Dear friends, we're thrilled to announce you that we had an interview with Stefano Raus, Italian HC of orienteering.
In preparation for the races of the second round of the 2024 World Cup to be held in Voltri and Nervi (Genoa) in early June, a group of Italian athletes completed a training camp in the Sanremo area. From 9 to 12 March, timed technical training sessions were held in cooperation with the Norwegian, Finnish, French and British national teams. A total of eight training sessions were carried out over four days, three of which were timed with the use of the Sportident; everything was coordinated by former transalpine world champion Thierry Georgiou, head coach of the Finnish national team. Now let's start with the interview.
How did the Sprint Camp conclude in terms of results? "I noticed several athletes who had worked well during the winter both in terms of athletic training and technical preparation, because these town areas where we raced are very intricate small towns with steep gradients, especially with lots of stairs and arcades. So it was important to have both a good physical base and a good map reading in order to do good races. Places such as Perinaldo, Pigna or Airole are pearls for sprint orienteers, because they have such intricate routes that they put everyone in difficulty, and are very useful for training and comparing route choices. From a collective point of view, it was certainly a very positive training camp with a close-knit, relaxed and competitive atmosphere at the right moments; everyone returned home certainly with a lot of positive feedback that gives a lot of motivation and others that can make them improve."
Who are the foreign orienteers to watch out for/temper? "Among the other national teams were several champions of our sport, including Norway's Kasper Fosser and Finland's Tuomas Heikkilä among the men, and among the women Andrine Benjaminsen and Venla Harju also from Norway and Finland. Then there are other young people who, especially in these Scandinavian countries, are numerous and talented."
What do you think are the opponents' weak points? "Certainly these athletes have come to train here because in their countries there are no sprint terrains like these here where we raced, so they are much less used to it than in these very challenging urban environments; then if it was very hot during the World Cup races it is also a factor that could penalise them. From a physical point of view they are at a very high level, but optimising the map reading to allow them to make the most of their physique is certainly not easy."
What, if you can tell us, are the strong points of our athletes? "First of all, having absolute international races in Italy makes everyone very excited, and this could give an extra boost to the Italian athletes who will be defending our colours in front of the home crowd and on 'home' terrain. Then also the positive results of recent years give confidence and we have done a lot of training in the past in countries or areas similar to those where we will be racing so we could have a benefit from this point of view. Finally, we have nothing to lose so I'm sure everyone will give 110% both in the upcoming training sessions and at the races."
What kind of workouts did you do with the orienteers and how did they go? "We did different workouts, in order we started with a simple sprint course in the centre of Sanremo on Saturday afternoon after the trip there. On Sunday we did three sessions: a sprint in Isolabona, some repeats with a lot of elevation gain in Menton and some mass starts in Airole in the evening. Monday was the day dedicated to simulating a sprint race with qualifying in the morning and the final in the afternoon, in Dolceacqua and Pigna respectively. Finally on Tuesday we closed with two long repeats in Perinaldo and some downhill courses again in Sanremo. The athletes managed the intensities of the sessions well so as not to run out of energy so we managed to complete the fairly intense programme without any problems, and even the weather was not so bad, only a few moments of rain the first few days which did not affect us too badly."
How do you usually structure your training programmes to help athletes improve their skills? "Athletes have their own personal coaches and work on athletic as well as technical and mental aspects; with the national team staff we set up above all a basis for technical preparation, that is, the study of the maps and terrain of the international competitions that will see us engaged this season. Then it is up to the athletes to devote the necessary time to 'study' the terrains, which cannot be visited in person because they are under embargo but can be analysed with tools such as Google Street View or others. In recent years this work has brought excellent feedback both in terms of individual improvement and positive results in the field. We spend a lot of time on this, but if a job bears fruit it means we are on the right track. Obviously we don't have the resources of the Scandinavian teams and can't devote ourselves to the sport as a job, but there is a lot of commitment. In fact, every athlete studies and/or works to be able to train in orienteering in the meantime."
Of the various athletes at your disposal, who do you think will give our opponents the most trouble? "There are also other athletes who were not present at this training camp and have already been in these areas to train, so I think that many of them will be able to compete for a place in the list that will start the World Cup races; in addition to the names mentioned above, it is worth mentioning Francesco Mariani, who spent an excellent winter with many training sessions abroad and who was World Junior Champion in the Sprint discipline in 2021." The next commitments of the Italian National Orienteering Team see the Juniores athletes in the Czech Republic for 6 days at Easter, while the Elite athletes are scheduled for a training camp with selection races and a 3000-metre track test in Gemona del Friuli at the end of April.

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