One of the best Orienteering athletes in Spain, Raúl Ferra, has been appointed by the President of the Spanish Orienteering Federation, Assistant to the FEDO's Technical Department. The Portuguese Orienteering Blog met him, listening his ideas and projects for the future.
How the invitation happened and what led you to accept it?
Raúl Ferra (R. F.) - A few months ago, the President of the Spanish Orienteering Federation asked me about joining the FEDO's Technical team. From the beginning, I saw it as an opportunity I couldn't waste. After discuss some small details, the agreement came quite easily. I've always said that the only job I would prefer to my current profession as a teacher would be to devote myself, exclusively, to Orienteering. As simple as that!
From my point of view (which I believe I share with the vast majority of the Spanish orienteers), José Samper has probably been for many years the biggest icon of Spanish Orienteering and has played a key role in our development process, doing an outstanding job and leading lots of projects that brought us to where we are now. So, it's my privilege to work closely to him, absorbing all the possible information. And the time will show the FEDO's organizational chart in the future. We cannot forget that we are in election year and the results may change everything.
What challenges do you face in the new job? Are there any aspects that will call your particular attention?
R. F. - The FEDO's Technical Department is a very challenging area, with many different fronts to respond. Subjects such as rationalizing the national calendar, defining quality criteria for the races, updating the rules, embedding new modalities in the Spanish Championships, strengthening disciplines such as MTB Orienteering and Rogaine, revitalizing and expanding technical centres and, of course, the quest for a qualitative shift, supporting the national teams, are some of the challenges. However, I'm just “landing” on the charge and a reasonable period of time is still needed to thoroughly study all topics and have a deeper insight into the tasks I'm about to face.
Does your project lie on the continuity or you're ready to break with the past and run the Orienteering in Spain in a new direction?
R. F. - Personally, I think the Orienteering in Spain has improved a lot in a few years, and I know that much has been done by the FEDO's Technical team. My philosophy isn't to keep it the same way neither break with the past to give a totally different approach. I think there are many things that have been done and are doing very well and others that can now (and not before) start performing differently. Therefore, I think we should focus on strengthening the aspects that work well and that led us to the present situation, while we shouldn't be afraid to innovate and grow, as the new times require. I've never been afraid to change, but we can't forget our roots and the way that brought us here. It's from there that we may keep on growing. In short, it will be a continuity and innovative project.
How do you evaluate the Orienteering's current moment in your country? Where lie the biggest difficulties?
R. F. - ¿How do I value the current situation of the Spanish Orienteering? It depends how to compare with! If we compare the situation with five or six years ago, it's certainly much better now in every aspects. If we compare the situation to the next five or six years, I would say it's much worse. Everything goes changing. As I mentioned before, I think that the Spanish Orienteering has grown considerably in recent years, and what better example as a Spanish orienteer leaving a few seconds behind the World title, being runner-up in the Junior World Championships, winning the Jukola or arriving first in a Tiomila leg. Just a few years ago, it would be science fiction and now we daydream with WOC medals. The improvement's margin is still very large, and my goal is to work to help the Spanish Orienteering to stand where I think it deserves, among the best countries in the world.
¿The biggest difficulties? There are many in a sport like ours, but certainly the main difficulty is funding. With money you can do many things, develop many projects and improve easier and faster. Unfortunately we are still (I like to think that “still”) a minor sport, with little impact on the media. And it is there where we must work firmly, to make visible our sport, to sell Orienteering. TV, GPS, results, campaigns, search for sponsors,... they will be elements of the greatest importance if we want to reach the step we deserve. This is essential.
The first great moment of your new mission will be lived in the Czech Republic during the European Championships. What are the main goals set for EOC? How far they can go, these boys and girls of the Spanish team?
R. F. - One thing I've learned in recent years: these “boys” and “girls” are able of anything. It is difficult to set a quantitative target in a such high level competition as EOC, but I'm quite sure that our athletes in the Czech republic will be at the highest level, as they usually are. They are showing a very good shape and I think the terrain will fit better to their characteristics than the Nordic terrains. In addition, the Sprint will be, as always, the great asset of our team, and we have some of the best in this discipline.
Will you leave the competition at the Elite level or are we going to see you in the future facing the tasks, both as athlete and as coach?
R. F. - This was a matter of vital importance for me, and I had to think really well before accepting the position. I don't want, under any circumstances, to close the door to top-level sport as competitior. Personally, I still feel strongly enough to continue training and competing at the elite level, so I will reconcile both tasks. I think I still have a lot to offer and I'm ready to keep training hard as I have done so far. I don't want retire so soon (laughs).
To conclude our interview, would you like to share your greatest wish?
R. F. - Honestly, I want to see a Spanish medal in WOC soon.