Athlete of the Month – October 2013

VM senior orientering Mandag 7. juli 2013 MSotkamo i Finland Mårten Boström VM i orientering Finland

Name: Mårten Boström

Country: Finland

Discipline: Foot orienteering

Career highlight: 2013 World Champion in Sprint, Vuokatti, Finland

Mårten Boström started orienteering at the age of four, and later moved to athletics for a number of years, but in the spring of 2012 he came back to his family’s number one sport.


The Boström family is from Kirkkonummi, thirty kilometres west of Helsinki; they are a very keen orienteering family. On his home page www.martenbostrom.com Mårten writes that his career as an orienteer started when he was four years old. He’s the youngest of four children. The others are also very talented, and two of his siblings have participated in the Junior World Championships in orienteering. “I have had the benefit of seeing how they have invested and trained”, says Mårten.

Brother Mikael became junior world champion in Relay. Kirsi Boström, who is married to Mikael, became world champion at Long distance in Scotland in 1999 and relay champion in Germany in 1995.

– How was it to grow up in the Boström family – is it a special environment for being good at sport?

“Growing up in a family of orienteers, my lifestyle was never questioned. It’s important especially in today’s society where norms are overly valued at the expense of individuality, which I believe is the spark of champions”, says Mårten. The 31-year-old is married to Matleena, and their home is in Helsinki; with Ojapalo as last name she took part in Rajamäen Rykmentti’s winning team in the youth Jukola in 2001. She is currently ranked number 205 on the IOF World Ranking list. Just like her husband, Matleena is fast in running shoes. They like outdoor activities; Mårten’s hobbies are scuba diving and adventure racing.

VM senior orientering Mandag 7. juli 2013 Sotkamo i Finland Mårten Boström
Mårten Boström in Sotkamo, starting out on his run for gold. Photo: Erik Borg

At the European Championships in 2004 Mårten won bronze in the Sprint as a second-year senior. In 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 he participated in the Sprint at the World Championships. Ninth place in Ukraine in 2007 was his best placing during these years. After that there was not much orienteering in his life until 2012.

Athletics to the fore

His running talent became apparent at an early age. By the time he was 20 years old, athletics was his main sport. His personal bests in athletics are 14.06.10 (5000 metres), 1.03.41 (½ -marathon), 2.18.51 (marathon). And athletics continued to take precedence in his life until one day in April 2012, when he completed the marathon in 2.21.03 in Rotterdam. Boström needed to be three minutes faster to make the qualification requirement for the Olympics. The disappointment was a turning point in his sporting life: he again took up map and compass. He knew very well that the World Championships in orienteering was soon going to be at home in Finland.

“If I should pursue athletics, I had to do it from a young age senior. The orienteering I could come back to, while it would have been impossible to do the reverse. As the World Championships would be in Finland in 2013, it was a big goal for me. Had the Championships been in Italy rather than in my home country, it is not certain that I would have had the same interest.”

Best ever preparations

In preparing for the World Championships (WOC) in Finland his work more focused more than ever before. Together with trainer Jari Ikäheimonen, who is also the coach of Edgars Bertuks, a plan for success was devised. “I had never been so well prepared for an orienteering Championships before. For over a year before WOC I had orienteering fully in focus”, he writes on his website. The day before the final, he wrote that his goal was to enjoy the competition. “I know how to handle the most challenging of mazes at maximum speed.”

Sotkamo was basically not the most demanding of terrains in orienteering terms, but this small town in the middle of Finland was altered for the day. The organisers set up 47 new fences with a total length of 616 metres. Extra fences made for more intensive orienteering, and were also planned so as to make the competition safer and fairer. Some fences were also used as control sites.

For Boström the new obstacles were no surprise. “We expected that some new barriers would be put out.” It was the same during the World Cup sprint in Kajaani a year earlier.

VM senior orientering Mandag 7. juli 2013 Sotkamo i Finland Mårten Boström VM i orientering Finland
Mårten Boström shows his joy on discovering that he’s the world’s best. Photo: Erik Borg

More and better training sessions

In preparation Mårten did a lot of sprinting, and studied previous courses set by the World Championships course planner in Kajaani and Kuhmo, towns not far from Sotkamo. After the Nordic Tour (NORT), which ended four weeks before the Championships, he entered an intense period of training his map skills. “I was not physically ready at NORT, but the races there assured me that technically I was on the right way. Afterwards I spent a lot of sessions in improving technically. And I did lots of sprint orienteering in Sotkamo-like villages around Finland in the final weeks before WOC. And did it enough to have the confidence that I had prepared all aspects of my performance up to perfection.”

The training paid off. After the competition he told the Finnish paper Huvudstadsbladet that it was a fantastic way of doing a race. “There is nothing I could have done better. This is my best sprint ever.”

– Can you get even better?

“I could definitely develop my lactic resistance to become a better sprinter. To become a better long-distance orienteer I need to run more often and longer in the forest. Improvements can also be achieved though better-targeted strength training. I have recently found some interesting core control exercises which I believe can help me run better on uneven ground, where for example I once had to drop off the lead on Jukola’s last leg…”

Looking ahead – more gold medals and a ‘perfect marathon’

– What’s your sporting goal now?

“I am first and foremost an endurance athlete. In the year before WOC 2013 I was mostly aiming at being at my best in orienteering, and also in the near future I will be running mostly with a map in my hand.”

– How far into the future are you looking?

“I have an individual spot for next year’s WOC, so I will for sure try to utilise the luxury situation of not having to worry about being at my best at our team trials. After that I will do what feels most aspiring, but I still have dreams of getting gold in a forest discipline and running a perfect marathon one day.”

– Are you in some ways a bit back to your roots now with orienteering as your main sport?

“I started out running with a map in my hand and this year orienteering has definitely been the number one sport for me.”

Putting something back

The only Finn to become a World Champion on home ground this year said ‘yes’ in the spring to an invitation to be a member of the foot orienteering Athletes’ Commission in IOF. He wants to help make the competitions even better and the runners’ voice heard. “I would like to ensure each top level race is fair for all the runners. Especially in the Sprint distance there are still things which can be done better, especially in making the maps meet the needs of the runners”, he says.

PhD work in Kenya

Mårten has been educated in both the USA and Finland. He has a BSc in Geographical Information Science from Northern Arizona University and an MSc in the same from the University of Helsinki.

Alongside his sporting activity, he is working on a PhD on mapping in Kenya and will continue this work for some years. He doesn’t have a clear plan for when the PhD will be finished. “The University of Helsinki has a research station in Taita Hills in southern Kenya, so it was a natural choice to do at least a part of my research there. Researching around mapping helps in becoming a better map user. As an orienteer I’m used to moving around in forests, although I must admit the indigenous forests of the research areas don’t resemble those in Europe much”, he says.

– How much time is spent in Kenya – say over the last year – and in the coming winter?

“I will most likely spend a few weeks in Kenya in November, but I don’t have plans for the rest of the winter yet. It is not an ideal situation to work as much as I did last winter when I was in Taita Hills, but the atmosphere in the Kenyan countryside is inspiring”.

The work has both been a combination of training and work. “During last winter’s weeks in Taita Hills I was working from approximately 9 to 5, so the work has been full-time. I have however developed ways of doing “work” while running in zigzag fashion across the indigenous forests and biking around the countryside tracks”.

Now much more well-known

He feels that becoming a World Champion is like a well-deserved trophy for all those lousy days when he has anyway done his work-out. On that day in Sotkamo he was the best, and really enjoyed it. After the WOC week it was time for a holiday away from orienteering kites.

“Every once in a while, I need to relax and switch things around in my daily routine to keep the mind fresh and things interesting. After WOC I took off for a three-week-long road trip, only days after the WOC relay, in order to ‘digest’ the gold. Soon after coming back I realised I had somehow become a lot more popular, and strangers recognised me on the street. It’s been fun to realise that those 15 minutes in Sotkamo touched so many. I hope the achievement will help me go on living the life of a contemporary explorer, at least for a little longer”.

Athletes’ questions

Our Athlete of September, Jana Kostova, asked Mårten: Do you have a name that made you really happy and satisfied for leaving him behind? Referring to your Gold medal from Sprint in Vuokatti/Sotkamo.

“The Swiss and in particular Mathias Kyburz has been impressive in sprints for quite some time, so being better on the day it mattered most was awesome”, Mårten says. In his turn, he asks the Athlete of November, ski orienteer Tatyana Kozlova:

How many technical ski orienteering trainings apart from races do you do per year? What kind?

We will hear Tatyana’s answer to this and more on November 1!

Text and photos: Erik Borg

 

Previous Athletes of the Month

2013

January 2013 Staffan Tunis (FIN)
February 2013 Jerker Lysell (SWE)
March 2013 Stanimir Belomazhev (BUL)
April 2013 Davide Machado (POR)
May 2013 Evaldas Butrimas (LTU)
June 2013 Minna Kauppi (FIN)
July 2013 Oleksandr Kratov (UKR)
August 2013 Cecilia Thomasson (SWE)
September 2013 Jana Kostova (CZE)

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)
July 2012 Matthias Kyburz (SUI)
August 2012 Marika Hara (FIN)
September 2012 Lizzie Ingham (NZL)
October 2012 Tonis Erm (EST)
November 2012 Marit Wiksell (SWE)
December 2012 Tatiana Ryabkina (RUS)

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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