Small in stature, huge in want, Emily Kemp headed to France searching for the dream. Today she is already a safe value in this world of Orienteering and the future opens up before her, wide and promising. About herself and his career, she spoke with enthusiasm to the Portuguese Orienteering Blog. Et voilá!
When, last March, I interviewed Thierry Gueorgiou, he said that "there are no limits to the dream." And, following his idea, he gave as an example “this little big athlete from Canada”, Emily Kemp. Emily, will you please introduce yourself?
Emily Kemp (E. K.) - Yup I guess I am known as the little big athlete from Canada, or in France, la petite Canadienne. I have been living in France for two years now, studying physics and chemistry and training with the best training group anyone could ask for, le Pôle France. Every day I get to live my dream of competing, training and living as an elite athlete and it’s really “de la bombe de balle”!
You left behind the city of Ottawa where you were born and your country to settle in France, more precisely in Saint Étienne. All this because of Orienteering?
E. K. - At 18 it was a big, huge, really scary deal moving all the way across the ocean; I remember saying goodbye to my family, walking through the security gates with a one way ticket to France and thinking “what on earth have I gotten myself into”? Thankfully, France has become my second home and I haven’t regretted the decision since. I’m not sure how many people know the story of how I came to St. Etienne, but in brief Thierry was on vacation in North America and while I was already researching universities in Europe he invited me to train with le Pôle. I am studying at the same time but if I ever have to choose between training and class it’s always the training that wins ;)
After all, what you see in this sport that makes it so special?
E. K. - For me orienteering has always been the challenge of the balance between speed and navigation. I’ve been orienteering for almost 13 years now and I’m always super excited to travel to new places and run in new types of terrain. I think that we have a really unique sport when you think about how you have to adapt your technique and speed to each new map that we run on. I will never get tired of searching for that edge where everything is flowing so smoothly but you know that one slip in concentration could be the end to a perfect race.
As you mentioned before, you are part of Thierry Gueorgiou's training group and, surely, you have learned one or two things with him. Would you like to tell who Thierry is, what he means for you and what is the most important thing you learned from him?
E. K. - Thierry is the reason that I’m actually in France and he’s always been there to look out for me as I try to manoeuvre my way through life in France and become an elite athlete. I have learned so much invaluable information from him about orienteering techniques, mentality, nutrition, analysis, that I don’t think I could ever thank him enough. Moving to a different country, with a different language and culture meant that I went through a lot of change and Thierry was always there to make sure that I was in good spirits and on the right track with my training and studies. I think that the most important thing he made me realize was that when you have a goal, or a dream that you would like to reach, every decision that you make from the time you wake up to the time that you go to bed is in order to succeed. He is an impressive athlete and I can only hope that one day I will be as committed to orienteering as he has been throughout his career.
One of the greatest moments ever in the Canadian Orienteering has to do with the bronze medal that you won in Kosice, in the Long Distance race of the JWOC 2012. Were you waiting for this medal or were you hoping to do even better?
E. K. - Ever since running my first JWOC in Sweden 2008 I have dreamt of being up on the podium myself. However, just the idea of it made my heart rate sky rocket because I knew that it wasn’t the type of thing that happens by accident. The thought of giving everything I had to my last JWOC was what made me run that itsy bit faster during my intervals and gave me the motivation to get out for that second training of the day all throughout the winter and spring. The hardest part was knowing that everyone around me wanted me to succeed as much as I did which was a lot of pressure leading up to the races. However, in the nick of time, I realized that I was doing this sport because I loved it, because I loved the feeling of running at full speed but navigating cleanly, because I knew that I could only control my own race and not the results of others. Standing on the starting line for that long distance race I had the biggest grin on my face because I just could not contain my excitement. It was then that I knew that this was going to be one heck of a ride but that I was ready.
In addition to this fantastic result, it was possible to see you in excellent plan in other races, mainly at the Portugal O 'Meeting 2012, with a 7th place on the first day. Would you like to share your memories of the good times of the season and that trip to Portugal?
E. K. - My results at that Portugal O ‘Meeting came as a bit of a surprise since I had spent the last 3 months of winter working a lot on my technique and I wasn’t entirely sure if everything would fall into place once I added a bit of speed. I think what I loved the most was running against the elite women and just seeing how strong they were technically and physically and knowing that is where I wanted to be as an athlete. The terrain was also absolutely spectacular and the weather was beautiful as usual! It always boggles me to think that a few years ago in Canada I was just dreaming about orienteering in February but still had two months to wait!
What is going to change, passing from the Junior class to the Elite class?
E. K. - Running with the seniors is definitely a different kettle of fish but I’ve been fortunate enough to have already experienced my first WOC in France in 2011 and run other World Cup races in the women’s elite category. For better or for worse I already know what it’s like to compete against the big girls and after running five consecutive JWOCs I’m definitely ready to take on the challenge.
What are your goals for the next season?
E. K. - Seeing as I’m trying to finish my degree this year, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to attend many of the World Cup Races in the spring but I’m really quite excited about WOC in Finland. What I would really love to do is put in a super duper winter of training without any serious injuries. One of the difficult parts of being in France to orienteer is that I’m always so excited to train that I take advantage of every opportunity I get. “Four hours of training during the day plus a night training? Sure! Let’s go!!” And then I realized that I have been injured for the past two years… Out of all the mistakes that I’ve made in the past when it comes to injuries, I think I’ve finally tuned into my body and what it needs to not fall to pieces. My goals for next season don’t include a certain placing at a final at WOC, just a solid, injury-free preparation and then I’ll see what happens after that.
Is a return to Portugal and to the Portugal O 'Meeting 2013 in your plans?
E. K. - Definitely! February has become a much brighter month now that I know that my season starts off with some awesome training in Portugal :) Looking at the schedule, I wish that I could spend the whole month in the Portuguese sunshine but I might have to be selective as to which weekends I’ll be able to run. In other words, I wish my schedule is yet to be determined.
One last idea?
E. K. - I am extremely lucky to have been able to follow my dream of moving to Europe and training full time and for a while now I’ve wanted to share what I’ve learned, and am still learning, as I experience new and exciting things. We already have a Canadian Team Blog but I’m very proud to say that there is now an Emily Kemp blog. My brother, Eric Kemp, is completely to thank for the awesome layout and I hope that with this I’ll be able to share my excitement for this crazy sport! http://la-petite-canadienne.blogspot.ca/