Athlete of the Month – July 2012

 

Name: Matthias Kyburz
Country: Switzerland
Discipline: Foot Orienteering
Career highlights:
winner of World Cup 2011 Sprint event in Porvoo, Finland, 4th place in the overall World Cup 2011, European Champion 2012 in Relay, winner of World Cup 2012 Middle distance event in St. Gallen, Switzerland.

Matthias Kyburz, a promising Swiss foot orienteer, will be experiencing the World Orienteering Championships (WOC) on his home ground this year. The 22-year-old has already had some very impressive races this year: In May he ran an incredible last leg on the relay at the European Orienteering Championships (EOC) in Sweden and brought his relay team to victory. One month later, in June, he won a World Cup Middle distance event in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Now Matthias will be chasing a top six spot at the World Championships. “That includes that I try hard to win a medal”, he promises.

From gymnastics to orienteering

Matthias began orienteering at the age of 12. He was first into gymnastics and football but his parents were orienteers. “At first I wasn’t interested to “think” so much during sport. But by and by I got more interested in reading the map and thought it is fun and started to do competitions…”

Matthias currently lives in Möhlin, around 150 kilometres from Lausanne where the World Championships will kick off on 14 July. Before this year’s World Championships Matthias’ best performance has been a 20th place in Sprint last year. He was already fourth overall in World Cup 2011 even if it was his first year on elite level and during the past two years he has also managed to win two World Cup races: a Sprint in Porvoo, Finland, last summer and now a Middle distance in St. Gallen.

How do you perform so well?
“I think one reason is my running speed. It is absolutely essential for Sprint but also for the forest to be in top shape. And last year and so far this year my shape seems to be really good compared with other runners. My orienteering technique is already quite good for most of the terrains. I have to improve to become more stable and to learn to attack in every terrain. But so far it works quite well”, Matthias explains. “And finally I like competitions. To train all winter long is fun, but I train so much that I am in top shape when it counts most.”

One of the greatest moments in his career

Even if the World Championships were already very close, Matthias also trained almost two weeks for the European Championships. “I wanted to perform well at the European Championships in Sweden so I wanted to do some good training in relevant terrains before the EOC.” And so he did: Matthias returned home with a Relay gold medal in his pocket. “Emotionally it was one of the most beautiful moments in my career so far. To run in as first in front of such a crowd and to see my team mates jumping for joy was just brilliant. One reason I do elite orienteering is to enjoy such moments because they give you so much back. So therefore it means a lot to me and hopefully also to my team mates.”

Matthias Kyburz approaching the finish line at the European Championships 2012 Relay.

Getting ready for the World Championships

Until last winter, Matthias has been a full-time biology student but this spring he decided to take more time for orienteering in order to be ready for the home World Championships. The speed of running has now been one of the most important focus points in his training: “I try to do a lot of running sessions on hard ground. I also created a “Jorat-round” which is a training session across the forest and should be quite similar to what is expecting me in Lausanne. The funny thing about that session is that the round is on German ground. I have also done, at least for me, quite much orienteering trainings in the Mittelland to get used to the green and to get an even better feeling for route choice and my compass. I think technically I am already quite well prepared because I am used to this type of terrain since I started orienteering.”

Expecting challenging races at Lausanne

Matthias hopes his team can make use of the home field advantage at the World Championships and doesn’t fail under the pressure. “As far as I know, Swiss competitions are of high quality and challenging. I very much look forward to running challenging competitions in front of enthusiastic spectators. I hope that I can enjoy the atmosphere during the competition week and that this is one piece of the puzzle to make a difference.”

“Top in Trentino”

In general, Matthias doesn’t want to plan too much ahead. “I take it step by step. The international program is already very tough so mostly that is what I focus on.” The young athlete does have one longer term goal, however: “Some runners of the team – my brother Andreas Kyburz, Martin Hubmann, Philipp Sauter, Raffael Huber and me – are involved in a military project which is called “TnT”, Top in Trentino. So our goal is to be well prepared for WOC 2014 in Italy in order to be medal candidates. “

Athletes’ questions

Ivo Tišljar, trail orienteer from Croatia and our Athlete of June this year, has three questions for Matthias: I like Sprint orienteering very much and I hear that it is your speciality. Do you prefer Sprint in forest or in parks/city and why?
“Normally I prefer a mixture of them. The best example is when it starts with tricky town orienteering, then switches to a fast park section and goes back to town. Then it is difficult to control your speed all the way. And normally you can combine some nice route choices going in and out of the town into a park.”

What kind of training specifically for Sprint do you do (e.g. are you doing strength training in the gym)?
“I do strength training and also what I consider really important for Sprint which is athletics training. And on specific details I work at Sprint training races: for example, how to punch best, or to speed up after a control and corners.”

What do you think about the tennis-style foot fault disqualifications in the WOC Sprint qualifications in France?
“The map was clear in the last part and if anyone crosses or just steps in (cutting the edge with one foot) then he/she should be disqualified. For sure it was difficult with all the people standing there and cheering and the organiser maybe should have done some signs to avoid that. But I wasn’t pleased at all when some runners made protest that they had, for example, placed just one foot into the forbidden area and the protest was accepted. That, for me, was not in the sense of fair play.”
    
The next athlete of the month will be Marika Hara, a MTB orienteer from Finland. Matthias wishes to ask her the following questions: How important is the equipment (bike)? Are there a lot of MTB orienteering maps in Finland and what is the technique difficulty in general in Finland in MTBO? Is there specific cycling training for MTB orienteering? And why MTB orienteering and not foot orienteering?

Text and photos: Erik Borg

 
Previous Athletes’ of the Month

2012

January 2012 Alison Crocker (USA)
February 2012 Morihiro Horie (JPN)
March 2012 Polina Malchikova (RUS)
April 2012 Ionut Zinca (ROU)
May 2012 Tobias Breitschädel (AUT)
June 2012 Ivo Tišljar (CRO)

2011

February 2011 Olga Novikova (KAZ)
March 2011 Olli-Markus Taivainen (FIN)
April 2011 Emily Benham (GBR)
May 2011 Søren Saxtorph (DEN)
June 2011 Tove Alexandersson (SWE)
July 2011 Olav Lundanes (NOR)
August 2011 Thierry Gueorgiou (FRA)
September 2011 Erik Skovgaard Knudsen (DEN)
October 2011 Lauri Kontkanen (FIN)
November 2011 Annika Billstam (SWE)
December 2011 Anna Füzy (HUN)

 

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