The major international Foot orienteering events in Portugal ended, but you may still feel the echoes of the Portugal O' Meeting, in which the World Champion of Middle Distance, Annika Billstam, took the victory in the Women Elite class. Today, the Portuguese Orienteering Blog disclose a pleasant talk, revisiting not only the event but also, in brief, the athlete's career and some projects for the future.
Why did you choose the Portugal O' Meeting in the early season?
Annika Billstam (A. B.) - As you may know, I decided not to go all in for this whole year and I'm not part of the Swedish National Team. So, now Orienteering is more for enjoyment. I decided quite early that I was coming to the Portugal O' Meeting because it's a competition that I really like and it's a nice break from freezing Scandinavia.
Retired from the Swedish team but not retired from Orienteering, is it right?
A. B. - My goal isn't the World Orienteering Championships anymore, but I'm still training as much as I have time to. I mean, Orienteering is part of my life, I've done it my whole life and I think I might never quit the sport.
After two gold in a row in the WOC Middle Distance, I believe it wasn't an easy decision. I believe this is never an easy choice...
A. B. - I have had it in mind for some years, like taking one year at a time. But the thoughts were quite strong already last year during the season. I work full time so it's a lot of effort to stay on top. Actually, my decision wasn't as difficult as you may think because it feels like I did the right thing and I'm happy about it.
Can you choose one moment from many in such a fantastic career?
A. B. - It's hard not to say any of the WOC gold medals and, of course, the first one is always very special, also the margin in my race to the second place... it was not just a win, it was a good race, which makes it double up. It was a special moment, for sure.
You're in Portugal mostly for fun, for enjoyment, but you've been able to win the Portugal O' Meeting. How do you feel?
A. B. – Yeah! Actually it was the first time that I got it and it's really nice. If I look back to the different stages, the second stage was really amazing. I had such flow... I'm very proud of that race. Of course I can see I haven't done many trainings with map this year and I feel my technique a little bit shaky. Also, in the World Ranking Event stage, I really struggled with my physical abilities and I was really tired in the last stage, so I'm just happy that I got the overall title, which was the first time I did and I enjoyed it.
But the last stage was easier, wasn't it?
A. B. - If you're looking at the climbing, yes, it was definitely easier. But I had a lot of more “bush fighting” - I don't know if I made wrong route choices. And I also think when your mind gets tired, you easily do some small mistakes that cost you time and make you lose your flow.
Did you feel that you were being chased during the last stage?
A. B. - Yes, of course you can never be sure about it. I felt really tired during my warm-up, so I tried to push from the beginning and everything was going quite okay until the 8th control, when I did a parallel mistake. It was difficult for me to relocate and it's hard to say how much time I lost, but it was, for sure, several minutes. Then I felt like “I have to do a good job now” and from there everything went, well... not actually perfect (laughs) but I never looked back, I just looked forward.
What is your opinion on the POM's organization?
A. B. - It's really good, it's why we come here every year. It's challenging, the Long Distance races are Long Distance races, and it's what all National Teams are looking forward. So, it's excellent, like part of a Training Camp or for doing a “check up” before the big competitions. The Spring is coming in Scandinavia, so you know what you have to work for. Besides that, everything around is great, I really enjoy the Expresso machine (laughs), you can have a nice cake, you meet some friends that you haven't seen during the whole Winter.
What are your plans for the future?
A. B. - We'll see what happens but I'm really looking forward for the big relays. We have strong teams in OK Linné, both for Women and Men, but we never won any of the big Relays. It's a main goal for us, we have Cat [Catherine Taylor] and also some other girls in the team, I'm excited about that. I also have more time now to inspire younger people, I do some speeches, I love to join some trainings.
Being a coach in the future is a possibility in your case?
A. B. - I enjoy my life and my work, so I'm not thinking of it for now. My title is Landscape Architect and I'm Object Developer in a company who built rental apartments, What I do is something like the early stage of a building project. It's a very demanding job, but I really love what I do, it's a little bit like a map. But who knows about the future? It's interesting and a real challenge how to inspire individuals to find and improve their abilities.
Are we going to see you again in the Portugal O' Meeting next year?
A. B. - I haven't put it yet in my calendar, but I'll consider that and, if it fits well with my program, I will came back.
And with a major responsibility...
A. B. - Yes, I'll be here as a defending winner (laughs).