She left behind the freezing forests of Scandinavia and surrended to the beautiful green of Norte Alentejo. It was like a dream. Eva Jurenikova spent a few days in Portugal and the Portuguese Orienteering Blog spoke to her. Behind a fragile appearance and an almost whispered voice hides a person with an enormous inner strength and an orienteer who lives and feels the sport like few.
Last week we could see you again in Portugal. What does it mean to you in the beginning of a new season?
Eva Jurenikova (E.J.) – Portugal is a perfect place for winter training. Since quite many years, I've been here almost every year, at least one week. This year I'll come twice, I'll be here again in February. I see Portugal as one of the best places for us, because of the climate, of course - it's not possible to train in Scandinavia during the winter -, but also because of the terrains and the training camps, the training package, the quality of it. The quality is important for me, definitely. Maps, courses, terrains and... good weather. It doesn't have to be 25º C. This weather is perfect for training. I imagine in Sweden, with – 20º C... it's difficult to do Orienteering in such conditions. Here it's like training in paradise.
When has your preparation for the next season begun?
E.J. - I can say I started with some structured trainings in the middle of November. Usually during the winter is the period when we train to highest podiums. Now is the time to train hard, to improve for the season. So it's now. I work a lot on Orienteering. It's impossible not to do it for two weeks. If I go on vacation, for example, it's always on a kind of training camp. I do a little break, usually in November, but I don't have a structured plan. I take it easy, I don't push myself... but it would be difficult not to train at all for a couple of weeks. It's like the air that I breathe. Of course, if I'm injured or sick, I can't train. But that is not the natural state of my body.
Talking about these training camps here, in Norte Alentejo, I can see you were the setter of some of the courses. How did it happen?
E.J. – I got an e-mail from Fernando Costa, some time ago, in order that he would organize some training camps. In Dalarna, where I live and work, we were discussing on a training camp where we could go for practicing and Portugal was one of my proposals. Then, I remembered his e-mail, I contacted him again and I asked him for the training camps and also offer myself to set some courses, if he needed help. I have been here before; actually I knew most of the maps, so I knew what the terrains look like. So, it helps when you set the courses, sometimes you don't have to put controls on the green areas, but I forgot that small rivers or streams, and the passages should be marked on the maps. This is something I have to remember next time. Otherwise, I'm happy with the maps and with my work.
Talking about the last season, when you analyze this last twelve months, what do you see?
E.J. – It was my best season ever and I was quite happy. I mean, I always want more, I always try to find things which I have to do better and there were many things I could have done better this year also. During the races I've made some crucial mistakes but, as an all, the season was very good. I was so happy with my performances and my results. I got my first medal at a World Championship, the silver medal in the Relay with the Czech Team, and I was very close to an individual medal, with the 4th place in Long Distance. When I came to the finish at the Long Distance I regretted a lot, I made some mistakes at the very end of the course and I lost the medal there. So, the first hour after finishing the race, I was quite sad, even if it was my best individual result ever. But late on last night I realized I did it still pretty well, it's a great result, I was happy.
And this year, in Switzerland?
E.J. – I've been looking a lot at the terrain, how to train, analyzing that. I can say that Long Distance and the Relay are very similar to the terrain that we found in Ostrava, in Czech Republic, where I come from. It's not very technical, but still I think you have to be fast, very good physically but, at the end, you have to be very precise. You really don't have time to lose seconds, you have to optimize all the way. I've been looking at this... it's not as special as it was in France, last year.
Are we going to see you getting an individual medal, and a gold one in the Relay?
E.J. – Things are different. I was professional last year, I didn't work so that I could train. And I trained more than I ever did and it really paid off. This year I'm working, I can already see that part of my thoughts are that I don't think so much about my own training and my performances but I focus quite a lot on other things. I'm still very motivated to get good results but I'm also very motivated to do a good job with the European Championship, which I'm involved in organization. But I can see, during the last couple of months, that my focus is not only on my own performance. So I'll see, but I keep on training. I analyzed last year and I decided to do a little bit of changes. I want to run more, do more Orienteering than last year, when I did a lot of Ski during the winter. Perhaps even if I train a little bit less, I can still get better. All of this motivates me to improve, looking for everything that I can do better. I think the whole process to win the big Championship might be here in such a Training Camp, doing the training, living this kind of life, is very motivating. It gives to me a lot of joy, I must say that.
To be one of the course setters of European Championships, in Dalarna, what does it mean to you?
E.J. – It's a challenge. I know I'm going to be more nervous during the European Championship than I ever was as a runner. It's a big responsibility and I know that people have big expectations. It has been a lot of work setting the courses of Middle Distance, qualifications and finals, and Long Distance, qualifications and finals. All together they were twenty courses in four days of competitions. I've been a lot of times in the area, I have some different kinds of courses, I've been running, I've checked all the control points, once, twice, three times, I have put some tapes on the controls, I have discussed with other people... and I have to think on TV, making about spectators, the Arena, how it will be, also about Team Leaders Meetings, the quarantine just before its start, all those things around. Of course, you don't just put yourself on the computer setting the courses; you have to go to the terrain. And you also have to put the things with the mapmaker, discuss the map, the cooperation between the mapmaker and the course setter must be perfect. There should be any doubts about any points. I have ideas how the map should be and the map is still in the process until the very end, before it's printed. But there are the setters of other distances and more people involved, it is not only me.
You strongly assumed your opposition to IOF's changes on program of World Orienteering Championship. Do you still think those changes are wrong? How do you see this step back of IOF’s intentions?
E.J. – I am very happy with the IOF's decision to take back its proposal. I think the distances that we have now at WOC's program don't need to be changed to make them more “media friendly”. What is important to change is to improve the TV production. There is still so much to do, it can be so much better. It's not necessary to invent new distances or new disciplines. I was very much disagreed with the introduction of the Middle prologue and the Middle chasing start, replacing the conventional Middle Distance that we had until now. All of it was so wrong. You could win without even reading the map. If it was a chasing start after the prologue, then a lot of people would start almost at the same time, for the same course, and they just followed each other. For some people it would be possible to put the map on its pocket and then, perhaps, waiting for the last control... I mean, you took away the Orienteering part of it or at least for many people. You lose the main value of Orienteering, it turns into some cross-country running. There are many aspects of fairness in this and I see that this is specially changing the Middle as it is now into this prologue and chasing start can be really bad development of our sport.
In this beginning of 2012 I ask you to leave a message to all orienteers.
E.J. – I wish you a lot of joy with our fantastic sport. See the missed controls as a possibility to learn something and to make progress. In elite sports there is naturally a lot of focus on results but sometimes they are not necessarily the best indicator of a successful performance. Try to evaluate your performance before you look at the result list.