Facing some of the best in the World, Artūrs Pauliņš was the big winner of the Sprint race which ended the recent Euromeeting 2016. Although not enough to save a frustrating season, this victory is, above all, a motivation for the challenges that can be expected in next two seasons.
How did you meet Orienteering? Was it in the school, a family matter, because of friends...?
Artūrs Pauliņš (A. P.) - My first steps in orienteering were at the age of 7, in the beginning of the elementary school, and I've never stopped since than. My brothers were doing orienteering, so they also pushed me. Now, Orienteering is a big part of my life.
Why your interest for this sport and not for Football or Ice Hockey, for example?
A. P. - It's hard to answer. I really enjoy orienteering and I was able to reach the podium for several times. So, that was always my goal - to win a competition. I didn't have other choices, my brothers wanted me doing orienteering and I took my chance.
Could you tell me something about the first steps and the evolutionary process of your career?
A. P. - To be on podium most of the times kept me motivated. As I remember, I was physically very strong, but I was extremely unstable - I could win by two minutes but I could also miss ten minutes in just one control. I have been in the National Team since the M14 class. I haven't miss any European Youth Orienteering Championships or Junior World Orienteering Championships, I was always there. I have three medals from EYOC, so they are my first successes. I remember some good fights with Martin Hubmann and Mathias Kyburz - we were on the same level at the age of 16, I guess. Just then, they started to training seriously and when we were in the last year of the Junior class, they were running at a different level and I couldn't keep with them.
We could see you preparing the 2016 season in Portugal, in February. Could you tell us about the pre-WOC period?
A. P. - Yes, I really like to have some high quality trainings and to compete in Portugal. Portugal is a perfect place for the winter season and I've been then for many winters. I like, specially, the fast and rocky terrains around Portalegre. This year, I was in good shape till the European Championships and I felt I was able to fight for the top 20 in the Sprint and in the Middle Distance. I was physically and mentally ready, but I made huge mistakes. Even in the Relay we were able to finish close to the medals (we finish in the 8th position). So, after, the Championships, I felt really bad because I didn't take my chances. Then, my shape went down and two months before the WOC I was physically close to zero. After two months just preparing for the Sprint and the Sprint Relay, I could improve, gain a good speed and I felt that I was able to show my best results.
When you headed Strömstad and the WOC 2016, what was the strongest idea in your mind?
A. P. - Actually, some two weeks before the WOC I felt that I wasn't entirely ready for the Sprint, I mean technically. So, I keep that in my head for some time before the race. Mainly, I felt that I would fail and there won't be no final...
How disappointing was the 20th place in the Sprint qualifying heat, mostly after your three presences in a row in the Sprint Final during the precedent years?
A. P. - For two days, I felt like I've been dropped out to an island in the middle of nowhere. Physically, I was ready for the 20th - 30th place, but this time I made a 15 seconds mistake on the qualification and I was out of game. Still, I had another race coming – the Sprint Relay -, so I tried to concentrate on positive things.
Could you summarise your WOC week?
A. P. - I failed in the Sprint qualification and also didn't perform well in the Sprint Relay. So I felt really bad. On the other hand, I felt very motivated after WOC and I wanted to show that I'm not just a 80 kg heavy meat steak.
How do you rate the WOC 2016 overall?
A. P. - From 1 to 10, I would say 3. This was my worst WOC ever.
You did a great race recently, winning the Euromeeting’s Sprint race in front of your public. Was it a victory thinking on Switzerland and the World Cup Final?
A. P. - I have been training really hard for the last five years, so Euromeeting victory is my biggest success since EYOC 2007, were I was 3rd on the Sprint distance. It was an important victory for me and my coach. I just wanted to show him that I was able to run on a higher level than I had to. If I'll get my physical shape better, I can be dangerous, even for the big names. About your question, I'm not planning to go to the World Cup final. I didn't know that I could be in such a good shape at the Euromeeting, actually I was a little bit surprised about my speed out there. Still, I don't feel ready to fight with the big names and for me it's not fun to lose... so, the best thing to do is to stay home and get stronger.
Looking on the Orienteering’s present moment, are we going on the right direction?
A. P. - Yes, now we have big changes in Orienteering. I think that splitting the World Orienteering Championships was I right decision. Let's see which of the two Championships [Sprint or Forest] will be more popular. In my opinion, Orienteering's real future is in the Sprint. Every year the level at WOC Sprint is growing, exotic countries are getting stronger... But for now I'm just thinking how to be a better orienteer and not about changing something.
What means to be orienteer in Latvia?
A. P. - In Latvia I'm running for OK “Azimuts”, but on international level I run for Lithuaninan club “IGTISA”. I have a good support there and all people are friendly. We are like one big family and I really enjoy every minute with my Lithuaninan team mates. I think and I hope that soon we will get some top results on 10Mila and Jukola. I'm since 2010 in the National Team. I can say that we have now a situation in our Federation and National Team much much better then it was 6 years ago. We have good support and now we have a Finnish coach like head coach, which hopefully helps things going on right direction. Federation goal is a gold medal on the Relay at WOC 2018, so everyone is working hard for it. I can say that in Latvia we have a lot of great terrains and maps, which help us to develop or orienteering skills. Persoanlly, I would say that I prefer flat, fast and detailed terrains.
And what about the other disciplines? Trail orienteering, for example?
A. P. - Actually, trail orienteering is quite popular in Latvia. We have a former World Champion Guntars Mankus and nowadays our trail orienteers are one of the best in the World. I just know that they would like a bigger support from the Federation, as they feel like at the same level as foot orienteers, so probably it's hard to be a trail orienteer in Latvia. I have no idea about Trail orienteering's support in the other countries, but I guess it's not really positive.
In 2018 it will be the turn of your country to host the World Orienteering Championships. Are you already feeling some good vibes? What kind of event are you expecting?
A. P. - I know it's just two years left to WOC in Latvia, but I will try to show my best there. I think I'll be able to fight hard already in Estonian WOC. I'm feeling that everything is going on the right direction - my preparation and also the Federation's preparation. Latvian Orienteering Federation have already done a big and impressive job so far and I think WOC 2018 in Latvia will be the best ever organised World Orienteering Championship in history.
Is a medal in your home country a long-term goal?
A. P. - Until 2014 spring I didn't think about medals. But starting 2014 year season, I decided that I should set a good goal. So, a medal in the WOC 2018 was 4 years long term goal. I think we have good chances to take a medal in the Sprint Relay. Individually, it's going to be hard, but we have good Relay runners, like Davis Dislers and Sandra Grosberga. So I'm looking forward to the Sprint Realay, more than the Sprint. But two medals is my wildest dream.
Are we going to see you doing Orienteering for the next twenty, thirty, forty years?
A. P. - I hope so, but I have no plans after 2018. Maybe I'll finish then my career.