wish to all orienteers around the world.

T. S. - Try to find new interesting terrains and map them!

[Photo: Wendy Carlile /]

Joaquim Margarido

Friday, April 24, 2015

Two or three things I know about it...

1. With five individual gold medals, Sweden was the big name of the ISF World Schools Championships Orienteering 2015, which took place throughout the week at Antalya (Turkey). The Nordic set also reached three silver medals and five bronze medals, individually, as collectively won two gold medals, one silver and one bronze. Scotland, with three individual gold medals and a collective gold medal, Austria with two individual gold medals and two collective gold medals and Latvia, with two individual gold medals are also countries of reference in this 16th edition of the competition. Individually, the Swedish Elin Granstedt and the Scottish Grace Molloy are the big names of these World Championships, returning to their countries with two gold medals in the bag, corresponding to winning the Middle Distance and Long Distance courses. Twice at the Championships' podiums, a reference to the Swedish Isac Von Krusenstierna, Jesper Svensk, Simon Imark and Emilia Stahlberg, the Austrian Jasmina Gassner, the English Alastair Thomas and the Latvian Fricis Jekabs Spektors. All to check at

2. The Sierra de Javalambre, west of Valencia (Spain), will host this weekend the International Open in Orienteering Villa de Titaguas / European Universities Orienteering Trophy, on its first edition. Organized by the University of Valencia together with the S.D. Correcaminos, the event has the approval of EUSA - European University Sports Association and also counts towards the Spanish League. In the ambicious program, we can notice a Saturday filled with motifs of interest, comprising a Long Distance stage in the morning and stages of Sprint and TrailO at 5 a.m.. On Sunday, the last day of competition, will take place the Middle Distance stage, closing the event with the Prize Giving Ceremony scheduled for early afternoon. Learn more at

3. Anne Straube is the new British Champion in TrailO 2015. The event took place in New Beechenhurst and Brierley on Saturday, with the participation of 49 athletes, 15 of which in the Novice class. Anne Straube concludes his course of 21 control points with a total of 19 correct answers, the same result as Scott Collier and Clive Allen. The tie was made, of course, using the time spent in the timed controls and then the athlete, of German nationality, was the most accurate and fast. British Champion in 2014 and one of the big favourites to win this edition, John Kewley stayed 9th placed with 17 points. For those less familiar with the TrailO, it is noted that Anne Straube has won the gold medal at the World Train Orienteering Championships 2008, at Olomouc (Czech Republic) and is the current coordinator of the IOF Athlete's Commission of Trail Orienteering. To learn more about the British TrailO Championships 2015, please visit the event webpage at

4. The Brazilian Confederation of Orienteering seems to be in trouble. After the domestic dispute about the re-election of José Octavio Franco Dorneles, is now the turn of the International Orienteering Federation point the finger to the Brazilian responsibles. In the minutes of the IOF Council Meeting, dated of 10th-11th April and chaired by Brian Porteous, IOF asked Brazil to pay the sanction fee for WMOC 2014. “Council discussed which actions had been taken so far and what further actions should be initiated. The IOF Office was asked to once again contact the Brazilian federation and agree a timeline for payment of all outstanding fees. If a timeline could not be agreed within 60 days, or was not upheld, Council agreed that a suspension of all membership rights would come in effect, including participation at WOC and other IOF activities”, is written on the document, which can be read at

5. Contrary to a trend in the recent years, a blog is born. It's called, simply, “Tiago Gingão Leal” and the name says it all: It is the personal page of the current Portuguese Champion in Long Distance and states, in brief, the promise of “going to have content regarding my preparation to the amazing sport that is orienteering and also results and analysis of the races I take part in.” Reminders like “the good feelings I had lately since I took part in one of the most competitive Spanish Championships I've ever participated”, links to the latest news where his name is focused, a slight biography and a summary of his main achievements so far are also elements that can be seen at In English!

Joaquim Margarido

Friday, April 17, 2015

John Kewley: "My goal would be to get selected"

On the 2015 British TrailO Championships' eve, John Kewley is the guest of honour of the Portuguese Orienteering Blog. In this Interview we travel through his most recent achievements, live the present moment and project the future.

Would you like to share with us the secret of your success in the recent British TrailO Championships 2014?

John Kewley (J. K.) - With my background in mountain orienteering I'm used to reading contours and the majority of the controls at BTOC 2014 were contour interpretation. I've also recently been Controller for the PreO at the 2015 “JK”, the UK's biggest Orienteering weekend, in a sand dune area so that must have helped too as Peter Owens, the Planner at the JK, was 2nd. So I think that goes to show that planning TrailO is great training.

How important is this victory, in a personal point of view?

J. K. - It was the first time I have won outright. My previous victory was a draw with Ian Ditchfield when after about 20 controls and 4 TCs we were level to the nearest half second. What was more important though was the winning of the PreO component as that is what generates the ranking points that are used for the GB team selection. Since of the two ranking events left I am a Controller at one, getting a good score at BTOC 2014 was very important. I'll now lead the rankings but will need a decent score at BTOC 2015 (in a couple of weeks) to maintain a top 2 position which is what is required to guarantee selection. Of course getting a good TempO performance was also good as it might be used to discriminate between myself and another competitor for selection if I fall outside the top 2. Again I've planned the only other two TempO events in UK in the last few years so I think that gave me a big advantage over others.

How are you feeling your preparation in the beginning of a new season?

J. K. - This was my first TrailO as a competitor since the World Championships and in that time I have done virtually no other orienteering due to injuries and competing in other sports, so the only preparation I've had is planning the Race the Castles TempO last year and the planning and controlling for the 2015 JK. So preparation hasn't been great but I have some more events before the World Champs (if selected). I'll be at the Nordic Championships and Irish Champs as well as the 2015 British Championships.

Could you say something about that experience at Edinburgh?

J. K. - It went very well, at first I thought the park had very little scope and everything was too open but I worked at it and managed to get controls where you couldn't see everything in advance - TempO without helpers just doesn't work.

How was it technically?

J. K. - I could have made it harder, but without a Controller that would have been a bad plan and made it a lottery without a second opinion so in the most technical area (lots of trees and only trees) I chose controls that were near [to me] obvious shapes and chose an easier control order than I would otherwise have done.

Was it as expected?

J. K. - Pretty much - yes. It was good to have several top Elite Foot orienteers doing their first TempO even if took 1/2 the course for the Hubmann brothers to work out that the control descriptions were orientated for reading even though the maps were orientated as you saw them.

What do you expect, regarding the participation in the World Championships in Croatia? What are your goals?

J. K. - My goal would be to get selected. Each year it gets harder to qualify for Team GB - it is definitely getting more popular.

What kind of competition will we have? Can we expect surprises regarding the winners?

J. K. - Hopefully there won't be the start/stop nature with TCs in the middle of the course - this leads to more stress for competitors and keeping an eye on the clock is a lot harder. Last year's Day 2 performance by Guntars [Mankus] was excellent and he thoroughly deserved the Gold - I found the course very difficult.

TempO, the new Relay format … What direction is TrailO going in?

J. K. - I'll see a little about each. For me, TempO is a great discipline and has the potential for some “spectator interest” at major events. It limits benefits that able-bodied athletes have in solving the problems (it is very hard for a planner to ensure that a wheelchair has the same views as standing athletes at all the best viewing angles for PreO). It is a great way to get Foot orienteers into a type of TrailO. I've also run TempO at club training sessions when teaching about the importance of control descriptions. Its big disadvantage though is that although map doesn't have to look correct from many angles like PreO, producing the maps takes a long time (so thanks to my colleague Pete Owens for this) and you need a lot of marshals if you are doing it correctly.

The Team event (with current rules) has the disadvantage that your Day 2 performance affects both your individual and Team result so you can win or lose 2 medals with a single performance. It is clear to me that they should be separate. I like the idea of the latest variant of the Relays with TempO included although suspect that this will mostly be decided on TempO performance and many teams (including GB) have a lot of catch-up to do if they are ever to get Relay medals.

The big Orienteering party, the WOC 2015, in your country – appears again lagged from the WTOC. What do you prefer? The two together or separate competitions? Why?

J. K. - It was decided that putting on WOC, WTOC and spectator races (the Scottish 6 days) would have required far too much volunteer effort so TrailO wasn't included in the bid. I'm disappointed since being able to compete in your own country in front of your home crowd is a dream for any athlete.

I must ask you a comment about your appointment as Assistant SEA to the European Championships 2016, in the Czech Republic.

J. K. - I'm honoured to be invited and look forward to working with Lars-Jakob and the CZE Planning team although exactly what my involvement will be and how the work will be split I don't know - and if I did I guess I probably shouldn't say (laughs).

Joaquim Margarido

Monday, April 13, 2015

Catherine Taylor: "I'm trying not to aim too high, or want too much"

Catherine Taylor comes today to the Portuguese Orienteering Blog's tribune. With the World Championships taking place “at home” and the attention turned to herself, it's time to take a look at the preparation and to antecipate the big moments.

I would start by asking you about the recent JK and your victory in the Long Distance and the victory overall. Did you expect such results?

Catherine Taylor (C. T.) - No, I didn’t. I have been on many training camps recently and was feeling tired before the JK. I was lucky to spend the days before the races with my family at home - they’re good at looking after me and it gave me some energy back! But still looking through the start list I couldn’t expect to win, I thought it would be really tough to get on the podium. It was a great surprise to win.

Can you describe the most important feelings about the races?

C. T. - I think the most important thing was I felt quite relaxed for the forest races. It meant I didn’t panic when the Middle distance went badly, I just forgot about the mistakes and carried on fighting, and for the Long I didn’t rush. I think it helped a lot to know the forests and terrain type quite well, so I hope some of the same feelings will be there at WOC in summer. The forests for the JK are really beautiful and fun terrain, too, so I could relax and enjoy it!

We saw you in Portugal last February. What about the Portugal O' Meeting 2015?

C. T. - One of the reasons I chose to go there was because I know that the competition is organized professionally, things are smooth and efficient, and people are really friendly. It's the perfect combination. But I think the most important reason is to have an idea of how things are going, because I've been training a lot at home but we haven't done any races like this, so it’s good to have some ideas. Actually I'm quite surprised with how well it’s gone, which also gives me the confidence to race a little bit better, because sometimes, when I make a mistake, the bad feeling continues, and the whole race after that small mistake keeps going badly. But now I feel that, with the preparation I have, I can make a mistake and easily put it behind my back.

So you are also improving mentally...

C. T. - Yes, and that is the most important thing to improve for me. So, I'm really happy with that!

And you've found a super Minna Kauppi (!)... If it wasn't for her, you would have been the winner!

C. T. - Yes (laughs). Yes, I have.

How do you compare? What did Minna have that you didn't?

C. T. - Minna has more years of elite Orienteering than I have and I think that really makes the difference. I only have one medal, but when you've won so many, you can turn on your very top performances when you want... I feel that I don't have my best races when it’s most important. That's what makes a true champion. It's good, it's exciting she came to race at POM, we can have something to aim for and see what's possible.

I can remember that you were very happy in Portugal, last year. Was your podium in the European Championships the best experience in your orienteering career so far?

C. T. - Yes, maybe! But it was also such a surprise that it happened. I believe I enjoy it more now than I did at the time, because, when it happened, there were still many races left that year. At the time I actually gave the medal to my parents so I could try to keep my focus ahead, but when I look back now, I think it was a pretty good day.

We now have a new season, a particular one because the WOC will be in your home country and the big goals are in Scotland, of course. What do you have to say, when you think of the World Championships?

C. T. - Well, yes, my main goals are in Scotland and I think it would be really fun to win there, but it is also very easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself. In my opinion, I don't feel I'm ready to be as good as I could be this year. I think there are still some years to try and improve. So, I'm trying not to aim too high, or want too much. I think it will be different, it's kind of a sidestep, from everything else in my career.

Not only for you but also for the British team.

C. T. - Yes, but of course, it's really exciting. We've all been training quite well this winter.

You're becoming very popular but it gives you some responsibilities, too. Do you feel like an ambassador of our sport?

C. T. - That's hard to say. I also have people that I look up, too, who are an example to me. I'm talking about some of my teammates, in OK Linné, and also in my National Team.

So, they have more responsibilities than you... (laughs)

C. T. - I still feel like the younger sister to a lot of people. But I think that's one of our jobs, to be an ambassador for the sport. Orienteering needs it. I have my personal webpage and sometimes it feels like I'm doing that kind of job there, too. I think it's fun to share your story of how is to live when you’re focussing on this sport, how your life is, the places you go and the experiences you have.

How important can it be for youngsters?

C. T. - I believe that it can be very important for some of them, back in the UK. It's important to me to say that this is the world I've gone to and this is what you can do, too. I guess for younger people it gives them an idea about how much fun they can have.

What are your next steps towards WOC?

C. T. - Now it’s time to make my training more specific to the exact challenges I will find at WOC. So I have a training camp in Scotland just now and then I’ll try to train well for these demands in Uppsala. There’s also 10MILA, Jukola and the World Cups to think about, too. And I’ll also try and be smart to stay healthy, not keep wanting more and more all the time just because things have gone well so far.

In the beginning of a new season, I ask you to make a wish to all orienteers all over the world.

C. T. - I wish them an exciting adventure. Go and orienteer somewhere you've never been before. Go out of your comfort zone!

Joaquim Margarido

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Svetlana Mironova: "WOC will be very exciting!"

Svetlana Mironova was, undeniably, one of the biggest revelations of last season, by winning the Long Distance title at the WOC in Italy. Now, that “a new season is starting and it's time to forget the past and start to work again”, as she says, the Portuguese Orienteering Blog talk to her, trying to understand her ambitions and goals to 2015.

You made history last WOC, achieving for Russia the first individual gold medal ever in the women class. How present is that moment in your mind?

Svetlana Mironova (S. M.) – I worked really hard last year and I'm so glad for my family, my coach and my sport-school, my city and my country, that we had reached such great success together. It was very important to all of us. Actually, I didn't feel extremely satisfied that day after the race and it's the same today. I just feel satisfaction for my work and for the quality of my orienteering at WOC. But a new season is starting and it's time to forget the past and start to work again.

How important was the Long Distance title for your career?

S. M. - First of all, I've got great confidence in myself. It is amazing to find that you can be one of the best orienteers in the world. I was chosen as IOF Athlete of Month, in autumn, and I won the “Athlete of Year 2014” title in my home region (Nizhni Novgorod). This is, of course, a really big motivation to continue training and improving. The last title gives additional opportunities to improve orienteering in my region and my success made orienteering more popular in my city and in whole Russia. I'm very happy for that.

How “heavy” is your gold medal?

S. M. - I feel now much more attention to my person, which used to be very unusual to me. Soon after the WOC 2014, my friends laughed at me when I was asked every time by strangers who greeted or waved at me. I really didn't understand from where they knew me (laughs). But I like to meet people, to communicate... I didn't think too much about this, yet. I just do what I love to do now - I run orienteering!

You started the season in Australia, in the beginning of January. How did you feel running so early in the year and in the other side of the planet? How do you evaluate the experience?

S. M. - Australia was amazing! I was so happy just visiting it, to see the kangaroos and other native animals, birds, etc, so I think it was at least as important as to run World Cup. But I've never run such an important competition in January. It was very hard for me, because I finished previous season just in November with Russian Championships. My coach and I decided to take it easy, and don't think about the World Cup's results too much. Of course, I wasn't in the best shape, but I got great experience out of it, because the terrain wasn't easy and every course was technical and difficult. It was also difficult to change the time zone in 8 hours, when you feel unable to wake up in the morning and can't go to bed in the evening...but it just takes time for adaptation.

How do you feel your shape at the moment? What is good and what do you need to improve?

S. M. - Well... It is better to ask my coach (laughs). I trust her, and I think that it is too early to evaluate my shape.

What are your next important steps before the WOC?

S. M. - I must run the selection races if I want to run more than one race at WOC. And I've already planned the World Cup in June. And of course, Tiomila and Jukola will be important for me and my club.

What will be the key to succeed at WOC?

S. M. - I don't know, I've never been in Scotland before. I don't know what kind of terrain is there, I hope I will do a Training Camp there and will try to recognize what key is necessary (laughs). I suppose that the terrain will be everything but easy, both technically and for running. It makes me think that WOC will be very exciting!

In the beginning of a new season, I would ask you to make a wish to all orienteers all over the world.

S. M. - I wish to all orienteers to enjoy our beautiful and clever sport and do it very well!

Joaquim Margarido

Thursday, April 02, 2015

IOF Athlete of April: Hanka Doležalová

Our Athlete of the Month has been representing her country in two orienteering disciplines in World Championships: MTB and Trail Orienteering. Hanka Doležalová started as a mountain bike orienteer, but after a serious accident at the World Championships 2010 she was no longer able to bike or walk. Soon after she however found herself a new orienteering discipline: trail orienteering. Quite soon she became a member of the national team of Czech Republic in her new sport too. Still, Hanka says that her MTB orienteering background has not helped her too much in TrailO: “I think that the only thing these two sports have in common is wheels!”

Name: Hanka Doležalová
Country: Czech Republic
Discipline: Trail Orienteering
Career highlights: European TrailO Championships 2014 PreO, 22nd; TempO Qualification, 42nd. World TrailO Championships PreO, 28th. Unofficial European Cup in TrailO 2014 overall, 35th.

It’s a warm July day from the now-distant year of 2010. In the surroundings of Avelelas, in the north-east of Portugal, the qualification heats of the Long Distance for the World MTB Orienteering Championships are taking place. For the participants in the Women Elite class, the goal is to finish the race as fast as possible, and not mis-punch. But suddenly Hanka Doležalová, the Czech athlete, rides off the road, the bike’s front wheel gets stuck and the athlete flies over her bike, falling in a ditch on her back. This nasty accident would mean a 180-degree turn in the athlete’s life, compromising indefinitely her wishes and dreams. “My spine did not handle this somersault and I stayed lying in the ditch. I couldn’t feel my legs and torso, I couldn’t move and I was breathing heavily. I screamed a lot and hoped that someone would find me soon. Luckily, Anke [Danowski] and Melanie [Simpson] appeared quickly. I waited a very long time for the ambulance. It was a really hot day and my thirst was unbearable.”

Hanka was taken by ambulance firstly to the Hospital de Chaves and then to the Centro Hospitalar do Porto, where she suffered a spinal intervention in the dawn of the next day. In the morning, the news broadcast the accident and gave the prognosis. “I realised what had happened, even when I was still lying in the ditch. I just waited for any development”, she remembers.

On the way up in MTBO

MTBO was always very important in Hanka Doležalová’s life. In Portugal, the athlete was fighting in the World Championships for the second time. Needless to say, this was her number one sport. Even as a junior she was able to join the Senior National Team and the results started to appear. To her three qualifications in the 2008 World Championships top 10 (4th place in Sprint, 6th place in Middle Distance and 9th place in Long Distance) she added a gold Medal in Relay, in the team with Michaela Maresova and Hana Hancikova.

In the following year, already competing in Elite, the athlete gained 11th place in Middle Distance in the European Championships (North Zealand, Denmark) and 13th place, also in Middle Distance, in the World Championships (Ben Shemen, Israel). The objective was to make progress, get into the top 10, reach the medals, but mostly to enjoy. “Most of all, I really enjoyed MTBO”, she says. Her best score would end up being the 10th place, reached in the Sprint Finals of WMTBOC 2010, three days before the fateful accident.

Remembering her first rides holding a map, Hanka Doležalová refers to them as a part of the natural evolution of her taste for Orienteering, as well as for Mountain Biking. Practising Orienteering since she was a child, the bike was always there for her amusement. “I was 12 years old when I tried MTBO for the first time and I liked it a lot. I began to ride regularly at the age of 16”. From the short period of time she practised MTBO, Hanka can’t highlight any special moment as the best one, but says “it was a great party”.

The first steps of a new life

- Since the first moments of your physical rehab process, did you want to forget MTB Orienteering or did things not happen exactly like that?

“Never. My MTBO friends visited me a lot at the beginning and I was glad for that. I was interested in what was new in the MTBO world. After all, it had been my world too.”

- Would you like to tell us about this whole process of rehabilitation and how your competitive attitude has been important in establishing a life of your own again?

“It was a long process. I went back home after eight months. I believe that, in my case, it is not so much about competitive attitude as it is about my nature.”

Radical experiences

Hanka’s nature and attitude prevented her from putting sport aside. The variety of adapted sports in the Czech Republic led her to try a wide range of sports, some of them really attractive, other ones not so much. “I like to explore and try new activities. Already during my convalescence (six months after the injury) I used to go home to the Krkonoše Mountains on weekends to learn how to ride a mono ski. And I found it absolutely normal. The less traditional activities are, for instance, my beloved water skiing or riding a four-wheeler.” But the athlete also does Cross-Country Skiing during the winter and participates in an annual survival competition: “It is a pair-race, the time limit is 24 hours and it includes about 16 different activities.”

On a short visit to Portugal in May 2012 Hanka was able to try adapted sailing. “It was incredible. I was amazed by the feeling of freedom”, she remembers, adding that: “Unfortunately there are not very good conditions for this activity in the Czech Republic.”

It’s TrailO time

Hanka Doležalová was introduced to Trail Orienteering by the organisers of an event. “My Orienteering club has organised a race for handicapped people for 18 years now and I worked there as an assistant and as an organiser”, she explains. It was around that time that she met Bohuslav Hůlka who, along with Jana Kosťová and others, would be decisive in her approach to TrailO after her injury; this has led to her entry into the Czech National Team. “They started to lure me right after the accident. They said I had to do TrailO because I was a successful orienteer”, she remembers.

One of her first excursions in this discipline took place in the city of Oporto in Portugal. Invited by the Desporto Adaptado Hospital Prelada, the athlete was the ‘godmother’ for their second open orienteering event and she participated in the competition as well: “I believe that the decision to participate in the Prelada Hospital Open race speeded up my introduction to TrailO”.

If I was in charge…

The adaptation to Trail Orienteering proved anything but easy for the athlete. The enormous differences to her other activities were the reasons that Hanka cites to justify her disappointment at that time. But what is there that makes TrailO so difficult? “To keep the sense of orienteering and not be put out by the range of measurement techniques one can use”, explains the athlete.

But there are other aspects that are relevant to this subject, one of which Hanka would pick as the one, if she had the power to, that would deserve the most attention and demand a rule of its own: “Make TrailO courses on asphalt roads! This is the only way I can be completely concentrated and focused on the map and the orienteering. Otherwise I put a lot of energy into just progressing, how to cope with narrow roads or how to pass rocks, roots and mud.”

Four brief questions

- For many, training for TrailO is a mystery. Could you tell me something about your work-out and what it is most important to train in order to apply it in a real course?

“It is a mystery for me too! I do not have any special training. I try to gain new experience by racing”.

- How important was the knowledge that you brought from MTB orienteering in this change to TrailO?

“I think that the only thing which these two sports have in common is wheels!”.

- Who are the athletes in this discipline that you most admire? Why?

“TempO athletes who are able to solve a cluster in 8 seconds”.

- Can anyone practise TrailO or is this, after all, not for everyone as we hear every day?

“Yes, everyone can do it, but it’s not granted you succeed. You do have to be precise”.

World Championships – yes, but…

Called in 2014 to represent the Czech National Team for the first time, Hanka Doležalová produced notable performances and, overall, pretty auspicious ones, not only in the European Championships in Portugal, but also in the World Championships which took place in Italy. Although Hanka keeps good memories from the times she wore the National Team’s sweater, she elects the Czech round of the Unofficial European Cup in Trail Orienteering as the best moment in 2014: “I ran a clear race and made no mistakes, including in the timed controls”.

In what matters in her objectives for 2015, the athlete is greedy in words. Will this be the year in which we see Hanka Doležalová step on to the podium of the World Championships? “First of all, I have to be successful in the qualification races”, she says.

A good reason to hold on to Orienteering!

Considered “a good way to go to places I never thought I’d go to in a wheelchair”, TrailO has for this athlete an added value in this particular time of her life. The reason is simple: “I´m not sure if I’m holding on to orienteering. But I am definitely holding on to one trail orienteer”, she says, smiling from ear to ear.

And she ends by saying that: “Some doors may be closed, but other doors will be opened.”

Questions & Answers

Tove Alexandersson, Athlete of the Month of March, asked: Where is your favourite place in the Czech Republic and why?

Hanka replied: “I have many favourite places in the Czech Republic, because it is a very beautiful and varied country. But my heart beats for the Krkonoše mountains where I live.”

Hanka Doležalová’s question to Baptiste Fuchs, Athlete of the Month of May: Are you going to come to the MTBO 5-days at Plzeň in 2015? What do you like the most about this event?

[Text and photo: Joaquim Margarido. See the original article at Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]