Happy ending. After 23 World titles, 10 European titles, 65 victories in stages of the World Cup and nine great triumphs in World Cup Overall, among many other victories of great value and significance, Simone Niggli leaves the competition on its highest level. To the Portuguese Orienteering Blog, the biggest star in the sport of orienteering ever talks about her incredible successful career and opens the eyes to the future, raising some other "flags" in the horizon.
When did you start to design in your mind the idea of saying goodbye to Orienteering?
Simone Niggli (S. N.) - The ideas had been in my mind for some years already. Because of the children, we had to decide from one year to another. But last winter I really thought about it more clearly because I had some injury problems and I wasn't sure if I would be ready for the WOC 2013 in the first place. After the successful WOC in Finland the idea became more realistic and I noticed that the time had come.
How important was family in your decision and how hard was it to turn your back to several years full of forests and emotions at the highest level?
S. N. - For sure it wasn't an easy decision. But for me it was always important to say goodbye on the top and therefore when if not now!? I have really achieved everything that is possible and I have so many nice memories. Certainly my family also had big influence in this decision because I want to spend more time with my children in the future without having the pressure in my mind to train and compete at a top level.
Among all the moments lived throughout your career, could you elect the most amazing? And the saddest one?
S. N. - There are so many emotional moments that it is hard to pick out one. For sure this year's WOC in Finland and also the World Cup Final in Baden were two of my most important and beautiful ones. There were so many emotions behind this performances! But I would like to point out also the two WOC on home-ground, 2003 and 2012, which were just amazing. Every (gold) medal has its own story and I'm really proud of every single medal! The saddest moment was perhaps at WOC 2009 in Hungary, where I went out to a medal position in relay and messed it up at one (green) control. I was very sad especially for my teammates.
When I interview someone, it is common to ask if there is a model, an idol on his/her orienteer's life and the answer often is “Simone Niggli.” And what about you? Did you have your own idol in this sport?
S. N. - No, I don't have any idol. But I'm impressed of several runners in different kinds.
I'm sorry but I have to ask you this: What does Portugal mean to you? Did you consider to come again next year, just for fun, for the Portugal O' Meeting, a competition that you won for the last four years (and also in 2002)?
S. N. - Portugal was and will always be a very nice place for me. I enjoyed so many nice and good races there and for me it was always the best preparation for the upcoming season. For sure I will come back and run in Portugal again!
You leave Orienteering on the lead of the World Ranking. Do you want to highlight two or three names as your natural successors?
S. N. - For sure the Swede Tove Alexandersson will be "the girl to beat" next season. But there are many good runners (also from Switzerland) who will fight for the medals as well.
How do you intend to keep following our sport? Are your future plans to take in your hands the Swiss Team's technical direction, together with your husband Matthias?
S. N. - I'm looking forward to train and compete just for fun. I love orienteering and therefore I will surely run in the forests as much as possible. There are also some thoughts on being a coach sometimes... In 2016 my husband and I will be the event director for the JWOC in Switzerland, that will be a great project!
You are, definitely, a source of inspiration for everyone and you'll be remembered for many, many years. On this particular moment, I would like to ask you to leave a message to all orienteers, specially to the youngsters.
S. N. - Thank you very much for your support during all these years. I got so many nice reactions after my retiring, it was just great! I do love orienteering and I hope you do it as well. Therefore: keep going on and see you in the forest!
[Photo by Rémy Steinegger / www.steineggerpix.com]