Athlete of the Month – August 2011

Name: Thierry Gueorgiou
Country: France
Discipline: Foot orienteering
Career highlights: World Orienteering Champion (middle distance 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009, sprint 2007), World Games winner (middle 2005), World Cup overall winner (2006, 2007)

Our Athlete of August, seven-fold World Champion Thierry Gueorgiou says winning World Championships gold is all about preparation: “The race is won or lost far away from witnesses. So, if I get a gold, it would simply mean I was best prepared.”

Enjoys running  at big events

Thierry says he is not nervous before the World Championships on home ground: “I have been competing in World Championships since 1997 – I am not new in this business, and I won more races than I could even dream of when I was a teenager. Another gold medal won’t make me happier, even if I’ll still give my all for it. Orienteering is what I love and what I do best. And I always thought that World Championships are the most exciting events to run at. So, why to get nervous about doing something I really like?!”

“Over the last years, I got enough motivation only for World Championships, Jukola and Tiomila. Each time I run one of those races I try to enjoy as much as I can, because I know my career is soon over and I’ll miss for sure those good old days.”

The winner who never gave up

Thierry started to dream about becoming a World Champion when he witnessed the victory of the legendary Swede Kent Olsson at the World Championships in France in 1987. Thierry was then 8 years old, and had started his orienteering career two years earlier. When he turned 11, he got his first training diary, and at the age of 16 he took part in his first Junior World Orienteering Championships. Thierry finished 60th on short distance, and says afterwards “I have to admit that I wasn’t totally ready to challenge 4 years older orienteers like the Hungarian junior star Gabor Domonyik”. A year later, in 1996, Gabor Domonyik won the short distance again, and Thierry finished 100th. Another year later he was 43rd on classic distance, and in 1998, at the age of 19, he won silver on classic distance and finished 7th on short distance. His final year as a junior ended with a Junior World Championships bronze medal on short distance, and an 8th place on classic distance, about 8 minutes behind the winner Andrey Khramov.

To celebrate the IOF 50th Anniversary, we aim to collect at least 500 compasses to developing countries. Thierry has agreed to be the figurehead of the campaign.

When asked what made him a World Champion, amongst all of the juniors who aimed for that, Thierry says that it’s not easy to point out what makes the difference between the winner and the rest. However, he always likes to say “the best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up”. Thierry says he has failures and disillusions like everyone else: “But I never gave up and kept working on my technique. What we call failure is not the falling down, but the staying down.”

Born to orienteer

Thierry cannot even imagine what he would have done, if he had not started orienteering. “It is almost impossible to say, because I was almost born as an orienteer!”, he says, and continues: “I think I would have done some sport anyway, maybe handball which I played until I was 15. Then, no idea about the job, as I chose biology also because of my interest for forests…”

Athlete of July, reigning long distance World Champion Olav Lundanes asked Thierry:

What will you do when the World Championships are over?

“If I am not doing the same entertainments as last years in WOC relay, I might show up in banquet this year ;-) But I guess Olav’s question was more about future plans… So, I still have no idea if I am going to continue my WOC career or not. I’ll give my all on this one, and then we’ll see if I have still the insatiable desire to be part of the biggest summer party…”

Thierry also had a question and a message to our Athlete of September, Erik Skovgaard Knudsen, current MTB Orienteering World Cup leader from Denmark:

I just would like to know how many hours per year you train? And, by the way, great webpage (www.eriksk.dk)!

You will hear Erik’s answer to this and other questions in the beginning of September, right after the World MTB Orienteering Championships in Italy.

By Anna Zeelig

Previous Athletes’ of the Month

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)

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