Jorge Valente Barrera: “TrailO is fun”

Posted on | October 3, 2016 | Category: News, Newsletter

TrailO, a challenging and vibrant Orienteering discipline, continues to add new and young athletes to its ‘cause’. In Strömstad, Sweden, we met 16 years old Jorge Valente Barrera, a natural born talent and a potential winner. He tells us about an outstanding experience and his motivation to continue to improve.

Jorge Valente Barrera was born on the 11th September 1999 in Madrid, Spain, where he still lives. Concentrating on physics and mathematics, Jorge is finishing his college studies right now before starting at university. He’s a very active young man, spending his time playing basketball, hanging out with his friends and, of course, doing both foot orienteering and trail orienteering.

As far back as he can remember, he has always practised orienteering. “I went to races with my family for a long time until my mother and sister stopped, six or seven years ago. Since then it has been mostly my father and I,” Jorge says. It was his father that introduced him to TrailO. “He told me about this new orienteering discipline and I decided to give it a try,” he says.

Jorge’s first TrailO experience was in Italy in 2013, during the World Masters Orienteering Championships. A confession comes with a big smile: “It was quite a disaster.” At the first control, just after receiving the map and the control card, Jorge stepped off the path and ran straight to the kites, just as if it was a FootO event. He got very surprised when someone told him that he wasn’t allowed to do that. “How am I going to solve it then?” said Jorge to himself. Since then, each event has been a fascinating lesson. In spite of his initial mistakes, made for not paying enough attention to the positions of the kites, he never thought of giving up. Why? The answer is easy: “TrailO is fun,” he says.

img_3767A calm atmosphere
Following a couple of good results in Spanish competitions, Jorge was selected for his first World Trail Orienteering Championships ever, heading to Strömstad with the word “improvement” on his mind. “My goal wasn’t really the result but the event itself. I wanted to perform well overall, never mind how I ended up in the standings,” Jorge says. His 29th place in the TempO qualifying heats and 38th place in the PreO overall are important as references for the future, but they deserve a small analysis: “On the TempO I would maybe have expected something better, but on the PreO my expectations were a little worse than I actually ended up doing.”

Being a ‘rookie’ and one of the youngest competitors in the World Championships, Jorge adapted himself quite well to the situation. He explains: “I never felt uncomfortable with the situation there. Maybe sometimes a little bit shy and nervous for being in a WTOC with such good competitors, but, after all, we were all the same, TrailO competitors, whatever our age or physical condition. The atmosphere was much calmer than I had expected. It’s a place with much more focus and quietness than what you find in a FootO event, where there is noise everywhere and you are moving around the arena.”

img_1945The best moments of the Championships
We haven’t mentioned that Jorge was in Strömstad along with his father, João Pedro Valente. Jorge was wearing the colours of Spain and João the red and green of Portugal. Father and son on ‘opposite’ sides, but both rooting for each other. The most perfect mirror of what is happening on the Iberian Peninsula, where the Portuguese and Spanish trail orienteers decided, four years ago, to walk the challenging TrailO way side by side. So it’s not a surprise that the highest point of the Championships, from Jorge’s point of view, was the silver medal achieved by Portugal in the TrailO Relay. He remembers the decisive moments, with his father on the final timed controls: “My dad and I were on the 3rd leg for our respective countries, and we were together in the quarantine when Libor [Forst, the SEA] announced the starting order for the final TempO station. I was a bit disappointed with the position for Spain, but this feeling disappeared when more and more countries were mentioned but not Portugal. Fourth position! That already was an incredible result. But then, after completing my own TempO tasks, I found out that Portugal was actually third and only a fraction behind Sweden! When my dad headed to the station I was really nervous, and when he nailed it I was overcome with joy. It was incredible.”

To that happiness he adds a feeling of proudness: “This medal for Portugal means that TrailO will grow a lot there; there will be more people interested, more money to invest on new events and training, and so on. And this will also bump up TrailO in Spain because of how close we are to each other. With improvements in quality and quantity in Portuguese TrailO, Spanish TrailO will learn faster and we can probably put on more and better Pre-O and Temp-O events in Spain,” he says.

Now it’s time to think about new commitments and new goals. “Before coming to the WTOC 2016 I wasn’t really into TrailO, but now I’m much more motivated for the next TrailO events and I’m already looking forward to Lithuania next year,” Jorge says. And he assures us that “as long as there are events in Spain and Portugal” we can count on him.

Text and photo: Joaquim Margarido

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