This year is a great opportunity to experience orienteering alongside the world elite in June, first in Helsinki O-Games in Vihti and a few days later in the center of Helsinki at Senate Square. This is also known by Petteri Kähäri, Head Coach of the Finnish Orienteering Federation, who tells about the preparation of athletes for the season and the World Cup selection process. World Cup competitions in Finland tops off in a sprint relay in the center of Helsinki and Kähäri is also waiting for a great sports event at the “big church”.
The World Cup and the summer races are approaching. An important milestone seems to be the opening of the World Cup in Vihti and the Senate Square in Helsinki. How are the athletes prepared for the coming season?
The coaching of our top athletes during the basic training period has gone without major grief. Based on test results, many have taken the big steps forward. In January-April, the national team’s camp has been slightly different from previous years. We had two joint camps with a young national team in Portugal and Italy, and two camp centers in Portugal and Norway, organized by the top clubs. In addition, top athletes have spent tens of days in their club camps as well as in their own camps.
What is the significance of the World Cup for athletes?
For top athletes, World Championships are naturally first goal of the season, but World Cups have also a place in goal setting for athletes. The World Cup overall competition itself – or, for example, the top 10-20 ranking – is a goal for a few, but individual races are more relevant to many in regards of giving international display and career development. It will certainly be a tough competition in June, especially in terms of forest competition. When considering the WOC held only 2 months after the competitions in Nuuksio, these races will give excellent insight on the potential capabilities of the athletes as the terrain is quite relevant to that in Norway. A strong show in Nuuksio is a “tough currency” for the World Championships. The autumn MC tour in Switzerland and in China are sprint orientered and the focus has been shifted more or less towards the sprint.
What do you think about the fact that Finnish top orienteers meet other world tops at Senate Square in the center of Helsinki?
The fact that you are running an international orienteering race at the heart of Helsinki is a great thing in itself and an opportunity to bring out orienteering as a sport. There will certainly be thousands of people on the spot, which will bring a unique feeling to the race. The encouragement of the home audience a great support for our own athletes. Whether you are a more or less experienced athlete, focusing on your own performance is ultimately the essential thing even in the middle of the crowd and all the encouraging. The area itself is certainly not so familiar to many of our athletes that it would bring the actual benefit. While preparing for the sprint race, there is a more equal position with others: old maps and aerial photos are available to everyone.