She was the “queen” of Orienteering in Portugal in 2014, reaching four national titles and also the National League. In the meanwhile, she had the first international participations in the Elite class and she signed the course of the third day of the Portugal O' Meeting, one of the most acclaimed of the year among the world orienteering community. Mariana Moreira talks about the season that now ends.
It's almost common sense to think that anyone who set a course at the Portugal O' Meeting take the “risk” of being the winner of “The Course of the Year”. Did you think of it?
Mariana Moreira (M. M.) - It's true that, in the last two years, POM was the big winner of the “Course of the Year”, but it wasn't at all with this main goal that I agreed to be the course setter of one of the days of POM. This year we have seen many high-quality courses in a wide range events around the world and I knew that it was very unlikely to win the same event for the 3rd year in a row. Still – and I think I can speak in name of my club -, to know that Thierry Gueorgiou considered the 3rd day of POM the best course of the year or that Annika Billstam elected the terrains of the POM as the best she ran in 2014, was for us a great pride.
Setting that course in particular, what goals did you have in mind?
M. M. - As in all courses I’ve setted (and there weren't so many as that), the main goal was undoubtedly trying to create the greatest challenge for athletes. In this particular course, the idea was to try to create like a “shock” in the very beginning, in a course with a lot of controls and changes of direction in the initial area which was, in fact, very, very demanding. I think that anyone was expecting to find such kind of terrain, when in the day before, and right next door, they had run in a much more open and mostly “yellow” Arcozelo.
About the terrain, this wasn't a discover of mine. We had already decided well in advance who would be the setters of the four forest stages but we only decided who would draw the course of each day when the maps were almost ready. I was then in charge to set the courses at this piece of West Arcozelo map. It was necessary to have a great understanding between the course setters of the last three stages, since the end of the three days was the same and we should, obviously, avoid to repeat controls or challenges. Then, I’ve worked together with Raquel Costa and Tiago Aires (also map makers) and we reached the best possible solutions. Several versions were created for the different courses, especially because when I started to set it, the total area of this 3rd day map was much more limited and it was necessary to change and adjust the courses to the new small areas of map that were emerging.
Do you feel sorry for missing it as a competitor?
M. M. - Honestly, I'm sure that I enjoyed the map more than anyone else (with the exception of the map makers). I spent many hours there choosing the places to the controls, testing the legs and courses, making the needed adjustments, putting the controls out in the forest or even recording the promotional video. It's obviously a different approach, and in another context I would have enjoyed the challenge of “running seriously” on this map, but in this case I think I had a different chance.
The results of the third day were within your expectations?
M. M. - Looking to the winner times, I can say that the results were the expected as when we define the distances we do it based on the estimated time of the winners. Talking about a couple of performances, in the Men Super Elite class there were no major surprises, but in the Women Elite class I never expected to see (and in real time by GPS) Simone Niggli or Annika Billstam losing so much time so early on the course.
The WOC's Middle Distance turned out to be a fair winner?
M. M. - I think so, but I think that all the courses who ended up on top could win. It obvious that a good course of a World Championships, in a public poll, would have a good chance of winning. As an athlete I had the pleasure of run this Middle Distance and I could prove how special and challenging it was.
Looking to the season, you almost made an unprecedented “full”, just missing the national title of Sprint. How did you see your performance throughout the season? And in international terms?
M. M. - In terms of national competitions, it was certainly one of my best seasons, if not the best in the results itself, having only mispunched a control in the 2nd stage of the National Championships of Sprint (interestingly, this was the only individual title I had won in the Elite class before, in 2012). But unfortunately my good season is also due to the fact that the concurrence is shorter every year. Internationally, it was my debut in big competitions at Elite level but it wasn't as I would like. In the European Championships I made two good qualifying but then I failed too much in the sprint in Palmela, the race I had bet the most. Also in the World Championships my main focus was the Sprint and I came back to fail in qualifying in Burano, having made a 1'30 error in a control next to the end, which didn't allow me to be qualified for the final, in fact my big goal.
Bruno Nazario left the National Team, replaced by Hélder Ferreira. What is your assessment?
M. M. - It was exactly ten years ago that I started my “international career” at EYOC 2005 and I did it precisely with Bruno Nazario as team leader. I have to consider that he was one of the responsible for me to stay here until today. Naturally, the abandon of this project shouldn't have been an easy decision and I sincerely feel sorry that this had to happen but I understand the decision, even more if you dedicate ten years of your life to a project and your work is not “recognized”. Unfortunately it wasn't the first time that such kind of case occurred, and the priorities end up changing. We had earlier this month the first training camp to prepare the season of 2015 and at the moment I can only wish good luck to Hélder.
How do you see the present moment of the Portuguese Orienteering?
M. M. - If a few years ago I thought the sport was growing, it is now easy to see precisely the opposite (just look to the number of participants in the latest events). We are not being able to captivate young athletes and many of those who, three or four seasons ago, were “regular participants”, are losing the capability, and even, in some cases, the motivation to go to most of the events. One of the reasons may even be the general crisis that Portugal faces but this cannot justify everything. For example, we see more and more entries in the trails and road races, which means that people continue to invest and keep the desire to practice outdoor physical activity.
The strategy of the Federation wasn't in recent times, in fact, well drawn, or at least was not being properly applied. Fortunately, we could recently observe a greater concern on this issue and I really hope that actions and decisions can be taken in order that this trend and this fall of participants can change.
What would you do to reverse the negative trend?
M. M. - It's not easy to present tangible ideas and hence it is necessary the contribution of all stakeholders to reach the best solutions. My master's thesis will fall somewhat on this subject and I hope to contribute to improve the current state of the sport.
What are your goals for the upcoming season?
M. M. - I haven't specifically defined yet my goals in terms of results but I certainly will keep my focus on WOC sprint. In Portugal, I hope to have again a regular season, I hope to see an increasing level (more athletes to participate and training), and more in a short-term, I hope to have good performances in the first races of the season (POM and WRE's).
Now that we come to the end of the year, would you like to make a wish for 2015?
M. M. – In 2015 I wish to see Orienteering growing up again in Portugal, that those who have goals and work for it can reach them, and above everything, that everyone could be happy with a map in the hand.