Thursday, March 23, 2017

Nermin Fenmen: "You're made to feel part of the family"

When she first started orienteering, back in 2006, she thought it was such a pity she had come across this sport so late in life. However, when Nermin Fenmen ran her first WMOC in 2008 and saw seniors in classes like 90+ she said: “That’s good, I still have another 40 years or so to go”. Today, time to know a wonderful person and her work, both competing and acting behind the scenes.

The first question is always the easiest. Who is Nermin Fenmen?

Nermin Fenmen (N. F.) - I was born in Ankara, Turkey, in 1956. I studied Chemical Engineering at the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara. At present, I work as an instructor teaching computer programming at Bilkent University, also in Ankara. When I look back to more than 10 years ago, I see I would have a lot to mention when it comes to hobbies, interests, etc. However, since I started orienteering, orienteering and training for orienteering has become my main hobby. In fact, being involved in sports has reached such a peak in my life that I have enrolled in the PhD program at METU in the Department of Physical Education and Sports, something I would readily encourage anyone to do – be a student in something you have a passion for.

Can you remember the moment you're introduced to Orienteering? Was it love at first sight?

N. F. - I certainly remember, and it was definitely “love at first sight”. I was, at the time, on the executive board of the METU Alumni Association. In one of our board meetings, we decided to organize a series of outdoor activities together with the students at METU, mainly to enhance student – alumni interaction and also get our members out of doors taking part in family events.

I started contacting the student clubs at METU. We organized an event with the bird-watchers, the nature club took us into the hills to point out various interesting insects and plants, then we had a session with the outdoor photography club... I checked the list of clubs and there was this club called “orienteering” which said on its webpage that orienteering was an outdoor sport, so I thought I had better get in touch with them. They were happy with the idea of organizing an event on campus, which they said would be fun for the alumni and their families. We fixed the date as 18th November, 2005. I still had no idea of what orienteering was. Then I suddenly remembered there were these funny guys in the mountains I had come across once or twice (I later learned that these were called Hash Harriers). They were drawing arrows and special symbols at junctions using flour for people to follow.

I felt a bit responsible towards our members from the Association whom we had encouraged to bring their children along as well, so I phoned the club once again. I said the 18th of November could be a bit rainy and what would happen to the flour at junctions if it is wet and it gets washed away. There was a long silence on the phone. Then came a cold answer: “We don’t use flour. We use a map and a compass”. Oh well, I said to myself, we have to take a chance.

The event was a huge success and I enjoyed myself so much I asked the young students if I could come to their other events. In February 2006 they asked me to be part of the team. So I've been orienteer ever since that first day in November 2005.

What do you see in Orienteering that makes it so special?

N. F. - I would say it is the thrill of trying to solve a puzzle on the go! I had not been involved in regular sports until I took up orienteering and started training for competitions. When I started running and training with groups other than orienteering, I started participating in competitions for distance running, MTB races and triathlons. For one thing, the love of orienteering also makes our community special. We don’t have people trying to shove each other off track. Our community has never so far had any incident of doping. We try to put on a good face even if we were not as successful as we hoped to be. Our favorite point of the game is comparing route choices with our rivals. We share the love of nature. We enjoy seeing a clump of wild flowers, a colourful mushroom, maybe a deer or a hare running by during our course. It is not all about winning. It is something else which makes you whole.

What does it mean to be an orienteer in Turkey?

N. F. - Orienteering itself is quite a new sport in Turkey. When the Federation was first established as a branch under the General Directorate of Youth and Sports, back in 2002, those responsible had the duty of officially naming our sport. It is very difficult to find a Turkish name to fully explain orienteering with a single word, not even with two. So they chose the name “Oryantiring”, slightly bending the pronunciation and spelling to suit Turkish grammar rules better. However, the word “oryantiring” is very similar to the word “oryantal” which is the Turkish for belly dancing (!). In addition, we are a Mediterranean country. We don’t like the cold and the rain. We prefer to sleep late and sit at home to a huge family breakfast on a Sunday.

When I first started getting more involved in the development of the sport in Turkey, the three most difficult hurdles to pass in convincing mothers to allow their children to take up this sport was (a) no, we have nothing to do with belly dancing; (b) no, your child will not get lost in the forest; (c) no, your child will not get pneumonia as soon as it starts to rain. I still have friends asking me “but what if you get wet?” or “what if you get muddy?” and even “what if you get hungry?” But as years have passed, many more of my friends have, at least, developed an understanding for being out of doors on a Sunday morning.

How do you evaluate the growth of Orienteering in your country? Are you going in the right way?

N. F. - I would say we are definitely on the right track. Orienteering has developed very quickly in Turkey. It has spread into schools and universities. Many more clubs are being established each year. Orienteering has spread to many more parts of the country.

When I first started taking part in official competitions back in 2006, we had very few participants – around 350-400 maybe, and very few classes too, only 16 – 21. Now our official country cup races and championships have reached over 1,500 participants. We have classes from M/W10 up to M/W55, with two technical difficulty levels for the classes 16 – 21. The children’s classes 10 – 14 attract around 100 participants in each class. Last year the Federation decided to hold the championships for the classes 10 – 14 separately, starting with provincial championships, then moving up to regional and then finally the Turkish Championships. This had a very positive effect on the number of newcomers to the sport. Hosting the ISF World Schools Championships in Orienteering in 2015 also had a very encouraging impact on the development of orienteering in schools.

It is wonderful to see how many Masters we manage to attract to our sport as well. It was only in 2008 that the “veterans” class was officially added for the first time, a single class for 35+. Now the classes for the Masters are split up into 5-year age classes up to 55+ and we are even thinking of adding an A/B technical difficulty level for these too. Naturally, all the figures above are related to the development in foot-orienteering. The other disciplines are also underway, although participation in these is not at a satisfactory level at the moment. However, one of the prime duties of a national federation is to continue to try to promote the sport in every area. Therefore, we still continue to organize cup races and national championships in MTBO, Ski-O and Trail-O. Turkey has been represented in WMTBOC for several years now and WTOC for two years. We hope to take part in WSOC in the near future as well.

We were used to see your name connected with the Regional and Youth Development Commission. Sadly, you've not received support from your Federation and you're not in the Commission anymore. How do you feel about it?

N. F. - Naturally, it was disappointing for me, since I had already assumed certain responsibilities within the commission and I felt that we were letting these down as well. I tried to explain to our Federation that members of IOF commissions do not represent a country, we are there because we were nominated within the IOF regarding our skills and experience. I also had a difficult time explaining to people within the IOF community who know me, why I do not any longer have support from our Federation. However, I don't need any title to be of service to the sport which has become a passion for me. I was asked by the Chair for the RYDC to continue as a volunteer which I have readily accepted. I continue to contribute to the projects under my responsibility and work for the development of orienteering.

I see the RYDC as a very important commission in the development and spreading of orienteering. The IOF has always had a lot of support from member Federations, Regional Coordinators and volunteers. However, a lot of individual work throughout the world is now being channeled into a more systematic approach.

Another subject is MTB Orienteering, a discipline of which you're a fan. Why MTBO? Isn't it dangerous?

N. F. - My first MTBO event ever was the WMMTBOC in Gdansk, Poland in 2010. When I heard about it I said to myself, I can ride a bike and I know a bit about orienteering, why not? Naturally, MTBO is not just about riding a bike with a bit of map reading. I quickly saw that the first thing I should do was to improve my MTB skills. So I started training with our MTB team in the university. I gradually got over my fear of downhill riding (although still not completely). I learnt how to keep my speed while reading the map (although I still have difficulty if the network of paths is very dense, as it was for the Middle Distance in Kaunas this year). I have taken the opportunity to join training camps to improve my map-reading too.

I have never thought of MTBO as “dangerous”. I have already had two bad falls, one while training in the hills where I live, the other during an MTB race where I ripped my arm and had to have 12 stitches. However, neither of these has made me think that MTBO is not for me or for anyone of my age. On the contrary, these have only encouraged me to train more. For anyone who enjoys cycling and being in the forest on the trails meanwhile solving the puzzle of finding the most optimal route to the control point, MTBO is definitely the sport which offers all of this as a package deal.

What did you feel last September, in Lithuania, reaching the bronze in the Sprint of the World Masters Championships?

N. F. - It was a big surprise. I had a very good start and really felt in control. I made a bad mistake going to control number 7, that’s usually what happens when you get over-confident and think you are really doing well. I think this is the most important challenge in orienteering - pursuing a calm concentration throughout every millisecond of the course, from start to finish. I managed to stop riding in circles like a headless chicken after control number 9 and regained concentration. I never thought that I would be one of the medalists. When I reached the finish I only thought that yes, working hard pays, and I am definitely progressing fast in MTBO.

I was so happy when I saw that I had reached the bronze medal. This is my first medal in MTBO in an international competition and definitely my first in such a prestigious event and the World Masters Championships. I owe a lot to the MTBO community for their continuous encouragement ever since I started in 2010, especially to my friends in W50 and my new “rivals” now in W60. I think this is what is so exceptional about the orienteering community, you're made to feel part of the family. People like to share their knowledge and experience. I have learnt so much from my many friends in MTBO.

How do you rate the present moment of MTB Orienteering, particularly from the Masters' point of view?

N. F. - I am very happy to see so many new names on the entries lists in MTBO. I think MTBO is developing at high speed. For example, although it is just a few years ago that O-Ringen incorporated MTBO as an introductory event into their program, it is nice to see that it is a full 5-day event this year. The MTBO training camp in Denmark is something many mark on their agenda each year. Many more countries are looking towards organizing multi-day events and training camps. Last year the Turkish Federation organized a four-day event in Cappadocia, one of the most stunning regions in central Anatolia. This was a WRE and also part of the World Masters Series. We are planning towards offering training opportunities within the region, hopefully to be announced soon.

The World Masters Series offers a wonderful opportunity to Masters who would like to enjoy a full season, meanwhile competing in quality events in many different countries and terrains. Sadly, I cannot spare the time off from work much as I would love to, but I know that the events chosen to be part of the WMS are of high quality and offer fulfilling courses as well as interesting terrain.

For how long are we going to see you doing MTB Orienteering?

N. F. - I have only just upgraded from a 26 inch to a 29er and I would like to make the most of my new bike! So I would definitely say I hope to be around for many years (laughs). Actually, my unexpected success in Lithuania has motivated me to concentrate more on MTBO. I usually try to plan my summer well in advance and I usually pick prominent events in FootO meanwhile trying to merge in some MTBO as well. This year I will be doing MTBO only, only breaking into FootO for the South East European Masters Orienteering Championships in the Autumn.

May I ask you about your biggest wish?

N. F. - My biggest wish would be to continue orienteering for many years to come. When I first started orienteering back in 2006, I thought it was such a pity I had come across this sport so late in life. However, when I ran my first WMOC in 2008 and saw seniors in classes like 90+ I said that’s good, I still have another 40 years or so to go. I hope I will still be fit enough to continue orienteering up to that age. It would certainly be nice to keep on within the MTBO community and see new classes develop as time goes by.

Is there anything that you'd like to add?

N. F. - Many thanks for the interview and giving me the chance for expressing my opinions, feelings and wishes. Congratulations on keeping up the Portuguese Orienteering Blog which has now become one of the most important websites to turn to for interesting interviews, maps and other information on orienteering.

Joaquim Margarido

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

POM 2017: Moments (5)

© Joaquim Margarido

EIOC 2017: Kettunen and Halawa won first-ever TrailO event in Egypt

Eeva Kettunen, in the Open Class, and Mohamed Halawa, in the Paralympic Class, were the winners of the Egyptian International Orienteering Championships 2017’s PreO stage. These were two historical victories in the first-ever TrailO event to be held in Egypt.

After Luxor, in 2016, the 2nd Egyptian International Orienteering Championships took place in Sharm el Sheikh, Southern Sinai, Egypt, in early February 2017. Organized by the Egyptian Orienteering Federation and International Orienteering Federation, with the strong support from the Croatian club OK Vihor Zagreb, the event attracted 130 competitors from 15 different nations. The EIOC 2017 kicked-off with a Sprint race scoring for the IOF World Sprint Orienteering Ranking, whose winners were Will Critchley (Edmonton Orienteering Club, CAN) and Linda Verbraken (TROL Belgium, BEL). After a Middle Distance race and another Sprint race, in the second and third days, Will Critchley and Mariana Marynchenko (Ukrainian Hunters, UKR) get the top positions in the overall standings.

A surprise addition to the event’s Program was the first-ever TrailO/PreO event to be held in Egypt, which was attended by 22 competitors from 9 countries. Set by Ivana Gobec and Damir Gobec, the course took benefit of the detailed terrains surrounding a holiday resort on the shore of the Red Sea, offering 15 challenging tasks, plus two timed stations with three tasks each. In the Open Class, Eeva Kettunen (Edmonton Orienteering Club) and Yau Chiu Hui finished the course with 14 points each, but Kettunen was more accurate in the timed stations and achieved the victory. In the fight for the immediate positions, Bartlomiej Mazan (WKS Śląsk Wrocław) was clearly better than Chris Virgo (Devon OC) and Shoaib Kareem (Egyptian Military Team) in the timed stations, finishing in the third place. Four competitors from Egyptian Military Team took part in the Paralympic competition, in which Mohamed Halawa get the win with 12 points.

To the Portuguese Orienteering Blog, IOF Adviser Damir Gobec left some thoughts: “Sharm El Sheikh came out a big crossroad for Egyptian orienteering and specially for the TrailO Team. Working in different environment and with people of different culture is always challenging and we learned a lot how time is something completely irrelevant. We found out that Egyptian TrailO Team can be very good. They have a strong will, some basic map reading experience and now they have some knowledge. After gaining some international experience, they will be competitive even on international level”, he said. And a last note: “You know that Croatia came out of nowhere at WTOC in the Czech Republic and we picked up there our first IOF medal, so I hope that this Croatian-Egyptian work will give us some new very good results.”


Open class
1. Eeva Kettunen (Edmonton Orienteering Club, CAN) 14 points / 81 seconds
2. Yau Chiu Hui (Kong Kong Island Orienteering, HKG) 14 points / 153 seconds
3. Bartlomiej Mazan (WKS Śląsk Wrocław, POL) 13 points / 49 seconds
4. Chris Virgo (Devon OC, GBR) 13 points / 231 seconds
5. Kareem Shoiab (Egyptian Military Team, EGY) 13 points / 415 seconds

Paralympic class
1. Mohamed Halawa (Egyptian Military Team, EGY) 12 points / 226 seconds
2. Ahmed Mohamed Nagieb (Egyptian Military Team, EGY) 11 points / 323 seconds
3. Ahmed Abd Allatif (Egyptian Military Team, EGY) 8 points / 313 seconds
4. Hassan Mohamed (Egyptian Military Team, EGY) 8 points / 481 seconds

Complete results and further information at

[Photo: Tamer Mehanna /]

Joaquim Margarido

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

POM 2017: Moments (4)

© Joaquim Margarido

Martin Kronlund International Trophy 2017: Victories of Andreu Blanes and Sofia Haajanen

Confirming an excellent shape, Andreu Blanes Reig was the winner of the Martin Kronlund International Trophy 2017. On the women's side, Sofia Haajanen get the best overall time, ahead of Esther Gil and Ona Ràfols. Daniel Hubmann was the event's big absent.

With the presence of 1,238 athletes from 15 countries, took place last weekend in San Martin de Valdeiglesias, 80 km west of Madrid, the 27th edition of Martin Kronlund International Trophy. After Santa Pola, Alicante (15th Costa Blanca Trophy) and Murcia (29th Costa Calida Trophy) the event marked the return of the Spanish Foot Orienteering League 2017, offering three stages - Long Distance and Sprint on the first day and Middle Distance on the second Day -, the first of which scoring for the IOF World Orienteering Ranking. The organization, led by the clubs Adyron, OrientaGetafe and Alabarda-O, Madridian Orienteering Federation and Spanish Orienteering Federation, offered excellent courses on beautiful terrains, paying the best tribute to the “father” of Spanish Orienteering, Martin Kronlund.

Very tough physically, not only by the undergrowth vegetation preventing a faster and fluid running, but also by the heat, the Long Distance race had in Estonian Timo Sild (Koovee) and Finnish Marika Teini (SK Pohjantahti ) the great winners. In the men's sector, Sild counted on the strong opposition of the Spanish Andreu Blanes Reig, registering in the end of the 11.4 km of his course a time of 1:09:52 against 1:11:36 of his most direct opponent. Lauri Sild was the third ranked, at 4:13 of his brother and teammate. Introduced as the favorite to the victory, Marika Teini had also a hard task to get rid of her compatriot and team mate Sofia Haajanen, having finished in 1:10:44 the 8.2 km of her route and registered a twenty-second advantage over the second placed. With a high quality performance, the “veteran” Esther Gil i Brotons (Colivenc) was the third ranked, with more 6:48 than the winner.

Andreu Blanes and Outi Hytonen won the Middle Distance

With many absences, surely motivated by the hardness of the Long Distance race and by the fact that this stage didn't count for the Trophy, the Sprint had again in Timo Sild the great figure, winning conclusively with the time of 11:44 . Marc Serralonga Arqués (Go-Xtrem) and Joni Hirvikallio (Koovee) took the immediate positions, with more 27 seconds and 28 seconds than the winner, respectively. Violeta Feliciano Sanjuán (Colivenc) was the fastest to complete her course, winning the Elite class with the time of 13:08. Sofia Haajanen finished in the second place with a thirty-second disadvantage, and Anna Serralonga Arqués (Go-Xtrem) get the third position, 46 seconds behind the winner.

For the last day was reserved the Middle Distance stage, in which Andreu Blanes Reig was clearly the strongest. In a very technical and fast terrain, Andreu did a perfect race, finishing with the time of 24:02 and a two-minute advantage over the second placed, his teammate Antonio Martinez Perez. In third place, 2:44 after the winner, stood the Finnish Olli-Markus Taivanen (IMP 1398 Navi). Lauri Sild couldn't get better than the 5th place in this stage, and Andreu Blanes Reig won the Trophy. In the Women Elite class, the stage's winner was the Finn Outi Hytonen (Kangasala SK) with a time of 26:09 against 26:48 of her compatriot, Miia Niitynen (Koovee), second placed. The Spanish Ona Ràfols Perramon (COC Barcelona) achieved the third place. Overall, Sofia Haajanen won the Trophy with Esther Gil i Brotons and Ona Ràfols Perramon getting the immediate positions, separated from each other by only three seconds but at a distance of almost four minutes from the winner.

Overall standings

Men Elite
1. Andreu Blanes Reig (Colivenc) 1:35:38 (+ 00:00)
2. Timo Sild (Koovee) 1:37:07 (+ 01:29)
3. Lauri Sild (Koovee) 1:42:55 (+ 07:17)
4. Antonio Martínez Perez (Colivenc) 1:44:07 (+ 08:29)
5. Johan Backman (Malungs OK Skogsmårdarna) 1:44:11 (+ 08:33)

Women Elite
1. Sofia Haajanen (SK Pohjantahti) 1:43:25 (+ 00:00)
2. Esther Gil i Brotons (Colivenc) 1:47:09 (+ 03:44)
3. Ona Ràfols Perramon (COC Barcelona) 1:47:12 (+ 03:47)
4. Anna Serralonga Arques (Go-Xtrem) 1:49:06 (+ 05:41)
5. Sari Nurmela (Vehkalahden Veikot) 1:57:29 (+ 14:04)

For more information, complete results and photos of the event, please visit the respective website at

[Archive photo]

Joaquim Margarido