Thursday, December 26, 2013

António Hernandez: "Trail Orienteering is cool!"



Trail orienteering in Spain is trying, now, to retake a way started some three years ago by Roberto Munilla. António Hernández, the new helmsman of this fragile vessel, takes us through a stream of dreams to the route of new destinations.


I would like to briefly ask you about your relationship with Orienteering.

António Hernández (A. H.) - It is almost a matter of family tradition, I have always felt a special attraction to the countryside and the mountains. Furthermore, since I was young, I'm addicted to the Athletics. On the day I discovered that I could “place the two profits in the same bag”, I couldn't believeit. It was in July 1989 and... until now!

What led you to accept the challenge, upon receiving the proposal, last September, to take in your hands the destiny of Trail Orienteering in Spain?

A. H. - Firstly, I like this discipline. The technical challenge attracts me. Moreover, throughout these almost twenty-five years, I did everything in Orienteering: competition, course setting, map making, training, events organization and work direction in both clubs and federations. After leaving the presidency of the Club Alcon (Léon), that I founded myself, I was free and that was when Jose Samper, Technical Director of the Spanish Orienteering Federation (FEDO) , asked me for help in this matter. And why not? From a personal point of view, he faces it as a particularly motivating challenge.

Right now, how do you see the moment of the discipline in Spain?

A. H. - Without withdrawing the merits of the previous responsibles' work, I would say that there is practically everything to be done. They have started a trail that I try to follow now. Roberto Munilla organized the first Spanish Trail Orienteering Championship in 2012, but due to his job, he found himself prevented from doing so in 2013. My goal is not only to make sure that we'll organize the Championships again next year, but also in the following years. This is, perhaps, the most visible aspect of the work we have ahead. But the Federation's project involves much more than this: training, cartographers, attracting Paralympic athletes , etc. Another situation we face has to do with the need to demystify the widespread idea among the orienteering community that Trail Orienteering - and may no one misunderstand what I'm saying – is for “grannys” and disabled people. Why? Trail Orienteering is cool!

So, do you feel that the orienteer community in Spain is not aware of the importance of Trail Orienteering, at least as an inclusive discipline?

A. H. - In fact it is not. And it's not even a question of putting Trail Orienteering on a secondary level. TrailO is something that is seen as easy and without any targets. And then, the FootO guys are full of preconceived ideas, since they are “orienteers” and their skills are, in any case, above those of a paralympic competitor. Pure mistake, indeed factually demonstrated by the large number of wrong answers that they do in a TrailO course and by the results, usually far below than expected. As for the discipline's inclusive nature, it is not even questionable. It's implicit in the social responsibility of the Federation and all the orienteers and has been a concern ever since.

One of your first acts had to do with the participation, in Palmela, in the last stage of the Portugal TrailO Cup 2013 and also in two International Clinics promoted by the Portuguese Orienteering Federation, and later, by the Spanish Orienteering Federation, in Alicante, in early November. I would like to know your opinion about those experiences.

A. H. - Our course is new and we are very few . Therefore, we can not miss any opportunity that arises to gather together , learn and put questions . The Clinic of Palmela , as part of the organizational work of the European TrailO Championships ETOC 2014 was an opportunity that us spanish had to avoid losing . Knut Ovesen knew how to give us a very important part of his long experience. Moreover, as a competitor, he could not miss one of the few competitions carried out in the Iberian Peninsula . Also in Alicante, for the first time in the history of FEDO and the Spanish School of Orienteering Technicians, Trail Orienteering was included in the most important Clinic held annually in Spain. It was one more step!

What strategies do you propose to promote and stimulate the Trail Oienteering activities in Spain?

A. H. - It is necessary to destroy this idea that TrailO is not fun, that it is a "folly". The non-paralympic orienteers involved in the sport have to be the ambassadors of Trail Orienteering in the areas of influence of their clubs, organizing competitions and beginner courses for all: Paralympics and beyond. The Federation can not - must not! - do it all. It should be, yes, the unifying centre, which coordinates the various activities. In this sense , Roberto Munilla and any other person willing to help will be very welcome. I've been an orienteer for long enough to know that by working in a team, it gets further, both in space and in time. The experience also tells me that I should not delude myself , since we are just those willing to collaborate and work. It would be stupid to think I have super powers. I'm the one who coordinates, not the most nor the least, just one more, perhaps the most visible.

What spanish team will we see in Portugal next year to compete in the European Trail Orienteering Championships?

A. H. - At least me, Ana Belén and José António Tamarit, whom you already know. We have a new member in the team and hopefully he can be available at that time. As for Paralympic athletes, we are trying to find someone but it won't be easy.

Will the Spanish Federation organize the II Iberian Trail Orienteering Championships next year?

A. H. - I'll give you a novelty. If everything goes normally, at the 5 Days of Spain, an event that will take place in Palencia in August (www.o5dias.com), we'll have a competition of Trail Orienteering that we will try to make Iberian Championships. It's a pity that it couldn't be in Soria in April, at the same time as the Iberian Foot orienteering Championships. But I must be honest, I would have to organize it and I don't have the time for it. To participate in the ETOC and to organize the Championship in Spain, both events in April, is utterly impossible. However, for Foot-O athletes, I recommend not to lose Soria and the Valonsadero map where the Relay of the EYOC 2010 took place. In the future we'll have Trail orienteering on this map, the terrain is spectacular and it has all the conditions for us to set beautiful courses taking into account the specificities of this discipline.

You were one of the mentors of the project which led to the creation of a group on Facebook called “Iberia O-Prec”. How important is this project? Is it just an isolated experience or, above all, is it an example of how we can and should - Portuguese and Spanish - walk hand in hand?

A. H. - I'm Leonean... For me, Portugal is a very special and dear country. Working together is something that personally excites me. Moreover, to develop the project on social networks is the most logical in these days. Firstly, because it is the future, and we are not as many as that. We need to be close to each other.

What do you expect from this experience at the Trail-O's helm in Spain ?

A. H. - I am part of a Commission that will stay in functions until 2015 and I cannot predict what will happen after that. Until then, my goal is that the Trail orienteering in Spain continues growing and, most of all, it does not stagnate when I leave. If this happens, my work would fail. We turn our attitudes towards creating the necessary ground on which the future of the discipline bases. If I am allowed to express a dream, with me or someone else at the helm of the Trail orienteering in Spain, I can say that I've found a terrain suitable for a World Championships: forest area with contour detail, available in accordance with the requirements of the discipline, with too many miles of map with a contour interval of 2.5 m.

Now that we are turning the page of another year, I asked you to express a wish for 2014.

A. H. - I can not confine the wishes to the sport, since there are more important things in life. For 2014 I wish with all my strength, both in Spain and in Portugal, that all the people who are unemployed find a job worthy of that name.

Joaquim Margarido

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