Athlete of the Month – August 2012


Name: Marika Hara
Country: Finland
Discipline: MTB Orienteering
Career highlights:
World MTB Orienteering Championships gold (Middle 2009, Relay 2008), silver (Sprint 2011, Relay 2010, Sprint 2009, Long 2008) and bronze (Middle and Long 2010). Mountain Bike Orienteering World Cup overall winner 2011. European Champion (Sprint and Long 2011, Relay 2009 and 2008).

IOF World Ranking position: 2

Our IOF Athlete of August, mountain bike orienteer Marika Hara, Finland, is looking forward to this year’s World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships to be held in Hungary 20-25 August. Marika is the reigning European Champion in Sprint and on Long Distance, but she says she is not in the first instance as interested in the results as she is in making a good performance. “Most important for me is to orienteer well, to concentrate from start to finish, and of course, to ride fast”, Marika says.

And fast she rides. So far, she has won one individual World Champion title, and one in relay. In addition, she was the overall Mountain Bike Orienteering (MTBO) World Cup winner in 2011; an achievement she appreciates a lot: “winning the World Cup requires that the rider succeeds throughout the season, not just at the World Champs, and that is tough”, Marika says.

Via foot and ski orienteering to MTBO

Marika started with orienteering in 1996, at the age of 9. She was also an eager ski orienteer, and when she began to have problems with her legs in both running and skiing, she started to bike more and more – and ended up with MTB orienteering. “At first I regarded MTBO only as good training for ski orienteering, but later it became my main discipline. Still it was only when I became senior (21) that I started to wonder whether I could some day challenge the world’s best mountain bike orienteers.”

In summer time Marika mostly trains on bike, both in terrain and on the road. In addition she foot orienteers when she can. In winter she bikes, does a lot of cross-country skiing, and ski orienteers. “In general I try to train as versatile as possible”, Marika comments.

When asked why Finland has so many good mountain bike orienteers, Marika explains that the terrains and MTBO courses in Finland are very challenging, and that makes Finns such good MTBOers. There are many good – and different – places in Finland for mountain bike orienteering.

Marika likes technically challenging terrains that have paths that require good riding techniques. She enjoys to compete abroad, as she there encounters different kinds of terrains and “always something new”. In addition, competing abroad gives the chance to meet the world’s best and compete against them.

Regarding the future, Marika has not made up her mind yet. “I take one season at a time”, she says, and continues: “Now my main goal is to do well in Hungary, and then we’ll see about the future.”

Athletes’ questions

IOF Athlete of July, newly crowned Sprint World Champion Matthias Kyburz, Switzerland, had a couple of questions to Marika:

How important is the equipment (bike)? Are there a lot of MTB orienteering maps in Finland and what is the technique difficulty in general in Finland in MTBO? Is there specific cycling training for MTB orienteering? And why MTB orienteering and not foot orienteering?

“In MTBO it is important that the bike functions well. To be able to finish the course without having bike problems is very important.

In Finland there are lots of good maps near the cities. Not all of those maps are made for mountain bike orienteering, but they can very well be used in training. MTBO is technically challenging in Finland, because many paths are challenging to drive on, which in its turn makes map-reading significantly more difficult.

There are no specific bike trainings for mountain bike orienteering, but we of course bike a lot, and orienteer on bike. It is also good to have a map with you in biking trainings even though you wouldn’t have an orienteering course drawn on the map, as it makes you a better map-reader in fast speed.

I chose MTBO because I don’t like running that much, and my legs also prefer biking. In MTBO I meet the same challenges as in foot orienteering, but don’t need to run. Only biking, without orienteering, is not as fun and interesting as mountain bike orienteering.”

Our Athlete of September will be Lizzie Ingham from New Zealand, who achieved a great ninth place at the Sprint in the World Orienteering Championships 2012 in Lausanne. Marika would like to ask Lizzie the following questions:

How many orienteers are there in New Zealand? What about mountain bike orienteers? Do you have good terrains for mountain bike orienteering? How often do you go to Europe to orienteer?

Photos: Juuso Metsälä and Paula Lehtomäki

Previous Athletes’ of the Month


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)


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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