The decision was taken some years ago, but for several reasons she has put off the final farewell moment. But this year was definitely the last. At the age of 43, the Lithuanian Ramune Arlauskiene raced the last big event of a long career in Portugal last July. This was the starting point of a conversation covering more than 20 years of bikes and events, with many joyful times and some disappointments too.
“I took the decision to stop some years ago, but for several reasons I’ve been putting it off. But this year was definitely the last. My motivation has gone, because I’m not interested in the top-10 and winning a medal seems an impossible task. And there’s a new generation now in the Lithuanian team, so I could end my career calmly. And honestly, I feel too lazy to be suffering badly on the courses.” These were the few words that supported Ramune’s decision to retire from MTBO’s top competitions.
Although Orienteering has always played a really important role in Ramune’s life, her family holds first place in her priorities. Mother of two boys, she owes a huge part of her successful career to her husband: “It’s wholly down to him that I have managed to compete in sport so much and could achieve such good results,” she confesses.
How hard is the life of an Elite MTB orienteer?
“I can’t say that it’s hard. Many people manage to combine their work and sport quite effectively. It’s easy, because you don’t even need to train in specific conditions. You start doing exercise instantly on leaving home.”
Key moments of a long career
Ramune’s career is quite impressive as there aren’t too many orienteers who, like her, have been competing in all the MTBO World Championships so far. An achievement with no special meaning, according to her: “I’m not sure, it’s just my way of life. I used to divide my life into steps, from one World Championship to the next one. Besides, I rarely think that a Championship will be the one I win. I just try to prove something every time, like to take over the world.”
Some of the most memorable moments of Ramune’s career were her victories in the European Championships in 2008. “Because the Championships were held in Lithuania, I was even happier,” she remembers, adding that “my biggest achievement was the bronze medal in the World Championships in 2005, which was the first medal for Lithuania in MTBO.” And what about the worst moment? “During my MTBO career I didn’t have any really bad moments. When I started doing MTBO, I was already mature as an athlete. If something went wrong, I knew and accepted all the reasons why it had happened. I’ve been able to evaluate objectively the exact situation and be satisfied, even without a good result. For example, in my Ski-O career I had big disappointments, when it seemed like I had given everything I had but I still didn’t get what I had hoped for. It was like: “Only the weak ones don’t succeed.”
“I managed to become a better rider”
Apart from being 14 years older than before, what are the main differences between Ramune Arlauskiene in 2002, in Fontainebleau, and Ramune Arlauskiene in 2016, biking the last race of the season?
“During these years I didn’t really change but I managed to become a better rider. The first World Championships that we attended, in France, were more to satisfy our curiosity than with any expectations for sporting achievement. We managed to learn lots about new equipment, starting from what bikes cyclists prefer and how to take care of them, then who the leaders are in this discipline, and so on. For me, MTBO was at first only like a new kind of training to prepare for the Ski-O season. Step by step, MTBO became my main discipline. During the last 10 years I have always tried to fight for the top positions. Some years ago I used to be stronger physically but now it’s the opposite, I navigate better than I ride.”
“Seek to win against the course, not against the others”
Her competitive riding may have stopped, but Ramune’s commitment to MTBO remains solid and she will be part of the World Championships organising team next year. A well-known team, we must say, as she was one of the World Cup organisers too. And she leaves her opinion on those great days: “If you took a look from backstage, it didn’t seem so good. However the final result was really good. I believe that all the effort we put in paid off and set a really good example. I do think, though, that both the World Championships and the World Cup should be seen not only as high-standard competitions, but also as a festival for everyone.”
Looking back over the last 20 years, Ramune believes she would not do anything differently: “MTBO would be in my life, anyway. But maybe I would have liked to try riding downhill. About the orienteering training, I wish I could have avoided thoughts like ‘This won’t help me, anyway’, and had completed everything 100 per cent. Besides, I think that psychological preparation is also necessary in the training process.” Ramune’s last words go to the MTB Orienteering family: “Seek to win against the course, not against the others. Come to the right conclusions after each mistake. Dare to win ‘here and now’. See you all next year at the World Championships in Vilnius.”
Text and photo: Joaquim Margarido|| Print page ||