Athlete of the Month
Svetlana Mironova, our Athlete of October, knows how many days she had been staying in Italy before her historic triumph this summer, but don’t ask her about hours of training! It’s easier to ask about literature.
Interview by Erik Borg
On Wednesday 9th July when she won the Long Distance race in Italy, Svetlana became the first-ever Russian female winner of a World Championships (WOC) gold medal. “That was a great day for my country! I’m happy and proud that Russia has a woman world champion now and our women’s orienteering level is rising,” she says.
– What is the main reason for your WOC Long race being so fantastic?
“I have read the split times and found out that my race wasn’t so good really. I missed a lot of time on some legs, in particular before controls 8, 13 and 20. But it wasn’t because of mistakes, I just made myself run more slowly when I needed to read the map more carefully or see small details in the terrain. Finally that was enough to win. I feel really great satisfaction with my orienteering that day!”
Two years ago Mironova also made history when she was in the first Russian women’s team to win the Relay at the European Championships. That was in Falun in Sweden. “That victory was very important. It helped me to start to believe in myself running side by side with the strongest orienteers.”
Not much time spent in Italy
The tricky terrain in Lavarone wasn’t that easy to cope with, and many in the Russian national team had been there for weeks during the last year to prepare in advance. Svetlana had just one week in 2013. After that she didn’t visit Italy until she arrived two weeks before the start of WOC.
“I combined my forest training with city sprint training in the final two weeks, and participated three days in the Alpe Adria World Ranking events,” tells Svetlana. “My previous Italian camp was in October 2012. The kind of terrain in Italy doesn’t exist in Russia and I didn’t have so much time, but there is one very important thing. I had enough time to get to love those forests. I admired the mountains and the Alpine spruce forest and I went to every training session with a big feeling of joy. The terrain for the Long race wasn’t very stony, and it was easier running for me compared with the Middle, for example. I spent much time working with maps on the table during my training camp and I did a lot of mental training. For the first week in Italy I stayed alone, so I spent a lot of time talking with my coach by Internet. We discussed my training problems and planned courses.”
Mixed start in the Sprint
Svetlana combined Sprint and Long at WOC. In the Sprint Qualification she ran well on Burano island, but her first WOC final didn’t end that well. “I was ready for the Sprint and managed to orienteer well in the qualification. In the final I only needed to continue the same rhythm in my orienteering. But after a long trip – it felt like that for me – from Burano, I wanted to sleep very much and finally I couldn’t keep good concentration. My speed was too high and I made wrong route choices. The race was also more difficult than I had imagined it would be, especially in such warm weather. I lost myself on the map twice whilst making my route choice to the next control.”
A big step forward
Four days later she became the very best on the Long Distance. So far that hasn’t brought her any sponsor, but she has become much more well-known.
“I’m happy that I can help make my sport more popular in my country. This summer is one more big step forward! Thanks to my friends and relatives who are connected with the press, articles were published in the daily newspapers and also our local TV was interested and made a small interview. Thanks to my coaches and my home city sports school, who worked in connection with the government, now we can be more visible among other sports! I have also met a lot of children who have just started orienteering. I’m very happy that interest is growing and I can improve this situation. I hope that not only will people be interested in this astonishing sport, but also that the government will give us more attention.”
– In what kind of ways have you changed as a person and as a sports woman?
“I believe nothing has changed. I hope so! New competitions will come and your past success will not help you to read the map better or run faster. So I just need to continue training. But now I know that I can do my orienteering well, and such confidence is very helpful and important for me, but there is for sure more to work with. The Sprint race showed me that.”
Hopefully her success will also result in more support. “There are few companies in Russia who can see any interest in investing their money in orienteering, because orienteering is not Olympic and is not well-connected with TV in Russia. It’s a pity. I hope that situation will change,” says Svetlana.
Her parents are orienteers and her coaches are too. “So I had no other choice than going orienteering,” she smiles. Her parents took her to competitions when she was about 11 months old. She started to learn orienteering with them very early. “Then I did it together with my classmates in school. I began to participate in Russian Youth Championships as a 12-year-old. I was very experienced compared with other children at that age. But I had many other hobbies; I played the piano and went to ballet school and computer classes. When I grew up a little, at 17, everybody was good enough in the forest and I needed to train more. At that time I started to dream about the national team and decided to focus on orienteering. I’m not sure about talent, I just really like what I do!”
In 2006 she took part in the Junior World Championships in Lithuania. Her best result was 16th in Sprint. “I was really worried about everything in the competitions!” she says. At that time she had little experience of international events and European terrain. She remembers that she admired and was motivated by the Australian athlete Hanny Allston, who won the Long race there and then the Sprint at WOC 2006.
Quality before quantity
Her parents are still coaching her, and in the morning before the Long Distance in Italy, Svetlana had a long talk with her mother on the phone. “You know the game. Just believe in yourself,” said mother that morning.
Svetlana has a good and close connection with her trainers, but she isn’t one for counting the hours. “Maybe it seems strange, but I’ve never counted my total of kilometres or hours! My coaches and I think that this information is useless because it is very individual. Of course my heart-rate watches can produce that kind of report, but I’ve never looked for it. There is a big difference between one hour running orienteering without any paths and one hour road-run-training. Looking at the whole year I train more in winter, and the longest training session can be more than three hours including all running and special power exercises. I also try to train twice a day. In summer my speed of running is higher and the time used is shorter. The most important thing is to control and regulate performance.”
Trains mainly alone
Only a few training sessions are currently combined with someone else’s. This year she and her coach have started to plan more o-training where that is possible.
“Not every training session can be combined with a map, but we try to do it. There are plenty of different kinds of terrain in my home region: continental with big slopes, carst, small contour detail etc. Maps are very interesting but some of them are rather far away and the terrain is not like most European and Nordic terrain. I began to train in Scandinavian terrain just three years ago, when I started to run for Hellas Orienteringsklubb in Stockholm. That was a very big step in improving my orienteering. I try to have training camps in different types of terrain to get more experience,” she says.
Svetlana Mironova won her first individual medal in the Long Distance at the European Championships in Portugal. Judith Wyder, Switzerland won and Cat Taylor, Great Britain was third. Photo: Erik Borg
– How many days are you away from home during a year?
“Honestly, I think I spend more time away than at home. But according to my Shengen visa, I as a Russian can’t stay in Europe all year. This is a big problem for everybody in the national team! We have to plan carefully and we may not exceed 90 days inside the Shengen area in every half-year. It is difficult, because the majority of competitions are still in Europe.
A new way of life
Up to March 2013 Svetlana was a part-time manager in a sports shop in her city, but for more than a year now she has been a full-time orienteer. “When I worked, I had a very strict timetable. I should wake up at 7.30, have breakfast and my first training, then make tracks to my job at 12.30 taking lunch on the way. Then at 17.30 I would leave my work-place and run at full speed to the second training session or to university for my second education, and I also had driving school then. I finally reached home after 21.00 or so. Now it is a bit easier. I’m not an early bird, but I usually do two training sessions a day. I’m free to organise my time between training as I want. I can do some planning about my future camps, cook something for my family, help my coach with youngsters, read, etc. I like to spend my evenings with my family – we are all orienteers – or meet friends sometimes.”
– What kind of hobbies do you have?
“I like literature very much. I like to read and I write a little. I enjoy my travels. I like to visit new cities, countries, discover interesting places, meet people, learn different cultures, take photos, try national food, etc. Thanks to orienteering, I can travel a lot!”
– Who’s your favourite in literature?
“It’s difficult to be definite about who is the favourite. They are so different and in such different genres. I like to try something new; once I was really interested in Japanese poetry – haiku. But if I should try to say the most favourite names: the German author Erich Remarque was incredible for me some years ago, then I’ve read a lot by the Czech writer Milan Kundera, and then I returned to the fantastic Ray Bradbury when he died two years ago. And of course, the greatest part of Russian literature. Pasternak, Bulgakov, brothers Strugatsky are amazing in their books! Last year I turned to more specific literature, reading some books on children’s psychology. At this time I discovered the novels of the children’s writer Tove Jansson. It’s a pity that I have to limit my reading sometimes, in order to prepare my eyes to read a map!”
– How are you preparing for Scotland?
“I’m going to run the Long. And I will also run selections to participate in Sprint or in Middle. I plan to have a training camp in Scotland next year, but haven’t decided yet when it will be and for how long.”
– What kind of support is there from the Russian federation?
“This year has been very difficult for us because of the Olympic Games in Sochi. Our financial support was cut and the Russian Orienteering Federation supported the national orienteering team only with tickets to European and World Championships. Everything else had to be paid for by regional federations or by oneself. So the national team didn’t have any official camps together. Unfortunately in recent years the situation was almost the same. My home regional Orienteering Federation has supported me a lot in these years.”
– For how long are you looking into the future with sport full-time?
“I hope as long as it will be possible! I really love orienteering and want to continue!”
The athletes’ questions
Finally it’s the athletes’ questions. Emily Benham, Athlete of September, asks: Congratulations on your FootO World Championship gold! 2014 could be described as your breakthrough season in FootO. How did your training and race preparation change in order for you to get such outstanding results?”
“Thank you, Emily! Honestly, I didn’t make any changes. Maybe only small ones. Year by year you do trainings, analyse them, make corrections a little. After injuries in 2013 I discovered that resting is also important, like the training. I therefore decided to control the balance between training and rest more carefully.”
The next Athlete of the Month is Tim Robertson, New Zealand, Sprint winner at Junior World Orienteering Championships and Middle winner at the Junior World MTB Orienteering Championships. Svetlana’s questions to him: “Congratulations, Tim! How often do you fly from New Zealand to Europe? How do you “train” the voyage? Can you remember any interesting experience of orienteering trainings during the flight?”
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)
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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