Saturday, February 18, 2017

Athlete of the Year 2016: Tove Alexandersson



2016 was the peak of Tove Alexandersson’s orienteering career so far, which before this season was packed with merits, yet no gold medal at a World or European Championships (WOC, EOC). She crushed that history, becoming both World Champion and European Champion in Long and Middle distance. In addition, she spent the winter winning the World Cup in SkiO overall and two gold medals in the European SkiO Championships.


100 metres before the finish line a silent smile appears on Tove Alexandersson’s face. Listening to the speaker’s words and the crowd of Swedish spectators cheering her, she realises she is on her way to fulfil the goal, the dream, for 2016. Becoming World Champion in both Middle and Long.

The moment she realised she had won the World Championship in the Long distance just two days after the victory in the Middle, is the moment that stands out the most for Tove Alexandersson, looking back at 2016. Winning a World Championship is obviously something special, even though
it might be hard to pick out one moment with two gold medals at the European SkiO Championships, two golds in EOC, the two victories at WOC and overall World Cup victories in both FootO and SkiO all in one season.

But not for Tove. She had many goals during the season, but they all led up to the World Championships on Swedish home ground in Str.mstad-Tanum. She put asphalt running to one side, and moved to Halden for six months to get access to as similar terrain as possible. All with one
thing in mind:

– I really wanted to win, she says very earnestly, in a voice that tells everything about the many times she previously had started at a WOC race as favourite, but at best made it into second.


The season starts on ski

As one of very few athletes, 24-year-old Tove Alexandersson competes on top level in both FootO and SkiO. In SkiO, she is five times World Champion and four times European Champion. The prestigious overall World Cup, which only takes place every second year, was missing though. Tove’s winning instinct was not satisfied with that, and now that the SkiO and FootO did not overlap as in previous years, 2016 would be the year for an overall SkiO world cup victory:

– The two previous times I have finished second overall in the world cup, close behind the winner. So I was craving for the win this time, Tove says.

The plan was simple. With three World Cup rounds, the last one also being the European SkiO Championships, it was all about doing stable races in all nine competitions. And that she did, finishing outside the top three only once and winning five times. However, it was no walk over:

– It was a very tough competition against Mariya Kechkina from Russia. She achieved top results at all events and so I had to perform well at every competition, Tove says.

The battle turned out in favour of Tove, who achieved her goal for the SkiO season in the form of the overall World Cup victory, 20 points ahead of Mariya Kechkina. In addition, the European SkiO Championships led to medals in all five distances: gold in Sprint and Relay, silver in Middle, and bronze in Long and Sprint relay.

– Satisfying, as Tove describes the results.


A sign of what it could lead to

Just after the European SkiO Championships were over, Tove’s focus went immediately from skiing to running. Two races were in her sights and nothing less than victory would count. The WOC Middle and the Long distance on home ground in Sweden:

– I dreamed about gold on Long and Middle before the season began. This year I really had the belief it would come true. I knew I had the capacity, Tove says.

To reach her big goal she took some drastic decisions. She decided to skip the Sprint races at WOC, and six months before the championships she moved to Halden in Norway to train in as relevant forest terrain as possible.

Two months after her overall victory in the SkiO World Cup, the FootO one started in Poland. Three weeks later this was followed by EOC in the Czech Republic. At the EOC Long distance, she got a feeling for what the orienteering season could lead to:

– Standing at the starting line at EOC Long distance, I felt stronger than I had for many years. I was fresh and injury free. I had a fantastic feeling and it was amazing to win, Tove says about her first gold medal at EOC.

Only three days later, her good shape continued, crushing the opponents at the EOC Middle distance with a two-minute win. In the months between EOC and WOC, Tove continued her good training flow and used O-Ringen as a last test before WOC:

– After EOC, I could train just as I wanted to. I ran O-Ringen to adjust the last technical details. My orienteering technique proved to be brilliant, which boosted my confidence before WOC. Looking at the results, it also went pretty well, Tove says with a laugh about her superior victory in the Swedish five-day event.


Mission completed – two times gold

Only victory counts when Tove Alexandersson starts a race and to achieve that, preparation is essential to her. Therefore, watching the WOC Sprint races from the TV did not make her hungry to run them. She knew she was not prepared to run those races.

On the other hand, she was as prepared as anyone could be for the WOC Middle distance:

– I had planned to avoid pushing too hard at the beginning because I was in such good shape. But I did exactly what I had planned not to do, and went off at really high speed. I managed to keep up the high speed without any big mistakes, but only because I had got so used to the terrain in my preparations, she says.

Even though Tove did not stick exactly to her plan, she could happily make the classic Scandinavian roll at the finish line after “the toughest Middle distance I have ever done”. And at last; her fourth medal at a WOC Middle was the kind Tove likes the most. Gold.

Two days later, the challenge was different but the goal the same. There was even a little more at stake:

– Before WOC, I considered Middle and Long to be of the same value, but during the championships I became aware that the Long distance meant the most to me.

The Long distance started with a short leg to the first control followed by a 3-kilometre leg:

– I lost some time going straight on the long leg. I saw the option to go around to the right but considered it way too far. The next part of the course went without error. At the spectator control I heard the speaker saying I was three seconds behind. I did not hear who I was behind, just that victory was within reach. It was a very special situation knowing I was so close to fulfilling my dream!

And then we are back to the highlight of the year:

– I am so proud that I could keep my concentration after the spectator control. It was a fantastic moment to run over the finish line knowing I was World Champion in both Middle and Long, she says with a big smile.


Training by herself together with others

It requires a lot of mental strength to continue from the spectator control with the knowledge that only three seconds separate you from victory. Tove proved she possesses that strength, which was founded in her junior years:

– When I was in the Swedish junior national team, the coach Anneli Östberg meant a lot for my progress. She gave me the basis of how to handle stress and nervousness during events, which has helped me perform at big competitions.

As for the physical and technical part, Tove takes care of her training all by herself:

– I have never had a physical or technical trainer. Since I was little, I have always been interested in and reflected on training. I am the one that knows me and my body the best.

It does not mean she does all her training alone. For instance, she mentions her training group for the past five years in Falun as important to her. But no-one dictates when and what to train. She is aware that she can improve with the help of others and is looking forward to next autumn, when the French legend Thierry Gueorgiou will become the o-technical coach for the Swedish national team.

A runner in the same category as Gueorgiou who has inspired Tove is the Swiss icon Simone Niggli-Luder:

– She has been the biggest inspiration to me. She was complete as an orienteer. I am happy that I had some years competing against her and saw her in action.


Attention and acknowledgement

In the last two years, Tove has had convincing overall victories in the FootO world cup. Even though the long 2016 season had begun to take its toll, Tove managed to secure her third win in a row in the last world cup round in Switzerland.

Her success is not only being noticed within the orienteering community. The media attention at the World Championships on home ground and nominations for several sport prizes in Sweden have made her name one which most Swedes have heard. The limelight does not blind her:

– Of course it is an acknowledgement of my achievements to get these nominations, but the publicity for the sport of orienteering that comes from it means just as much to me. I really do not need that much attention, Tove says with a laugh.

But she cannot run away from the attention as the big star of Swedish orienteering. People have expectations of her winning every time she starts a race, but the biggest pressure comes from herself.


A winner’s instinct that cannot be satisfied

No wonder Tove describes 2016 as the best season in her career so far. Though it does have moments she would change if she could:

– At the EOC relay I went out in second position on the last leg and if I had not run to the wrong control at one point, we [the Swedish relay team] would have had victory within reach. I really fret about that, she says.

The mistake at the EOC relay touches a sore point for Tove Alexandersson, still missing victories in relays as part of the Swedish team. For her Swedish club, Stora Tuna OK, she has won the Swedish relay championships, but both the big relays Jukola and Tiomila are goals for the future.

The missing WOC relay title will not affect her preparations for next year. It is the Middle and Long distances that are in her heart. Possessing the World Champion title in both, she is considering taking up the Sprint again at WOC 2017 in Estonia.

Before thinking too much about WOC 2017, she has a SkiO season ahead during which she needs to defend two European Champion titles in Imatra, Finland, and two World Champion titles in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. As always, only one thing is on her mind. To win.


Text: Henrik Rindom Knudsen
Photo: Remy Steinegger

[See the original article at http://orienteering.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/orienteering-world-webb.pdf. Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]

Friday, February 17, 2017

Two or three things I know about it...



1. The city of Coimbra is ready to host the Rainha Santa Trophy / Beira Litoral O' Meeting BLOM 2017, event that kicks off a sequence of three weekends on a row of the best Orienteering in Portugal, which is completed by the Portugal O' Meeting 2017 and the Aguiar da Beira O' Meeting 2017. The competitive program starts tomorrow with a Sprint WRE, which scores for the IOF Sprint Orienteering World Ranking, followed by an urban Middle Distance stage in the afternoon. The event's second day will be fulfilled by a Middle Distance stage, scoring for the IOF World Orienteering Ranking. The number of entered athletes is close to seven hundred, representing 18 countries. Timo Sild, Oleksandr Kratov, Hector Haines, Mårten Boström, Lucas Basset, Simon Hector or Olli Ojanaho, are just some of the 88 competitors in the Men Elite class. In the list of 44 competitors in the Elite Women class it's possible to see names such as Helen Palmer, Mariia Makarova, Irina Nyberg, Adela Indrakova, Anna Bachman, Karolin Ohlsson or Isia Basset. Everything to follow at http://blom.admondego.pt/.

2. The International Orienteering Federation has been pleased to hear about the development of the sport of orienteering in Costa Rica and has just underlined its satisfaction by recognizing the organisation Asociación Deporte de Orientación (ADO) as an affiliate organisation to the IOF. “The IOF is supporting the work of ADO through our Regional Development Coordinator, Mr Jose Angel Nieto Poblete from the Spanish Orienteering Federation. In this way, the IOF has an official relationship with the organization in Costa Rica. (…) We look forward to continuing to work together with ADO to fully establish the sport of orienteering in Costa Rica”, says Tom Hollowel, IOF Secretary General / CEO, in a letter addressed on February 13th, 2017, to Yeimi Jiménez Oviedo, ADO's President. This is the culmination of 10 stages of work developed over 6 years by Jose Angel Nieto Poblete, who seizes the opportunity to express a note of joy and a thank you on his personal page on Facebook: “All thanks to a group of enthusiasts 'Ticos' of this sport. Our goal, now, is to keep working, keep massing, with the goal of becoming a [provisional] member of IOF in 2018. We keep moving forward!”, he says.

3. There is a black shadow hovering on the recent organization of the European in Ski Orienteering Championships, held last week in Imatra, Finland. The issue was initially raised by Santeri Aikio in his personal blog [HERE], eventually leading to a heated discussion about what is considered an illegality in the Middle Distance race, M21 class, made legal by the jury's decision. The question is simple and can be summarized as follows: After the middle distance at ESOC, the organizers chose to disqualify nine male athletes and one female athlete for going across a forbidden area, a lake mapped with the ISSkiOM symbol 301.2 Uncrossable waterbody (forbidden to cross). By going over the lake you could gain approx. 40-50 seconds. A complaint was handed in against the disqualifications, but it was rejected by the organizers. Then a protest was made against the organizers decision and the jury’s decision was as follows: (1) The nine male athletes were included to the results. (2) Jury cut off the men’s course from control 7 to control 8 and the new results were calculated from start to control 7 + from control 8 to finish. (3) All other classes in the competition were left unchanged. The SkiO Athletes Commission has already ruled on this issue, considering the jury's decision “wrong and unacceptable”. On the other hand, Tom Hollowel, IOF Secretary General / CEO, also came to explain that “it's important to note that, in accordance with the IOF Ski Orienteering rules, the decision of the jury cannot be appealed, not even to the IOF Council.” IN the midst of this embroilment, Santeri Aikio takes the voice of the majority: “For the future of ski orienteering, the best winter sport there is, and for fair play, and for our reputation as a seriously taken sport, please, put an end to this nonsense!”

4. Many important topics were on the agenda for the recent IOF Council Meeting in Warsaw, 20-21 January. From the taken key decisions, we highlight the appointment by the Council of the Czech Republic as host of the 2018 IOF General Assembly; the approval of the proposed World Masters Orienteering Championships program, which will be introduced from WMOC 2018 in Denmark and will consist of Sprint Qualification, Sprint Final, a rest day, Forest Qualification, Middle Distance Final, another rest day, and finally the Long Distance Final; the approval of all principles in the ISOM 2017; and a principle decision, following a presentation from the TrailO Commission, to instate a World Ranking system in TrailO, whose details will now be worked out by the TrailO Commission, with the intention to introduce TrailO World Ranking Events from 2018. For more information, read the complete Council minutes HERE.

Joaquim Margarido

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Angel Garcia Garcia: Spain on the map



Born in Salamanca 31 years ago, it's in La Coruña, in the northwestern Spain, that Angel Garcia Garcia currently lives. To the Tower of Hercules he goes to seek his enormous strength and the brilliance of the results achieved merges in the frontages of the City of Crystal.

Lover of both sports and music, Angel practiced Canoeing for eight years, but it was through Adventure Racing that he first made contact with Orienteering. MTB Orienteering has emerged as an extension of his growing interest for the sport; being able to combine mountain-biking with Orienteering challenges and the ceaseless quest for the best option has resulted in the perfect “two-in-one” solution for him, in a passionate story with just two years.


An unexpected result

Angel's first international experience took place at Bialystok, Poland, during the World MTBO Championships 2014. The athlete had just finished a mountain marathon and his physical conditions were everything but perfect. Unpreparedness and inexperience in events of such high demand resulted in weak performances, but Angel was able to make the most of this unique opportunity and learn from his failure. In 2015, in Liberec, Czech Republic, we cannot say that the results significantly improved, so it was with great surprise that we saw him reach the 5th place in the Sprint of the World MTB Orienteering Championships, held in Portugal this summer.

- Were you expecting the 5th position?

“I didn't expect it at all! During the race, I took the risky but wise decisions I had to, and it went well. When I found out, at the end, that I had achieved the 5th place, my joy couldn't have been greater, because this is the Spanish Orienteering Federation's best result ever in the World Championships.”


Growing and improving

MTB orienteering is a discipline that is both exciting and demanding, in which athlete and bike merge perfectly in the pursuit of excellence. Emphasizing the particularities of the MTB Orienteering, Angel remarks that “the most difficult part is to identify the thin line between pushing at full speed and slowing down, so as always to be able to navigate on the limits”.

Speaking of this discipline in his country, Angel highlights the good technical work in the Spanish team and also “the brilliant athletes who will present nice results in a short time.” With these riders, this coach and this Federation, the MTB Orienteering future in Spain seems promising and Angel sums it up in two words: “Growing” and “improving”!


Fighting for top positions

Awaited with impatience, the 2017 season is already Angel's main focus. He knows that all the races are special so, in France or in Austria, in the Lithuanian World Championships or in the Spanish League, we will see him making the most of each experience and, above all, enjoying maps, terrains and the company of the best in the world. “I'm very motivated and looking forward to the start of the season, in which I promise to do my best and fight for top positions”, he concludes.

Joaquim Margarido

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

LOM 2017: Rudnaya stood out in Lorca



Faster than their opponents in the Sprint WRE stage, Anastasia Rudnaya and Florian Howald were the first winners of Lorca O' Meeting 2017. Rudnaya also won the Long Distance, together with Magne Dæhli, while Pascal Buchs and Sabine Hauswirth achieved tasty victories in the Night Middle Distance.


Took place last weekend the 4th edition of Lorca O' Meeting 2017, event that gathered in the historical center of the city of Lorca and the neighboring place of La Almudena nearly 600 athletes from 20 countries. From the list of participants, a special word for the excellent start field, which included the Russians Natalia Gemperle, Svetlana Mironova and Anastasia Rudnaya, the Swiss Florian Howald and Sabine Hauswirth, the Belarussian Anastasia Denisova, the Swedish Johan Runesson and the Norwegian Magne Dæhli, all outstanding names of the sport, with a place in the top 20 of the IOF Orienteering World Ranking and/or the IOF Sprint Orienteering World Ranking. The event opened with a Sprint stage, scoring for the respective IOF World Ranking, followed by a Middle Distance stage in the evening of the first day. The second day was fully dedicated to the Mass Start Long Distance stage.

Introduced by the thirteen times World Champion Thierry Guergiou, France, as “a challenge, one of the great events of the season”, the Sprint WRE toured the main streets and monuments of Lorca's historical center, through a labyrinthine network of narrow streets. Florian Howald (Tampereen Pyrinto) and Anastasia Rudnaya (MS Parma) were the most accurate in the map reading and also the fastest, achieving tough victories over respectively Antonio Martinez (Colivenc) and Sabine Hauswirth (OL Norska). Hauswirth and Rudnaya fight another battle for the victory in the Night Middle Distance, this time with the advantage falling to the Swiss side by 9 seconds. The difference between the two top contenders in the Men Elite class was even tighter, with Pascal Buchs (Tampereen Pyrinto) reaching a six-second victory over his team mate Johan Runesson. The Lorca O' Meeting 2017 ended up with the Mass Start Long Distance stage, in the very detailed map of La Almudena and, like in the first stage, Anastasia Rudnaya reached the first place, nearly one-minute faster than Sabine Hauswirth. Despite some mistakes, Magne Dæhli was able to reach the first place in the Men Elite class, finishing with a good advantage of 1:17 over Antonio Martinez, second placed.


Results

Sprint

Men Elite
1. Florian Howald (Tampereen Pyrinto) 15:33 (+ 00:00)
2. Antonio Martinez (Colivenc) 15:35 (+ 00:02)
3. Eduardo Gil (Tjalve) 15:54 (+ 00:21)
4. Ivan Sirakov (Variant 5 Targovi) 16:36 (+ 01:03)
5. Artem Popov MS Parma) 16:47 (+ 01:14)

Women Elite
1. Anastasia Rudnaya (MS Parma) 15:42 (+ 00:00)
2. Sabine Hauswirth (OL Norska) 15:55 (+ 00:13)
3. Svetlana Mironova (Koovee) 16:33 (+ 00:51)
4. Tatiana Bevza (NordWest) 16:45 (+ 01:03)
5. Anastasia Denisova (Savedalens AIK) 16:47 (+ 01:05)


Night Middle Distance

Men Elite
1. Pascal Buchs (Tampereen Pyrinto) 24:39 (+ 00:00)
2. Johan Runesson (Tampereen Pyrinto) 24:45 (+ 00:06)
3. Florian Howald (Tampereen Pyrinto) 24:52 (+ 00:13)
4. Antonio Martinez (Colivenc) 25:13 (+ 00:34)
5. Algirdas Bartkevicius (SM Gaja) 25:40 (+ 01:01)

Women Elite
1. Sabine Hauswirth (OL Norska) 27:18 (+ 00:00)
2. Anastasia Rudnaya (MS Parma) 27:27 (+ 00:09)
3. Anastasia Denisova (Savedalens AIK) 27:59 (+ 00:41)
4. Mariia Makarova (MO Yakhroma) 31:48 (+ 04:30)
5. Salla Laitinen (Espoon Akilles) 33:42 (+ 06:24)


Mass Start Long Distance

Men Elite
1. Magne Dæhli (Halden SK) 1:12:50 (+ 00:00)
2. Antonio Martinez (Colivenc) 1:14:07 (+ 01:17)
3. Nikita Asoyan (Dyusash Spring) 1:14:10 (+ 01:20)
4. Florian Howald (Tampereen Pyrinto) 1:14:18 (+ 01:28)
5. Roger Casal (Colivenc) 1:17:34 (+ 04:44)

Women Elite
1. Anastasia Rudnaya (MS Parma) 1:04:57 (+ 00:00)
2. Sabine Hauswirth (OL Norska) 1:05:47 (+ 00:50)
3. Svetlana Mironova (Koovee) 1:06:01 (+ 01:04)
4. Natalia Gemperle (Alfta Osa OK) 1:08:49 (+ 03:52)
5. Josefine Heikka (Alfta Osa OK) 1:09:13 (+ 04:16)

Complete results and further information at http://lom2017.blogspot.pt/.

[Photo: Raúl Ferra / facebook.com]

Joaquim Margarido

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

MOF 2017: Top places for Nelson Baroca and Paula Rodrigues



Nelson Baroca and Paula Rodrigues were the winners of the 5th Madeira Orienteering Festival 2017. Attended by 160 participants, the event spread over four days and offered five stages, two of Sprint and three of Middle Distance.


For the fifth time in its history, the Clube de Montanha do Funchal organized the Madeira Orienteering Festival. Funchal, Porto Moniz, Machico and Santa Cruz, four Municipalities with excellent conditions for the sport, joined hands, being perfect stages for four days of demanding and challenging Orienteering. Scoring for Madeira Portuguese Orienteering Federation League 2017, the event gathered 160 participants from Denmark, Finland, France, Switzerland, Sweden and Portugal.

Nelson Baroca (CA Madeira) was unbeatable in the Men Elite class, achieving five winnings in as much stages. Sidónio Freitas (CMo Funchal) reached the second position, after a tight fight with António Abreu (ACDJS). Paula Rodrigues (LCM) won the Women Elite class, after victories in three out of five stages. Sónia Silva (GDE) reached the other two victories and one second place, but skipped two stages and finished in the second position overall. The third place was taken by Adriana Ladeira (CA Madeira).


Results

Men Elite
1. Nelson Baroca (CA Madeira) 6976.28 points
2. Sidónio Freitas (CMo Funchal) 5613.90 points
3. António Abreu (ACDJS) 5329.51 points
4. Tiago Gil (LCM) 4721.01 points
5. José Henriques (CA Madeira) 4348.15 points

Women Elite
1. Paula Rodrigues (LCM) 5801.10 points
2. Sónia Silva (GDE) 3541.56 points
3. Adriana Ladeira (CA Madeira) 3452.71 points
4. Inês Fernandes (LCM) 3328.56 points
5. Nélia Sousa (CA Madeira) 1916.72 points

For maps, results, (excellent) photos and further information, please visit the event's webpage at http://oricmof.wixsite.com/mof17-ingles.

[Photo: Tiago Sousa / Clube de Montanha do Funchal]

Joaquim Margarido