“I can summarize: TrailO is my sport, my love, my life. But there are many questions that I can't understand and explain to myself.” Marina Borisenkova, bronze medallist with the Russia team in ETOC 2014, come to the Portuguese Orienteering Blog's tribune to present herself. With many certainties ... and some question marks!
I would start by asking you to present yourself.
Marina Borisenkova (M. B.) - I was born and I live in Russia, in one of its most beautiful and ancient cities, Pskov, in the northwestern border of the country. When I was 23, after an unsuccessful surgery, I fell into a wheelchair. Before my illness, I was engaged in Athletics. Almost immediately after the surgery, in 2000, I started practicing TrailO and I was selected for the Russian Championships. I only had a vague idea about the meaning of a compass bearing or a flag, but I grabbed to TrailO and it was impossible to escape on it. For me, to have the chance of combining a beautiful natural environment, the physical and mental demands and the struggle for the victory is a huge fortune. I just fell in love with TrailO and this love remains until the present moment!
Now I have a lot of Russian awards. In 2006, I performed very well in the Russian Championships and I was selected to the national team, participating in my first World Championships, in Finland. Five years ago I had a son, Ilya, and this was a great happiness! But to train and to participate in different events became much more difficult, despite the great help from my mom and my husband, Alexander. It's thanks to them that I can continue to engage with TrailO.
You've been recently in Portugal, competing at ETOC. Can you tell me something about the selection process?
M. B. - The ETOC in Portugal was, for the Russian team, the beginning of the competition season. From December to March, the weather conditions prevent us to compete, so the selection process was based on the last year's Russian Championships and other results of the current season. On the Russian Championships there are up to sixty Paralympic athletes and to get a place in the team was a difficult task.
How did you prepare yourself for the European Championships?
M. B. - First and very important competition of the season, the European Championships were held too early and we couldn't prepare in the best way. We had a couple of training sessions in April, but in our region is still snow, which prevent us to make long trips. So, my main trainings was theoretical studies, distances and map analysis from the last years. I knew that Knut Ovesen was the Senior Event Adviser, so I was looking very carefully through the distance that he set, trying to understand his thoughts and tasks. All the training was based in the previous season. The best workout is to participate in competitions and to make detailed analysis so, to participate in the biggest competitions of autumn, in Latvia, Lithuania and Russia, was highly important.
To finish 14th in the ETOC's PreO was the result that you expected?
M. B. - To finish fourteenth among the strongest athletes it's very nice. Of course, every one of us dreams with a gold medal and I'm not exception. It is possible that my gold is still ahead! In Portugal, the success was accompanied by many factors: weather, visibility of the flags, possibility of independent movement in the distance, ability to read maps while driving, right attitude and a little of luck. The result: an exciting and joyful bronze medal! In TrailO, the results often depend on the quality of the map and course setting. The higher the level of this two elements, the more the athletes are in equal conditions. The problems are to solve, not to guess.
And what about TempO?
M. B. - I like the pace. Promptly and accurately. But there are issues associated to this discipline for which it's difficult to find the answers. For example, why the courses are not divided into classes, Open and Paralympic? In all the latest competitions, the difference of opportunities between the open class athletes and the athletes in wheelchairs has been increasing. On the approach to the stations, an athlete standing sees much more (especially if tall) than an athlete seated on a wheelchair. The concerns of an athlete on a wheelchair when approaching to a station are on the ground, to keep from falling. On WTOC 2013, in the TempO course, the athletes in wheelchairs were required to climb hills and to move across the sand, the pulse rising up to 200 beats per minute, which are not exactly the best conditions to solve such problems. This is well illustrated by the results of the qualification, just see how many athletes in wheelchairs get into the finals. So, in my opinion, there should have been two TempO classes, Open and Paralympic. Definitely!
Taking a look into the board medal, we can see Finland and Sweden, Sweden and Finland, and... Russia. What means to you the third place achieved in the Team competition, with two paralympic athletes in the team?
M. B. - This was a huge success. Especially because within the 18 participants of 6 teams on the podium, there were only three people in wheelchairs and two of them from Russia. Which is significant and especially valuable! I think that the fact of our team had won the third place can be an example for many children in Russia. To fall in a wheelchair doesn't mean that you have to be a kind of stroller or something, it is not a sentence. In my country, as in many other countries, you can look to the results and this has to do, mainly, with the development of our sport in Russia, the attitude and the athlete. We have results and they are important!
Overall, how do you evaluate the ETOC? Can you point the best and the worst?
M. B. - Portugal was one of the most beautiful countries I have had the chance to visit until now! Mountains, the huge and real ocean, a very blue sky, a cape on the edge of the World - Cabo da Roca - and tangerines, delicious mandarins! At the European Championships I liked everything: friendly organizers, sympathetic assistants for wheelchair users, interesting courses, precise work judging team and a perfect weather! Everything was great!
Is TrailO in the right way?
M. B. - Yes, of course! But we have repeatedly raised the following questions, that we believe are important for the TrailO's development: (1) TempO have, necessarily, to be separated in two classes – Open and Paralympic; (2) In the team competition it should be restored the separate competition, between Open and Paralympic classes; (3) To increase the interest in TrailO for the youth should be allowed one additional athlete if presented as a junior, in addition to the usual three athletes in the Open and in the Paralympic classes; (4) To have a Paralympic class also in the European Cup (ECTO).
I believe in TrailO as an opportunity for self-realization, adaptation and support to disabled people. We can see, lately, people on wheelchairs being dislodge in a gently and covert way. We claim for accessing suitable distances, we adapt to the rain, we climb without assistants and it seems like nobody notice our efforts. To fight in equal terms and conditions is just harder. Now, in the European Cup, no Paralympic class (!)... It is an insult and incomprehensible.
Are we going to see you competing in WTOC, in Italy? What are your main goals?
M. B. - Of course, I'm preparing for WTOC 2014 and I hope to show that it wasn't an accident to reach the podium in Portugal.