Hana Bajtosova is, in the last years, one of the names of reference on Mountain Bike Orienteering. Twice medalist of Sprint at the MTBO World Championships (2008 and 2009), Hana is preparing carefully this season, with the highest goals in her mind. The Portuguese Orienteering Blog met her in Barcouço, during the 5th edition of “Ori-BTT Rota da Bairrada”, spoke to the great athlete and presents now some of her dreams and ambitions.
How did you meet Orienteering?
Hana Bajtosova (H. B.) - I met Orienteering when I was about 15 years old, through the Scholar Sport in my School, in Bratislava. Although I was not very strong physically, I was very good reading and interpreting maps and I was often selected for the national youth team. That's how I participated for the first time in a major competition, the European Youth Orienteering Championships. After my first participation in a Junior World Orienteering Championship, I was disgusted because I asked to the national coach about what I needed to qualify for the Elite team in the next World Orienteering Championships and he replied that I should wait a couple of years and make previously the World University Orienteering Championships. I confess I lost my motivation and I did not know what to do.
It was when Mountain Bike Orienteering appeared in your life, I presume.
H. B. - Yes. We were in 2004 and my coach, who is also the coach of the Slovakian MTBO National Team, made me the proposal of trying the Mountain Bike Orienteering. The Slovakian Team had undergone a major refurbishment, many athletes had left the team for issues related to motherhood and I ended by saying to myself: "Why not?" The World Championships in 2005 were in Slovakia, there was a place waiting for me at the Team and the challenge was enormous. I did the first tests, I stayed in third place in one of them and I won the other and everything seemed to indicate that things could result. I ended up winning a place in the Team that I keep until the present moment.
You never left the idea of representing Slovakia in a World Orienteering Championship. So, the last year, it was a pleasant surprise to see you reach the 29th place in the Middle Distance of the WOC. What can you say about it?
H. B. - In fact, 2011 was like a dream coming true. The Championships were in France and I had an opportunity there. I continued to feel more comfortable technically than physically and the WOC in France was particularly challenging in a technical point of view. I knew that I had nothing to prove to anyone, but I wanted to show to myself that I had the value to reach the Final A in a World Orienteering Championship. I think that, in terms of physical training, everything was very well done. I almost put my Mountain Bike aside and all the time was applied towards preparing the World Orienteering Championships. What really costed was the mental part. It was very hard indeed, but I achieved my goals.
To be a good competitor in Mountain Bike Orienteering, is it essential to have a good experience in Foot Orienteering?
H. B. - I don't know. I think that it may help, but it's not absolutely necessary. Personally, as I began in Foot Orienteering, this is something that always gives me a great pleasure. In winter, for example, if you can't do Orienteering on Bicycle, you make Foot Orienteering or you simply run.
Recently, you've been in Portugal. Why Portugal?
H. B. - Because the weather is fine, it's hot. And because the terrains are excellent. I came to Portugal in 2007 and then in 2008 to a ten-day stage. It is true that, since then, I realize that this is a good place to train. There is a huge variety of interesting terrains and I come here because it is an opportunity to train with map. I could do it in France but, in one hand, the terrains have less quality and I already know them, which reduces the quality of training. And then, it's good to get a bit out of France and to stay away from this crisis.
You spoke about 2007 and 2008, but you didn't mention 2010 and the MTBO World Championships held in Portugal. The memories that you keep from these days, aren't they the best?
H. B. - It is true that I started working in 2009 and I really didn't know how to manage my work, the trainings and the competitions. Otherwise, in Montalegre, my shape wasn't the best and the results have not appeared as I would like them. Last year, in Italy, the things have run a little better and this year I feel that everything is going very well.
In 2008 and in 2009 you won the title of Sprint of the World Championships. What memories do you keep from those magical moments?
H. B. - I keep a particularly strong emotion of the gold medal from Israel in 2009. It was, perhaps, the best course I have done in my whole life. It was a perfect Sprint in which I finished with an advantage of almost 40 seconds for the second place and the third ranked player was almost two minutes behind me. It was something really amazing. I never went back to do a race like that.
But can the result be repeated and will we see you earlier this year, again, in the highest place of the podium?
H. B. - I would like, of course, but it will be very hard because the level of competition in Mountain Bike Orienteering is getting higher. It will largely depend on the physical shape at the time, but specially on the situation related to my work and how I'll be able to manage my trainings. I train on average twice a day, with a break, usually on Mondays. They are physical trainings, and sometimes, on weekends, I can train with map. These are usually very intense workouts and I do them joining the French team.
And why the French team?
H. B. - I live in France and there you are the reason. And then, in Slovakia, there are no conditions in order to organize high-level stages. To train in the Czech Republic should be a possibility, but they have a very strong national team and they are very closed. Exceptionally, I can train with the French National Team and I feel like family with them. Actually, the French Team is my team, even more than the Slovakian Team.
Did you follow the changes that are configured in the Mountain Bike Orienteering in order to make it more competitive, fairer and media friendly?
H. B. - Yes, and I share the opinions in regard to some changes. Looking at the female categories in the World Championship, I think the qualifying series in Long Distance have no reason to exist. If we talk about the qualifying of 60 athletes to the finals, so all the athletes are qualified. Maybe with the limit of 15 athletes classified in each series, we should have a more interesting solution, putting more pressure on the athletes and making the series more competitive. On the other hand, I think the question of the runability off the tracks should be allowed, but with the two wheels of the bicycle in the air, as it happens in Portugal, for example. This forces the athlete to choose to run with the bike on their back or continue ridding and do a longer lap. But cycling everywhere, in the trails or out of them, I don't know... I don't like the idea.
Is Mountain Bike Orienteering getting older?
H. B. - I don't think so. There are great values in the Mountain Bike Orienteering from all over the World that are showing their potential now and they are very young. I'm talking about Marika Hara, Susanna Laurila or Gaëlle Barlet, for example. I think there are many young people reaching the top and the competition is much harder now than it was five years ago.
For how much longer are we going to see you doing Mountain Bike Orienteering?
H. B. - I have no idea. This year I'm here, certainly, and then we'll see. I'm getting married this summer and I intend to raise a family, so things have to be weighted according to the circumstances. This can cause radical changes in all situations, but about one thing I am sure : I want to keep doing Mountain Bike Orienteering for many, many years, even if it isn't at a high level. And, if possible, I intend to convey this to my children. Who knows, they might become champions in the future.