As in previous years, Thierry Gueorgiou started the season in the best way. Always an important achievement, his victory in this Portugal O' Meeting has a special meaning, since it's the last one that Gueorgiou achieves in the Elite. This and other issues highlighted in a long interview with the best orienteer ever.
Another presence in the Portugal O 'Meeting and, once again, a victory, the sixth in this event. What are your first impressions?
Thierry Gueorgiou (T. G.) - As you know, Portugal O' Meeting truly represents the beginning of the season and is a very important rendez vous in my preparation. This year, the meaning of my participation in The Portugal O' Meeting is amplified by the fact that this is my last season in the World Elite and it makes everything very special.
What is the importance of this season, being your last one at the highest level?
T. G. - There are two very important factors. On the one hand, I feel “obliged” to make the most of this experience and keep these memories, so I must savour every moment from the competition, the trainings. This has been my life for 20 years and I will miss it dearly. On the other hand, I have high expectations because I want to finish in the best possible way, especially in the World Orienteering Championships, in Estonia. It's a mix of pleasure and pressure, because I really want to succeed.
How do you assess these 4 days of competition in Portugal?
T. G. - In these days, there were both good and not so good performances. The Long Distance on the second day went very well and today's race was great, as well, but the two Middle Distance stages went badly; however, the assessment is good and I'm happy, it's always an amazing thrill to win Portugal O' Meeting. In spite of it not being the most important competition of the year, it's always a stepping stone, so I will need to improve on some aspects of my performance, especially in the Middle Distance, and I'm already focusing on next weekend, on the ABOM 2017, to practise a little more.
Could you tell me a bit about your preparation towards the World Championships?
T. G. - There are four months to go until the Championships and the pressure is going to rise. There are two very important intermediate stages, the first of which is Tiomila, where I want to perform well with my Kalevan Rasti team, and then there's the World Cup in Finland, which will be kind of like a rehearsal, for the Estonian Champs, even if the terrains aren't the same. But these are the two competitions where I will focus more, get confidence; and between these there will be several training camps in Estonia.
Does Estonia mean something special to you?
T. G. - I've been competing in Estonia since 1998, where I ran a World Cup at nineteen. Then, I took part in the European Championships, in 2006, so it's a country I know very well and a country I really like and that is very interesting. But what I hold dearly is the fact that this is my last World Championship.
Are you betting on a distance, particularly?
T. G. - The Middle Distance motivates me the most. It's been a long time since I won it, the last time being in 2011, so I'd like to perform well there. And then there is the Relay, with Lucas [Basset] and Frederic [Tranchand]. I consider we have one of the best teams and, if we all run at the same high level, we will be able to reach something extraordinary, and that is a huge motivation. It will be the last stage in the World Championships and a good way to end in style. As for the Long Distance, I haven't made up my mind yet. It's been where I've achieved my best results in the last years. Even so, I'm focused on the Middle Distance, but there are still four months to go, so we'll see then.
What type of work is ahead of you?
T. G. - At the moment, I'm beyond pleased with my physical shape. I've made some minor changes to my preparation and I think I'm at a good place in terms of speed. Now I will need to work on my confidence in Orienteering, to find my pace in the forest, to be effective, to slow down whenever I need to read the map better, to keep focused until the end of the race.
Are you going to keep coming to Portugal O' Meeting and winning, even retired, as Simone did this year?
T. G. - Simone is incredible. What she did was truly outstanding and I congratulate her for it. She is able to conjugate her family life with the trainings necessary to stay performant. To me, it will also be difficult, because the standards are pretty high. Besides, what will motivate me the most in the future will be coaching. Next year, I will coach athletes and the priority won't be my results, but theirs. Of course I will try to maintain this high level to keep up with my trainees out in the forest, so I will keep on training.
And are you considering to bring the Swedish team to Portugal?
T. G. - I believe that Portugal is the best place to train during the Winter. There is a great variety of terrains, the cartography is excellent and, so, trainings in Portugal are a must. To me, Portugal is a love story. I love this country to death, the people, Orienteering, of course... I love Sweden, France, but Portugal comes right after them.
To finish, I would ask you to leave some words to the Organization team of this Portugal O' Meeting.
T. G. - POM is the meeting point of quality. If there is a mandatory competition during the year, it's the Portugal O' Meeting. Annika [Billstam] has told me about the next POM in Evora. She also loves this competition and she will always be a part of the attendance.