Interview with Simona Aebersold

3. January 2019

Simona Aebersold is Switzerland’s new orienteering star. The sports and biology student has already won precious gold medals as a junior and is well on her way to following in the big footsteps of Simone Niggli-Luder.

You normally show your peers a clean pair of heels. Where do you feel your advantage lies? 

I have excellent conditions at home with parents who support me and took me along to competitions when I was just a small child. As a result, I was introduced to the sport at an early age and was able to gain my first experiences. I also have super training conditions near my home, what with the national intensive training centre in Berne and the club training in Biel. And I think perhaps the numerous sprints at school also had an impact, since I was always a bit late ;)

In what areas do you still have potential for improvement? How do you go about specifically optimising your performance? 

I certainly have room for improvement in all areas. Since last year I have been doing more specific strength training, which not only helps to prevent injuries but should also naturally build up my speed and stability. I spent a long time in Finland two years ago in order to improve my orienteering technique in the Scandinavian terrain. In the near future I will be focusing on this technique again, this time specifically in the Norwegian terrain. 

What goes through your head/your mind’s eye when you see the map in the race? What thoughts do you have when you're en route? How do you choose your pace to get the maximum out of your performance? What challenges do you come across? 

When I look at the map, I can clearly see how the terrain should look in my mind’s eye. I am naturally always on the lookout for the shortest route to the next control point and the best way to find it. I try to block out thoughts that are distracting or not conducive to the competition. I always need to adapt my tempo to the difficulty of the terrain connecting the respective control points. Thus, if a control point is challenging, my tempo is somewhat slower in order to avoid mistakes. This is the biggest challenge – finding exactly the right tempo to be fast but still minimise mistakes. 

You draw up your training plans yourself and discuss them with your father, who himself was an orienteering World Champion in 1991. What has changed in the orienteering sport over these almost 30 years? What is still the same as back then and what is done differently today?

Orienteering today is without a doubt much more exciting for spectators than back then. Thanks to GPS technology, they can track us to the finish on the big screen and join in the excitement. There are of course also a lot more pictures today in the form of live video recordings taken from the running terrain. Furthermore, the quality of the maps has improved a lot and new technologies are used to precisely illustrate the contour lines, for example. The training, on the other hand, has remained much the same apart from the fact that new forms have been developed and you now know what you could have done better than at that time. GPS technology is also used in training and makes the evaluation easier by enabling you to see 1:1 why a route is faster and where.

Do you have a secret tip you would be willing to share with us?

Milk with honey is the best regeneration drink after a hard training unit. It immediately gives me the required energy again.