Javier Perez Oramas is from Colombia. Passionate about Orienteering, he's a keen contributor to the revitalization of the sport in his country. But the task ahead is anything but easy, as we can see in another great Interview in the Portuguese Orienteering Blog.
I would start by asking who is Javier Perez Oramas?
Javier Oramas (J. O.) - I was born in 1981, in Bogota, the capital of Colombia, and currently live in Barcelona (temporarily because I am getting a master's degree in Big Data). I am passionate about the Biomechanics of sport and my professional formation is in Sports' Sciences.
How were you introduced to orienteering and what makes it such a special sport?
J. O. - I was introduced to Orienteering in the University, as part of a discipline's content, and since then (2006) I've been very interested in it. The most interesting part is the requirement of developing strategies during the course, which make it very fun and also encourages the competitiveness from start to finish because, since you don't know if you are leading, it forces you to push it to the limit.
Would you like to tell us about your career so far?
J. O. - I have practised a wide range of sports, but mostly BMX and Artistic Gymnastics. In 2006 I took part in my first Orienteering race and in an Adventure Race (with maps in black and white), which motivated me to follow the Outdoor sports' line. However, the only offer I found in my country was Adventure Racing (I participated in everything I could) and it was only in 2012 that I ran my first orienteering race under the IOF regulations. Although the Colombian Federation must have had about 10 years at that time, we had very few events and athletes, and it was very difficult to keep a competitive orienteering calendar. So, I started with Trail Running to do my physical preparation while waiting for the next National event. In 2015, thanks to the support of the IOF, which provided two spots to Colombia, I had the opportunity to attend the IOF Clinic and the WOC in Scotland, as a representative of my country.
Is there any truly remarkable situation that you would like to highlight along ten years of Orienteering?
J. O. - The WOC 2015 is, undoubtedly, the moment when my sports and professional career took a new direction. Being my first Orienteering experience outside Colombia, everything was new, but what made it more valuable and enriching was that, before the Championships, we had - and I mean in the plural because we were people from several countries there – an Orienteering Clinic in which they strengthened us as athletes and gave us tools to contribute to the development of this sport in our countries. In addition to this, we were exceptionally accompanied by the IOF throughout the WOC and the 6 Days of Scotland, which made it possible to successfully meet the participation targets.
It was a great pleasure to have you among the participants in the Trail Orienteering Seminar promoted, last December, by the University of Valencia, Spain. Why Trail Orienteering?
J. O. - In addition to being a very interesting discipline for FootO competitors, the Colombian Federation shows a great interest in its development because of its characteristics of inclusiveness.
What memories do you keep from the Seminar?
J. O. - The structure and the topics covered seemed very well addressed, in my opinion, and I now feel able to organize a small TrailO event. I intend to pass this knowledge on to the Federation of my country, which is really interested in organizing some TrailO events in Colombia.
In 2013, Colombia hosted The World Games, gathering some of the best orienteers in the world. This would suggest Orienteering could reap the benefits of such important event but, unfortunately, it seems that things had the opposite effect and Colombia is among the countries that have just been suspended from members of the IOF. I would ask you for a comment.
J. O. - It's very discouraging as an athlete to learn that your country has been suspended, making you reevaluate the international goals. I was surprised by the suspension and tried to get a reaction from the Colombian Federation. They feel that “IOF doesn't provide enough support". I think that IOF didn't evaluate the situation correctly, as The World Games could represent an impulse for this sport in Colombia. The Colombian Federation has had administrative ups and downs and, for that year, was emerging again, with very few athletes. The event didn't have a significant impact on Orienteering's development because of the lack of experience and resources, so I think that, if the IOF really wants the Federations of emerging countries to consolidate, they must adapt their cooperation policies and strategies to the socio-economic and technological realities. And I say it because we are not the only ones with difficulties to make this sport sustainable in the region.
Could you tell us how difficult, or easy, it can be to combine your passion for Orienteering with living in Colombia?
J. O. - No one can expect it to be easy. There are lots of things to do, but there's also a great opportunity of work here. That's why I decided to come to Europe with the aim of preparing myself personally and professionally in Orienteering, and I shall carry all my knowledge to my country.
How can you help Colombia return to Orienteering's map?
J. O. - The scene is somewhat complex to analyze because we have two situations to deal with: a reality of sports development and another purely administrative. In the sporting context, we find that the country's international sporting goals are still unclear, and although the IOF had extended its support in the previous years, I think that an additional support plan towards the WOC is necessary, because the participation in such an event represents a huge sport and administrative effort for small federations, which threatens the continuity of their participation (as it's clear now). On the other hand, the internal situation of the Colombian Federation, with an administration weakened and far from the international framework, requires the dialogue to be resumed. In my opinion, the initiative has to start from the IOF, getting our leaders to react to the call of the International community. Although there are athletes and people in Colombia who are interested in developing the sport, it has not been possible to articulate with the National Federation; and if we add the recent suspension of the IOF, the will will increasingly be less, making it a lot more difficult to return to the international scene.
Would you like to share your goals for 2017 with us?
J. O. - I have planned to prepare this season in Europe, aiming to participate in one World Cup, at least, and if possible, although the panorama has changed, go to the WOC in Estonia.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
J. O. - Developing this sport, in any country, has special conditions that makes the whole process more complex and, therefore, requires a more solid assistance and monitoring model from the IOF than the current one.