On the 2015 British TrailO Championships' eve, John Kewley is the guest of honour of the Portuguese Orienteering Blog. In this Interview we travel through his most recent achievements, live the present moment and project the future.
Would you like to share with us the secret of your success in the recent British TrailO Championships 2014?
John Kewley (J. K.) - With my background in mountain orienteering I'm used to reading contours and the majority of the controls at BTOC 2014 were contour interpretation. I've also recently been Controller for the PreO at the 2015 “JK”, the UK's biggest Orienteering weekend, in a sand dune area so that must have helped too as Peter Owens, the Planner at the JK, was 2nd. So I think that goes to show that planning TrailO is great training.
How important is this victory, in a personal point of view?
J. K. - It was the first time I have won outright. My previous victory was a draw with Ian Ditchfield when after about 20 controls and 4 TCs we were level to the nearest half second. What was more important though was the winning of the PreO component as that is what generates the ranking points that are used for the GB team selection. Since of the two ranking events left I am a Controller at one, getting a good score at BTOC 2014 was very important. I'll now lead the rankings but will need a decent score at BTOC 2015 (in a couple of weeks) to maintain a top 2 position which is what is required to guarantee selection. Of course getting a good TempO performance was also good as it might be used to discriminate between myself and another competitor for selection if I fall outside the top 2. Again I've planned the only other two TempO events in UK in the last few years so I think that gave me a big advantage over others.
How are you feeling your preparation in the beginning of a new season?
J. K. - This was my first TrailO as a competitor since the World Championships and in that time I have done virtually no other orienteering due to injuries and competing in other sports, so the only preparation I've had is planning the Race the Castles TempO last year and the planning and controlling for the 2015 JK. So preparation hasn't been great but I have some more events before the World Champs (if selected). I'll be at the Nordic Championships and Irish Champs as well as the 2015 British Championships.
Could you say something about that experience at Edinburgh?
J. K. - It went very well, at first I thought the park had very little scope and everything was too open but I worked at it and managed to get controls where you couldn't see everything in advance - TempO without helpers just doesn't work.
How was it technically?
J. K. - I could have made it harder, but without a Controller that would have been a bad plan and made it a lottery without a second opinion so in the most technical area (lots of trees and only trees) I chose controls that were near [to me] obvious shapes and chose an easier control order than I would otherwise have done.
Was it as expected?
J. K. - Pretty much - yes. It was good to have several top Elite Foot orienteers doing their first TempO even if took 1/2 the course for the Hubmann brothers to work out that the control descriptions were orientated for reading even though the maps were orientated as you saw them.
What do you expect, regarding the participation in the World Championships in Croatia? What are your goals?
J. K. - My goal would be to get selected. Each year it gets harder to qualify for Team GB - it is definitely getting more popular.
What kind of competition will we have? Can we expect surprises regarding the winners?
J. K. - Hopefully there won't be the start/stop nature with TCs in the middle of the course - this leads to more stress for competitors and keeping an eye on the clock is a lot harder. Last year's Day 2 performance by Guntars [Mankus] was excellent and he thoroughly deserved the Gold - I found the course very difficult.
TempO, the new Relay format … What direction is TrailO going in?
J. K. - I'll see a little about each. For me, TempO is a great discipline and has the potential for some “spectator interest” at major events. It limits benefits that able-bodied athletes have in solving the problems (it is very hard for a planner to ensure that a wheelchair has the same views as standing athletes at all the best viewing angles for PreO). It is a great way to get Foot orienteers into a type of TrailO. I've also run TempO at club training sessions when teaching about the importance of control descriptions. Its big disadvantage though is that although map doesn't have to look correct from many angles like PreO, producing the maps takes a long time (so thanks to my colleague Pete Owens for this) and you need a lot of marshals if you are doing it correctly.
The Team event (with current rules) has the disadvantage that your Day 2 performance affects both your individual and Team result so you can win or lose 2 medals with a single performance. It is clear to me that they should be separate. I like the idea of the latest variant of the Relays with TempO included although suspect that this will mostly be decided on TempO performance and many teams (including GB) have a lot of catch-up to do if they are ever to get Relay medals.
The big Orienteering party, the WOC 2015, in your country – appears again lagged from the WTOC. What do you prefer? The two together or separate competitions? Why?
J. K. - It was decided that putting on WOC, WTOC and spectator races (the Scottish 6 days) would have required far too much volunteer effort so TrailO wasn't included in the bid. I'm disappointed since being able to compete in your own country in front of your home crowd is a dream for any athlete.
I must ask you a comment about your appointment as Assistant SEA to the European Championships 2016, in the Czech Republic.
J. K. - I'm honoured to be invited and look forward to working with Lars-Jakob and the CZE Planning team although exactly what my involvement will be and how the work will be split I don't know - and if I did I guess I probably shouldn't say (laughs).