Athlete of the Month – January 2013

VM stafett i skiorientering<br /> HÃ?rjedalen i Sverige<br /> SÃ?ndag 27. mars 2011<br /> staffan tunis
Name: Staffan Tunis
Country: Finland
Discipline: Ski orienteering
Career highlights:
World Championships
gold medal at Middle Distance 2011 and in Relay 2009 and 2011, silver at Middle Distance 2007 and 2009 and in Sprint and Long Distance 2011, Bronze in Sprint in 2007 and 2009; European Championships gold medal at Long Distance in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and in Sprint and Relay 2012, silver at Sprint and Middle Distance in 2011 and Relay in 2006, 2008 and 2011. World Cup overall winner 2012.

The Athlete of January is one of the world’s leading ski orienteers – an athlete who has reached consistently high levels of performance in recent years. Meet Staffan Tunis, who is facing new challenges now that his family has expanded with the birth of a son in October.

Now 30 years old, Staffan grew up in Vörå, a small town about 35 kilometres from Vaasa on the eastern coastline of Finland. He took part in his first ski orienteering race when he was just 9 years old. “If I remember it correctly, I didn’t find all the controls that time”, he says.

However he very soon got to grips with the necessary technique, won gold medals at Junior World Championships and as a young senior quickly became one of the very best in the world. How has he managed to be successful?  “I think one of the keys is that I’ve been lucky and clever enough to avoid any major injuries during the course of my career. So I have many years of good training behind me. Another reason is that I’m rarely entirely satisfied with my races; I’m always trying to find things to improve”.

VM stafett i skiorientering<br /> Härjedalen i Sverige<br /> Søndag 27. mars 2011<br /> staffan tunis<br /> matti keskinarkaus<br /> matti keskinarkaus

Staffan Tunis became an individual world champion for the first time at the World Championships 2011.
Photo: Erik Borg

– How much do you take part in other sports, for example foot orienteering?

“I think orienteering is a good form of training during the summer. Usually I have at least one orienteering club training or competition every week in summer-time. I also try to do a few cross-country ski races during the winter. Schedule-wise this is sometimes a bit tricky, but it is a fun way to do really hard training”.

-What are the secrets behind your training?

“Simply that I have many good years of training behind me. I believe that in each individual year there has been someone training harder and longer than me. But over a ten-year period, I believe no-one has been training better”.

The new family member

Evert Björn Matias, Jenny and Staffan Tunis’ first child, was born in October. “It is fantastic to see him grow and learn new little things each day”, says Staffan.

What about sleep during the night?

“Naturally it also gives you more to think about, but most of the time our son is good to me and my wife – for example I can only remember one or two nights when he has been awake more than once”.

For the last one-and-a-half years the Finn has been working part-time as an engineer at Wärtsilä, a manufacturer of big diesel and gas engines for ships and power plants. The combination of work and sport is of course tricky, but he thinks it has worked out quite well this far, and the results should prove that.

VM stafett i skiorientering<br /> HÃ?rjedalen i Sverige<br /> SÃ?ndag 27. mars 2011<br /> staffan tunis<br /> jenny tunis

Staffan Tunis and his wife Jenny at the World Championships in Sweden two years ago, where he won two gold medals.
Photo: Erik Borg

Varied travel experiences

What are you best ski orienteering memories?

“I think the nicest competition I’ve ever taken part in is the long distance at the European Championships at Sjusjøen in Norway in 2011. The weather and snow conditions were really good and the course was long and demanding, with long climbs and slopes on both sides of the tree limit. I won the race, but it still nags me that I didn’t manage to have a perfect race there. Another great memory is from the same year when I won my first individual world championship title at middle distance in Tänndalen in Sweden”.

-What is your strangest memory?

“Travelling in eastern Europe is interesting. On every trip you learn something new. It’s hard to say what the strangest thing is: the shiny new buildings of Astana in Kazakhstan, or the fireplaces in the middle of every shop in Dospat in Bulgaria. But I’ll give you my most disappointing karaoke-moment: We in the Finnish team had a really good championships in 2009 in Japan. For example we won the relay. So, when the organizers rolled in a big, fancy karaoke-machine at the banquet we knew exactly what to sing. So, it was a big disappointment to find out that Alphavilles’ old hit song “Big in Japan” was not on the list!”

Feeling good for this winter

Tunis has managed to stay healthy almost all the time this year too, and his training has gone very well. “Having a job and being a father clearly puts some limits to the time you have for training. Life is so-to-say catching up on me! This means that I have to concentrate even harder on doing the right things and on prioritising. For example I do more engineering work during the summer, and during the skiO high season I’m more of a full time ski orienteer.”

-In what kind of way do you think you will be even better than ever this winter?

“In the Finnish team we have done more work on orienteering technical skills than before, so it will be interesting to see how much better we are on that this winter.”

Hopes to peak at World Championships

The European Championships are in Latvia, and the peak of the winter season is the World Championships in Kazakhstan.

What is your ambition for this winter?
“My goal is to keep the position I’ve achieved in the past two years. But I know there are many guys trying their best to beat me; as always, the key is to be in your best shape physically at the World Championships and be able to do several good races in a row there.”

-What is your view on the mixed sprint relay, now a regular ingredient of World Ski Orienteering Championships?

“It is an interesting new competition for sure, and after some fine-tuning I think we’ve now found the right way of doing it. However it does put quite hard requirements on the arena and terrain – for example you need to have interesting orienteering right next to the finish. And it is no short-cut to having more nations at the top of the results lists.”

No plans to stop

Staffan has no plans to stop his ski orienteering career. He wants to carry on at least until the World Championships in Norway in 2015.  “But I really take one year at a time, as long as I enjoy competing”, he says.

-Do you have any wish for this year – as a New Year wish?

“I hope to have nice, snowy and sunny conditions in the competitions this winter. What are the conditions when I’m really at my best? – this is also a tricky question! Maybe I could hope for really icy and fast conditions and courses with very many controls. Of course I also hope that I and my family will stay healthy throughout the winter.”

Best when it really counts

“Generally speaking, I nearly always manage to stay focused and face the orienteering challenge very positively, especially in important competitions. Right from a young age I’ve had my best races in the biggest competitions – and during the past few years I’ve begun to hate losing more and more.”

VM i skiorientering<br /> Mellomdistanse<br /> Onsdag 23. mars 2011<br /> TÃ?nndalen i HÃ?rjedalen i Sverige

Staffan Tunis has his best races when it really counts.
Photo: Erik Borg

Athletes’ questions

Tatiana Ryabkina, Athlete of December, asked Staffan: What do the other skiers have to do to beat you, when you are racing at your best?

When I’m really at my best this is a tricky quest ;-), maybe they could hope for really icy and fast conditions and a course with extremely many controls.

Our next Athlete of the Month is current Orienteering World Cup leader, Jerker Lysell, from Sweden. Staffan wanted to ask Jerker: What is your favourite type of training?

You will hear Jerker’s answer to this and more in the beginning of February.

Text: Erik Borg


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)
August 2012 Marika Hara (FIN)
September 2012 Lizzie Ingham (NZL)
October 2012 Tonis Erm (EST)
November 2012 Marit Wiksell (SWE)
December 2012 Tatiana Ryabkina (RUS)


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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