The best orienteering runners “flirt” with the woods of Ticino

Several stars of orienteering have been training in our canton over the last months

Daniel Hubmann, Tove Alexandersson, Natalia Gemperle, William Lind and Sebastian Inderst: these are just some of the big stars of orienteering running that have been spotted in Ticino over the last few months and who are training for the next European Orienteering Championships, which will take place from 5 to 13 May 2018.

Swiss runners have obviously had more opportunity to be in the woods of Ticino: exploiting the fact that the championships will take place in Switzerland, they often participate to local competitions and trainings. In particular Daniel Hubmann (SUI), the seven-time world champion, has decided to temporarily move to Lugano: “The grounds of Ticino present very specific characteristics, with many very steep slopes and types of rocks that you need to get used to”. Also Sabine Hauswirth (SUI) sees EOC2018 as her main achievement during the next season: the 32-year-old admits that “in order to be successful in the woods of Ticino you have to be able to run well uphill, downhill and also on the coast of the mountains”, says the athlete from Bern, third in the general World Cup 2017, and who this winter will travel to South Africa to train for the next season.

But not only Swiss athletes. Also Fins, Russians, Danes, Norwegians, Austrians and Italians have recently been organized training camps in our region. The Swedish team, among the strongest at an international level along with the Swiss and the Danes, has already been to Ticino in two occasions, thus having a first contact with our maps and grounds, clearly much steeper that the Northern plains that they are used to: “Although I have already been here (Tenero) in 2005 for the Junior World Orienteering Championships, I find that reading local orienteering maps is always quite difficult: you must be able to distinguish what is important and what not, since the maps have many details, such as rocks and roots” says the Swede William Lind (SWE), bronze on long distance at the world championships in Estonia. He is echoed by the fellow-country-woman Tove Alexandersson (SWE), winner of the latter world cup and three gold medals at the last world championships: “the grounds are very difficult and technical, it is difficult to do orienteering here. I am sure that the competition of May will be very amusing” declares the Swede, who convincingly states that she has enjoyed training in the woods of Ticino.

Similarly, Natalia Gemperle (RUS) is convinced that the competitions of May will be difficult and spectacular: the Russian, who has already been twice to our region, once with her husband and once with a compatriot, says “The choice of routes from one control point to another will be difficult and interesting”. Natalia also admits that a possible difficulty will be the “green and dense vegetation, which will create difficulties in running: for this reason you must be physically well-trained”.  

Except the big names of orienteering, also the Italian neighbors are looking forward to the championships, which represent an interesting possibility for Italian athletes: “Morphology and vegetation and very similar to the ones we have in Italy “says Daniele Pagliari (ITA), trainer of the Italian national team. The athlete with the most ambitions is Sebastian Inderst (ITA): born and grown up in Ticino, this young athlete runs with the Italian team due to his double passport. Despite the fact that he is familiar with the local woods, he admits that the grounds “are difficult and steep, you often have to run along mountain slopes and for this you need a good feeling with heights that you normally don’t need”.

Everybody is therefore getting ready for a European Championship that is expected to be very spectacular and rich of competition. Who will prevail?

By Diego Baratti