Athlete of the Month
Our Athlete of December, Hana Hancikova (CZE), studied for four years at a skiing high school and became good enough to be a member of the national team in cross-country skiing, but ski orienteering has now become her favourite sport.
Hana actually started navigating in winter-time at an early age; she was 11 years old when she tried it for the first time. “I have found some old pictures at home from when I took part in a ski orienteering race for the first time. It was in Nove Mesto, where I moved five years later to study at the ski high school. I remember that my ski orienteering start was very cold, windy and snowy,” Hana tells.
Her first orienteering competition was when she was eight years old. “My parents took me and my sister to take part in many different sports in childhood, like gymnastics, tennis, ballet, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and figure skating, and orienteering as well because my grandparents were orienteers. My parents have never themselves tried ski orienteering or cross-country skiing. They took us to ski orienteering as preparation for summer orienteering.”
Hana grew up in Zlin, about 200 kilometres from Nove Mesto where she came to the ski high school when she was sixteen years old. “During my study period there, my dad built a small hotel close to the Ski Arena Nove Mesto,” says Hana. Since then, national teams from several nations have stayed in the hotel during World Cup rounds and other big competitions. The national Biathlon team from Norway, Ski Canada and the Cannondale Factory Team are some that have stayed there.
Biggest successes in Sprint
Hana is now 26 years old. Last winter she won her first international title as a senior, winning the Sprint at the European Orienteering Championships in Russia. As a junior she won the World Championships Sprint two years in a row, in 2007 and 2008.
– What did the first Junior gold mean for you – the gold you took seven and a half years ago in Austria?
“It was a very nice feeling and I have happy memories from that time. Of course it motivated me a lot.” At the time she described the gold like this: “It’s a surprise for me. I didn’t think about victory. There are so many strong Russians and Swedes.”
– Is Sprint your number one distance?
“I try to do my best in all disciplines of course, but sometimes a good result can simply be the outcome of a sudden situation, moment or decision which changes the overall result.”
– What kind of skills do you have that make you so good at Sprint?
“Maybe good genes, with the ability to produce explosive power, and I also need skiing skills as well as being a good orienteer.”
Love the key to Hana’s route choice
It is almost seven years ago that she and Erik Rost (29) became partners. “We met during the European Championships in Switzerland in 2008,” she tells. They live in Falun in central Sweden. “Last year in the summer, after I had finished my studies at University, I moved to Falun and since then I have done my training there.”
– How is it to be in Sweden?
“Very nice people, beautiful landscape, perfect training conditions. I’m happy here!”
As a youngster Hana showed talent in a number of different sports, but ski orienteering became number one. Erik Rost is the reason for that. “Erik means more than the Olympic Games for me!” she says with a broad smile. “I was in the Czech national cross-country skiing team, but after I met Erik I left cross-country and my Olympic dream and followed him to orienteering.”
Hana has also done extremely well with map and compass in the summer. She was a Junior winner in both Middle Distance and Relay in mountain bike orienteering in 2008.
Erik too has high ski orienteering credentials. He took three gold medals at the Junior World Championships in 2005, has four European Championship golds and won the World Cup overall in 2008. From world championships he can show two silver medals and a bronze. In foot orienteering he is also among the world’s best; an overall win at O-Ringen in 2011 is one of his successes, and he has a bronze relay medal from the Junior World Championships in 2005.
Looking forward to the World Championships
Hana and Erik both have the same big goal – to do very well at the World Ski Orienteering Championships in Norway. “I think that we complement each other. He is systematic and extremely precise, which I then balance with a more relaxed approach to training, and I take more care of making a warm home and good food.”
– How does your co-operation make you both become better and better?
“We help each other with psychological support and sometimes with training analysis.”
Looking ahead to the World Championships, she is thinking about much more than Sprint. “I’m preparing myself for all disciplines, but I do believe that I can best succeed in Sprint distance – taking into consideration my training structure. This is the peak of the season, and all my preparation is directed with this target in mind. The first race at Budor will show if my ambitions can be fulfilled successfully.”
A coach in daily life
After a bit more than one year in Sweden, Hana has started working at Mora ski gymnasium as a coach. That’s a job that suits her experience and also her education. She studied coaching and sports teaching for basic and high schools at university. “I greatly enjoy my work at Mora,” she says.
– Can you do your own training whilst being a coach?
“I am not training as much as last year. Sometimes it is difficult to combine work and my own training, but I like my job a lot! I am doing exactly what I studied at university – which was coaching in cross-country skiing and sports pedagogy for high schools.”
– How has it been to go from being a student to having a proper job?
“After my studies I was just training for the whole of last year, so the change was not that dramatic.”
Tim Robertson, the November Athlete of the Month, has this question to Hana: How do you train for ski orienteering in the summer season?
“We skiers use roller skis quite a lot for training, and we take a map as well in urban areas.”
The next Athlete of the Month is Andrei Lamov, Russia: Hana’s question to him is: “Are you planning a long-term stay in Sweden?”
Text and photos: Erik Borg
Previous Athletes of the Month
January 2014 Hans Jørgen Kvåle (NOR)
February 2014 Daisy Kudre (EST)
March 2014 Andreu Blanes Reig (ESP)
April 2014 Martin Fredholm (SWE)
May 2014 Susanna Laurila (FIN)
June 2014 Catherine Taylor (GBR)
July 2014 Soren Bobach (DEN)
August 2014 Martin Jullum (NOR)
September 2014 Emily Benham (GBR)
October 2014 Svetlana Mironova (RUS)
November 2014 Tim Robertson (NZL)
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)
October 2013 Mårten Boström (FIN)
November 2013 Tatiana Rvacheva (RUS)
December 2013 Olga Vinogradova (RUS)
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)
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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