Interview with Simone Niggli-Luder
She is considered the best orienteer of all time and, since 2001, has won an unbelievable 23 gold medals at the world championships. The biologist set new standards in orienteering and, since the end of her active career, she has been a fully dedicated athlete-ambassador for the development aid agency Right to Play, as well as ambassador for Biovision, the foundation for ecological development.
You can look back on an extremely successful career. What were the most important aspects, in your eyes, that brought you so far and so much success?
There are always many pieces of the puzzle that have to fit together. The first important aspect is health. I am lucky that I was largely able to enjoy a career without major injury. This was definitely an important building block to success.
Like the slogan "no pain, no gain", it wouldn't have been possible for me without many years' regular training in the most diverse of areas. Not only the physical foundations have to be right, but also the technical and mental aspects, which I worked on in many training centres and during dry runs at home. I was - and probably still am ;-) an ambitious person, who has always given one hundred per cent in order to achieve my goals.
Another important aspect was my super-effective and supportive environment, which became all the more indispensable as the family increased.
And last but not least, I would like to mention the enjoyment of my sport, which kept me in performance sport and at the top for such a long time. Without this enthusiasm for training and competitions, such a long, successful career would not have been possible.
Are there things which you would have done differently in the light of the experience you have today, if you could turn back the clock?
If you’ve been world champion 23 times, I think there’s not much that you’ve done wrong ;-). I followed my path and every little detour had its sense and was important for my development. Naturally the entire sport has developed further and, for example, training opportunities in Bern for orienteers have greatly increased. Looking back, there was one really exciting thing I could have chosen: residential studies in an orienteering school in Sweden. I would recommend this option today to young orienteers who want to progress to the next level. Later, I moved to Sweden for six months and "caught up". It really was a fantastic experience.
Can you give us an overview of your training at that time?
I increased my training continuously year upon year, finally training mostly twice a day. One training session involved running - depending on my goal - on roads, on forest tracks or cross-country. The majority of the training runs took place in hilly areas and mostly on uneven ground, stimulating the necessary coordination. As part of this, I also did foot and stability exercises to prevent injuries, such as from tripping over. The second training session each day consisted either of power training or alternative training. Twice a week I did power training sessions, one of which included running and jumping exercises. I also used to train core strength several times per week. Alternative training consisted of aqua jogging, spinning, cycling and long-distance running. In training centres, the focus was on map training, where we completed two technical training sessions per day. From home I completed one to two map training sessions per week.
What are your three most important tips for an amateur who would like to take part in orienteering?
Equipment-wise you don't need much to be able to start orienteering: jogging trousers, a T-Shirt and sturdy trainers and you're ready to go! I would suggest starting out at a club training or in a small orienteering competition, perhaps in a group. You have to learn the symbols on the orienteering map at the outset, but it won’t be long before you’re heading towards the first orange and white flags in the forest on your first attempt.
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