Sito amatoriale per il trail orienteering in Italia



(Interview by Stegal)

During the 2011 World Trail-Orienteering Championships hold in La Feclaz (France) I had the great opportunity to interview the new world champion in the Paralympics class, the Russian Dmitry Kucherenko.
It has been for me a great honour to speak with him during an interview that also involved then the team manager of the Russian national team and then also other components of the national team: I tried to describe here the interview done with these very strong athletes: if there are things that I did not well understood, this error must be imputed to me only.
I am grateful for their patience and their willingness the World Champion Dmitry Kucherenko (DK), team manager and coach Alexander Kobzarev (AK) and athlete Dmitry Dokuchaev (DD) who translated my questions and then arranged and translated responses.

Q: Do you expect this result? With what expectations you arrived at the World Championship and what do you think were the teams to beat?

Dmitry Kucherenko (DK): first, about the result I must thank our coach, Alexander Kobzarev. He is the most important person involved in russian Trail-orienteering: success depends on him and his work. I am convinced, because we have always talked about it with the coach, that success comes step by step, continually striving to improve the results. From this World Championship I would have expected a silver medal, perhaps more likely a bronze medal. After the first day of competition I was in first position, but the ranking was very short with many athletes close, I knew that each checkpoint of day 2 would have been decisive for the ranking, but I must admit that I was a bit surprised by the gold medal.
Kobzarev Alexander (AK): starting from the 2006 World Championships, our results as a team and individual results of Dmitry improved constantly. Unfortunately, our strongest athlete died some years ago, and we needed two or three years to return to the same level. But the team is made up of athletes still young: Dmitry is 28 years old but after the first experience in the open race open in Kiev (WTOC 2008) has already participated in the 2009 World Championships in Open and in Paralympics at WTOC 2010, Pavel Shmatov is 31 years old, some athletes here are 22, 23 or 25 years old, so we still have a chance to improve, and for the next editions of the World Championship we are going to put into the team one or two junior athletes!

Q: I'm quite surprised ... Dmitry has competed in both classes, Open and Paralympics, in two different WTOC?

AK: our idea, as a team and as a federation, is that our athletes competing in the Open category have a disability. Indeed, the World Championships in trail-orienteering should be played only by athletes with various disabilities, as if it were a discipline of the Paralympics Games: we think that sport, not just the trail-orienteering, but also other sports, is a component very important to the lives of people who have a disability. Of course in Russia in trail-orienteering competitions are involved also people without any kind of disability, but till now there is no intention to introduce them into the national team participating at WTOC.
I mean that we are even contrary to the fact that there is a WTOC Open class, open to everyone: athletes with disabilities and without disabilities do not start with the same opportunities. Just think of the possibility of an athlete without disability to move faster, or to see the control points from a superior height. But everything at the end gives us another input: we want demonstrate that a disabled athlete can have better results in trail-orienteering than an athlete without disability.
And the gold medal gained by Dmitry will help us even more clearly than our results, to bring other people to trail-orienteering.

Q: How is your training style, and how much you trained to obtain this result?

AK: The main problem is that in Russia trail-orienteering is not considered a Paralympic sport, is not recognized as such by our government of sports, so we don’t have many funds. We must then look at our own money from sponsors, and perhaps from this point of view we didn’t achieved success comparable to the gold medal by Dmitry ...
DK: the keyword used by the coach is "Enthusiasm". I started to practice trail-orienteering when I was young, and now I spend all my free time trying to improve my skills: planning trail-o courses or organizing races, and this helps a lot. Then I study maps and I try to visualize possible scenarios. We knew that in France the terrain would have been different from those we are used in central Russia, and we knew that we could find similar land in Sochi on the Black Sea (home of the Winter Olympics 2014), in the Urals and central Siberia. So in March we went to Sochi and we trained constantly for two weeks, then we stayed for about a month in the central Urals, and then we also went to Sweden, where there aren’t so many rocky terrains as we expected at the WTOC but it is always a very interesting terrain: the Scandinavian lands have always been a good school and are a very important experience.
AK: training periods in Sochi and the O-Ringen gave us the confidence shown throughout the World Championship.
DK: another feature of the training is that we always try to find the collaboration of our colleagues from Ukraine, Latvia and Lithuania. Competing together is important to increase the general level: more competition, more experience! Then of course there is the comparison with the national teams of  Scandinavia: Sweden, Norway and Finland have a very strong team, and the comparison with each competitor is very important. Finally, I want to say another thing that our coach taught us: the Russian team is not divided into strong and weak athletes, athletes who can win and athletes settled for a mid-ranking positions. The coach always tells us that everyone of us is potentially the winner of each race, including the World Championship, and the leader of the team.

Q: We talked about training, but how much talent there is in the gold medal by Dmitry Kucherenko?

DK: The coach always said that in trail-orienteering is very important to have a natural potential, but even when you have this potential, you always need to increase your skills. And to improve your level of athlete, you must love this sport. Love does not mean “I like”. It means “to love”! If you don’t want to commit yourself, don’t want to strive every day to increase your level of athlete, then you cannot reach the gold medal even if you have a huge potential: you have to work hard!
AK: Dmitry is not an athlete who wants to take into account only his natural potential during training. He really loves orienteering, he is practicing the sport he loves.

Q: The athlete who invented this website, Marco Giovannini, bronze medal at the 2010 Italian championships, particularly appreciate the format Temp-O. Do you think the temp-O represents the future of this sport? Does it could replace the classic trail-orienteering or you prefer the original format?

AK: It’s difficult to answer this question, because it causes every time threads, there are different opinions about Temp-O and every athlete has a personal opinion. In any case we were not surprised by the competition of Temp-O with the answer "Z" which was held today: This race format was introduced in the Russian league three years ago, so we are also ready to race so
DK: I like the classic format of the trail-orienteering. The way we compete in trail-O has to remain completely within the WTOC. Then we can argue about whether the O-Temp should enter or not in the WTOC, probably, but should not replace the classic format.
Evaldas Butrimas (Lithuania, 2005 world champion in paralympic category): I agree with the opinion of Dmitry also if Temp-O is a discipline that is evolving and becoming more and more interesting year after year.
Dmitry Dokuchaev (DD): our coach has some very interesting ideas about the Temp-O. He thinks  that could eventually be divided into two or three different sports: control points with a small number of flags or very high, or we could have the short, medium and long distance depending on the distance of the control points from the observation point . Who knows what future developments could have in this discipline?

Q: Speaking of possible developments, what are your ideas on this?

AK: The first thing to do to increase the popularity and visibility of this sport is to have more international competitions: a World Cup, a European Cup, a greater number of matches involving national teams. The second thing is to bring new forces in the Trail-O: if we don’t create competitions for athletes younger than 20, the Trail-O will eventually disappear, which is the reason why, as we have already said, we will soon introduce into the national team one or two junior athletes .
DK: more competition and the entry of young athletes will increase the interest in this discipline, and in addition will also help to eliminate stereotypes... and there are many around trail-orienteering
AK: trail-orienteering today is seen as a sport in which there is no physical effort, opposed to the c.o., ski-o and mtb-o. This means that there are people who don’t consider very well trail- orienteering. But we strive to engage in trail-orienteering athletes who have already experienced, and when this happens, very often the feedback was positive, "Hey, it's really interesting". Despite this, people consider trail-orienteering as a sport without effort or even a sport, but when only athletes with physical disabilities will compete in international competitions Trail-O will have a full characterization, then the disciplines will be permanently separated; I think at that point it will be easier to find organizers who want to draw a map or arrange for a race both for c.o. and trail-o.
DD: well, everything revolves around the question of money. In a country like Russia, the distances are always important: for example, for a team of trail-O from Vladivostok is much easier to go to compete in Japan that come to the west. For this reason at the national championships there are not less but not more than 50 competitors each year. But the gold medal by Dmitry Kucherenko is not only important to him as an athlete but also for us as a team: it will be important for the visibility that we have and to open us more doors (sponsorships).

Q: I would like to finish this interview with a question that is close to my heart, but perhaps it will seem strange: do you think that there are many similarities between the "schakmaty" (chess) and Trail-O? Both have some difficulties to declare thereselves as sports, both involve a great mental effort...

DD: Ah! I don’t even need to translate the question here because all have understood the word "Schakmaty" ... Of course I could say that chess and trail-orienteering are a constantly debated topic, and we always talk about it. Every day someone finds another way to compare these two disciplines, to find new forms of similarity: there are certainly many aspects in common, and certainly is not difficult for us to think of ourselves as the chess players of orienteering!

When the interview is complete, once again I would like to thank the entire team of Russian trail-orienteering for their hospitality, patience and warmth with which they showed to me their world, their goals and wishes. It's been a source of pride for me to meet these athletes representing the best that could offer trail-orienteering in the international scene.


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