The voice of the athletes

Posted on | November 7, 2016 | Category: News

Many different factors are taken into account when the future shape of orienteering is developed. One of the important groups is the athletes. Oleksandr Kratov and Christian Spoerry evaluate their time in two different Athletes’ Commissions.

Orienteering is in constant development. One of the more important voices when new decisions are made is that of the athletes. Therefore, each of the four disciplines has an Athletes’ Commission consisting of 5-7 elite athletes advising the IOF Council on matters concerning athletes.

One who has contributed with the athletes’ point of view is Christian Spoerry from Switzerland. Being a part of the SkiO Athletes’ Commission since 2007 has taught him that it requires hard work when many different views have to be taken into account:

– I have worked a lot on the world ranking system and improving event quality within SkiO. Many things have improved during the last ten years, but sometimes I wish it would go faster and a bit differently, Christian Spoerry says.

The four Athletes’ Commissions don’t have exactly the same routines, but normally they meet a couple of times during the season at main events and discuss topics brought forward by their respective discipline commissions. Often the discussion is followed up by email-conversations and writing suggestions to the discipline commission members.


Are you listening?

The FootO Athletes’ Commission will experience quite a few changes in the new year. Three runners have decided to resign and three new will replace them. Ukrainian Oleksandr Kratov is one of the three resigning. He still remembers how it was to join the commission:

– I was really positive when I got the offer to join the commission in 2015. It sounded interesting and I imagined it would be a good experience. Coming from Ukraine, I could contribute with the point of view from a smaller orienteering nation, Oleksandr Kratov says.

Christian Spoerry won a bronze medal at the sprint at the European SkiO Champions 2016. Photo:

Christian Spoerry won a bronze medal at the Sprint at the European SkiO Championships 2016. Photo: Christian Aebersold

The Athletes’ Commissions try to be diverse in gender and nationality. Oleksandr Kratov mentions for instance Lizzie Ingham, representing New Zealand, having made her mark on issues about where to place World Cups.

After only one year in the Athletes’ Commission, Oleksandr Kratov has decided to resign. A job with the Ukrainian national team requires more of his time, but another reason for stopping is that he does not feel he could bring about much change in the position:

– I do not feel I have brought much the last year. It is a great idea with a representative body for the athletes; the question is how much influence the commission actually has? I worked on some issues where I felt confident but I had wished for more response from the decision makers, Oleksandr Kratov explains.

He points out that it is his personal view, and after having spent only one year in the commission, his impression might be wrong.

Christian Spoerry retired from international SkiO this season, so he is resigning from the Athletes’ Commission as well. He agrees partly with some of Oleksandr Kratov’s points:

– I feel I could contribute a lot in some areas, such as rules and mapping. In other questions, such as event quality and event adviser duties, I feel our view has been overlooked and in some cases, such as the latest event program changes in SkiO, the Athletes’ Commission was not involved as I would have liked, Christian Spoerry says.

Oleksandr Kratov has participated in all WOCs since his debut in Denmark 2006. Photo.

Compromises are the only option

President of the IOF Leho Haldna admits that there is space for improvement, but that it also has to come from the athletes themselves:

– The Athletes’ Commissions should be a link between the athletes and the IOF. I think there is a lot of space for improvement from the IOF Council’s side and from the athletes. Together we need to agree on our working methods, especially how the athletes’ opinions are collected and evaluated.  We are working on the issue and we will present the results soon, Leho Haldna says.

At the same time, the president points out that the athletes are an important group when it comes to developing the sport, but that other interests such as TV, regional development and organizers costs must be taken into account as well:

– We have a lot of different interested parties in our sport. Athletes are of course an important and influential group, but the IOF Council has to balance the interests of all parties to make the best decision for orienteering. Our sport cannot be driven by only one influential group. An example could be the choice of WOC venues. You can have

an arena in mind that would be good for the course planning but if it cannot be

Changes in the Athletes’ Commissions before next season:

Out: Marek Pospisek
In: Vojtěch Ludvík

Out: Amélie Chataing (FRA), Baptiste Rollier (SUI) and Oleksandr Kratov(UKR)
In: Not decided yet

Out: Christian Spoerry (SUI) and Tatiana Rvacheva(RUS).
In: Andrey Lamov(RUS), Milka Reponen(FIN) and Sandro Truttmann(SUI)

Out: Lauri Kontkanen(FIN)
In: Not decided yet

combined with the live-TV requirements, it will not work, Leho Haldna says.

During his ten years in the SkiO Athletes’ Commission, Christian Spoerry has experienced what it can be like when interests conflict:

– Sometimes, keeping the costs for participants low to attract as many participants as possible conflicted with still having good event quality and media exposure, he says about major SkiO events.

Both Oleksandr Kratov, Christian Spoerry and President Leho Haldna agree that the Athletes’ Commissions are of high importance and think their input should be taken seriously. The last words go to a resigning member:

– I think it is absolutely essential for a fair and developing sport to get input from the athletes and the Athletes’ Commissions are a good instrument for that. I hope that this resource is also well used in the future, Christian Spoerry says.


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