Accomplished the cycle of Portuguese international events of the winter season, the Portuguese Orienteering Blog met one of this year's most prominent performers. Winner of the Middle Distance WRE, the Portugal O 'Meeting's most important stage, Maria Magnusson shows herself at her best: strong, determined and spontaneous. Come to meet her.
In the end of the Portugal O' Meeting, you came home with the second position overall and the victory in the most important stage, on the third day. Did you expect this?
Maria Magnusson (M. M.) - No (laughs). I had no expectations regarding results at all, but I had expectations of my own o-technical performance and I lived up to that.
Where was the secret of such good results?
M. M. - To stay focused on my own orienteering and also to try, always, to find my “happy place” - I ask myself “why am I doing this” and I remember that it's because I love it. The result should never be of importance - just the performance.
How do you evaluate the Portugal O' Meeting?
M. M. - This was my first time at POM! I really enjoyed the technical terrain, orienteering at its best. A shame for the organizers that the weather was so bad, I really felt sorry for them standing out in the rain.
And what about Portugal?
M. M. - I like both the mountains and the beach forests - it's beautiful nature. Most people I've met are friendly - but I've only met a lot of orienteers so I couldn't say if they are or not representative of the portuguese people (laughs). Lisbon is a beautiful city - I've been there now twice and I'd really like to spend some more time there to see more of it. The culture... I haven't really dug into that yet but the Portuguese food, for example, is a little bit too much meat for a vegetarian like myself. I like the cheese though!
How did you meet Orienteering?
M. M. - I was 9 years old and my best friend was into orienteering - so I came along with him and fell in love with it (laughs).
What do you find in this sport that makes it so special?
M. M. - The combination of adrenaline, focus, nature. All the thoughts, impressions, the smell of mud, trees, your own sweat, the sound of branches breaking under your feet, birds chirping, being in totally control of your route choice through the forest... it's like being in love, intoxication.
Can you mention the best moment of your career until now? And the worst?
M. M. - The best moments are always - for me - the races that I've run in total focus, when I've shut the world out and have been in my own “bubble”. The WRE course, at POM, was surely one of those moments, and also when I ran a Middle Distance race, at the Swedish "Elitserie", in Blekinge (in the south east Sweden), in 2010. But nothing compares to my sprint (!!) race at the Swedish Championships, in Strömstad, in 2009. After the qualification race, I got a call from the then Swedish National Team captain and got to know that I was not selected for WOC. I was really disappointed and sad but after moaning for some hours I decided to take the “angry” energy and convert it into a happy-race-focus instead. And what a race... I can still replay it all in my mind. I could hear the crowd but somehow I was so much in my “bubble” that it couldn't touch me. I still think on that summer evening in Strömstad as kind of surreal, I'm not sure it actually happened (laughs).
Is there an athlete that you follow as an example, of which you are a big fan?
M. M. - I admire a lot of athletes for their skills in their field (always been a fan of Anja Pärson, a Swedish legendary alpine skier), but I don't really follow anyone as an example. Mostly because I admire and try to follow the example of people who struggle for “real issues” more than athletes. Like all strong feminists out there!
One of the reasons why you were here in Portugal was the selection program of the Swedish Team for the European Championships that will be held in Portugal in the next month. How do you evaluate the experience and what do you expect in terms of being selected?
M. M. - I think that the terrain wasn't relevant for the EOC and also that all the Swedish athletes should have started in the same starting group to make the test more fair. So, until the next time we have tests, I hope the Swedish team thinks more about this beforehand.
To have in the Swedish Team names like Tove Alexandersson, Annika Billstam, Lina Strand, Lena Eliasson or Helena Jansson, what does it mean to you?
M. M. - It means that it's veeery tough to get a spot in the team. It also means that if you get to run a Relay, you have some of the strongest team mates there is. But, most important of all, it means to me that wherever I go with the National Team I always have some of my best friends by my side.
What is your main goal for the season?
M. M. - To get selected for WOC Middle Distance and perform a totally focused race there.
For those who always wanted to know about Orienteering, but are afraid to ask, would you like to leave a message?
M. M. - Ask me! I'm a pretty nice person (?!) and I can talk for hours about why you should orienteer!