Tove Alexandersson – Orienteering Athlete of the Year 2017

Posted on | December 15, 2017 | Category: Arena, FootO, News

In her first five World Championships (WOCs) in Orienteering, Tove Alexandersson won six silvers and three bronze medals. In her latest two WOCs she has won five gold medals. “My WOC results in the last two years have been amazing,” she says.

Let´s start from the end. The end of the World Cup season. With about 20 hours to go to the final World Cup race of the season, Tove Alexandersson is standing a couple of hundred meters from the finish line of the Long Distance in Grindelwald, Switzerland. After a great start to the race, Alexandersson made some major mistakes and ended 14th. That means that the Russian Natalia Gemperle is a serious threat for Tove in the fight for the overall World Cup.

“I don´t think I have ever been so tired, and felt so much pain in my body, as after that race. When I was standing there after the Long Distance, I didn´t understand how it could be possible to run a tough Middle Distance the day after. And I was aware that Natalia has been running very well and consistently during the entire season, so I knew that I needed to produce a really great performance to beat her. But it turned out well,” Alexandersson says with a smile.

Good at getting back on track

In the Middle Distance, less than 24 hours after climbing up and down the steep slopes on the Grindelwald Long Distance course, Alexandersson had a really strong race and won, and even more importantly she achieved her fourth straight victory in the overall World Cup. “I´m really proud of myself that I could recharge both physically and mentally. But getting back on track again after a bad race is something that I´m good at. It is very rare that I have two bad races in a row.”

Overall victory in the World Cup was the perfect end to a season in which she was almost unbeatable. She took her club Stora Tuna to victory in Tiomila after an impressive final leg. She won O-Ringen. And, last but definitely not least, she won three golds in WOC in Estonia.

Three World Championship golds – despite difficult start

This performance is even greater since she had a really problematic start to the Championships. After the Sprint qualification she felt symptoms of an incipient cold, and couldn´t start in the final. “It was a real pity. I was in my best sprint shape ever and I had really prepared for what was expected in the final in Tartu. And I didn´t even get the opportunity to start the race. But I also had in mind how my body might react to the sickness, and if it would be possible to run in the Long Distance three days later.”

It was a fight against the clock. Alexandersson won that fight too. And after that, everything worked out the way she wanted. She won the Long Distance one and a half minutes ahead of the Sprint champion Maja Alm, Denmark.

She won the Middle Distance by an even bigger margin, and that after one of the best WOC races ever. That meant that she had successfully defended both of her golds from the WOC in Sweden in 2016.

“The terrain in Estonia suited me really well. I found the flow in my orienteering. I made hardly any mistakes at all, and that pays off extra in this type of terrain. That was one of the reasons for the quite big victory margin,” says Tove humbly.

In the final race of WOC 2017, Tove was running the last leg when Sweden (Emma Johansson and Helena Bergman ran the first two legs) won their first WOC Relay for women since 2004. Sweden won by almost three minutes ahead of Russia, but it was a bit dramatic even so. When Tove was passing the arena after half the race she didn´t see the correct way to start the second loop, so she was running to the finish line before she noticed her mistake. She turned around and took the “right way”. There was some discussion before it was clear that there would be no protests against Sweden.

First WOC as a junior

Tove Alexandersson made her debut in WOC as a junior. She was running in the Swedish relay team when they took bronze in France in 2011. The year after, in her last season as a junior, she won silver in both Relay and Middle Distance. In the two following years she took four silver and two bronze medals.

In 2015 Alexandersson had problems with a foot injury during the WOC. She had to leave Scotland without a medal; she was fourth in the Long Distance. That meant that Alexandersson after her five first WOCs had six silvers and three bronze medals. But in the last two years her already big prize collection has increased a lot. The two golds in Sweden in 2016 were followed by three golds in Estonia.

Keys to success: physical ability and meticulous preparation

There are of course several explanations for this success. Her physical capacity is one, as shown when in October she won a World Series race in sky-running. But one must ask if the orienteering technique part is actually the biggest explanation. And there the preparation is really important. “You need to spend a lot of time in relevant terrain. Before WOC in Estonia I had been on four training camps, one week each. And I also had the opportunity to do my final preparations in the terrain on the days before the Championships started. But I also did a lot of preparation in Sweden. There are small areas of terrain in Sweden that are similar to the Estonian terrain. And I tried to add running-technique parts of my training, such as jumping over fallen trees and crawling under athletic hurdles, in preparing my body for what was to be expected in Estonia.”

Preparing for Switzerland, then Latvia

25-year-old Tove enjoys both Orienteering and Ski Orienteering. That means that she is competing in three international championships every year. In 2018 it´s “only” the European Championships (EOC) in Ski Orienteering, but both EOC and WOC in Orienteering. The European Championships in Orienteering will be in very steep terrain near Ticino, Switzerland. “It is a kind of terrain that we don´t have in Sweden. It is much steeper than at home. That means that I will spend quite a lot of time in Switzerland to prepare for what we can expect in the EOC. And that type of terrain also demands a different technique in orienteering compared to what we Swedes are used to. I need to work a bit on that,” says Alexandersson, who will start preparing for WOC (in Latvia in August) alongside her EOC preparations.

– You have won almost everything that it’s possible to win in both Orienteering and Ski Orienteering. What motivates you for new and even bigger success in the future?

“I want to improve all the time, see how good I can be. And the sports I participate in always bring something new. New terrain. New technical challenges. That means that you can always improve. And finally, I think it’s so much fun,” says Tove Alexandersson.

Text: MÅRTEN LÅNG, Editor Skogssport – official magazine of the Swedish Orienteering Federation

Photo: Donatas Lazauskas

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