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26 February 2019 | in Winter Universiade, Ski Orienteering

'Czech' out Ski Orienteering at Krasnoyarsk 2019

“It was always my dream make it to the Olympics and the Universiade is something very similar,” says Markéta Firešová (above), a member of the Czech Ski Orienteering contingent at Krasnoyarsk 2019. She believes the Universiade is a stepping stone, as Ski Orienteering is not yet part of the Winter Olympics programme.

 

In fact, this year marks the very first time that Ski Orienteering is part of the Winter Universiade programme. It is a very popular sport in many Scandinavian countries and was dominated by Norway, Finland, Russia and Czech Republic when the first ever World University Ski Orienteering Championship was organised in Tula, Russia, in 2016.

 

Firešová believes Russia will once again be one of the strongest teams, but she is hoping to put in a top performance herself. Considering she only took up the sport relatively recently, she has already done well.

 

“I started with Ski-O four years ago, when I wanted to try a combination of my favourite sports Orienteering and Cross-Country Skiing,” she says. “I really enjoyed the races and the next year itself I was part of the national team. My best result so far was 15th place in long distance in last year's Junior World Championship in Bulgaria.”

 

Firešová’s compatriot Petr Horvat (right) has been competing for a bit longer, having taken up the sport 11 years ago. For him too, Ski-O was not his first sport.

 
“I do sport since I was a little boy,” he tells us. “I started Swimming because my dad used to and I took up Cross-Country Skiing because my mom and her parents did it.”

 

Ski-O though, he seems to have taken up for himself. “When I was 13, I found out that you can do Orienteering on Skis and I decided I had to try it. My first international competition was the European Youth Championships in Norway in 2011. My skiing was not perfect at that time and I made a lot of mistakes!”

 

His skills have drastically improved since then as he qualified for three consecutive Junior World Championships and finished in the top 20 all three times. His sight is now firmly set on the Universiade.

 

“I'm really looking forward to competing in the Universiade,” says Horvat. “It's the biggest competition of my life, so far. I am expecting top level Ski-O.”

 

Horvat believes the Norwegians have a great team that will surely win a number of medals, but that the home team will also be very strong. Teammate Vojtěch Matuš (left) agrees whole heartedly. He lists he favourites as Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland and of course… Czech Republic!

 

“I’m looking forward to quality races, great atmosphere and unforgettable experiences”, says Matuš, who has competed at several World and European competitions.

 

The Czech squad also includes two self-professed mountain bike orienteers, Veronika Kubinova and Vaclav Snuparek.

 

“My main sport is MTBO,” Kubinova (right) reveals. “Last year I was third in the World Championships. It was a really good result if you consider that it was my first year at elite level.”

 

Kubinova is also a Cross-Country Ski enthusiast, so she thought it was a natural progression to also take up Ski-O. She’s glad she did, because she now gets to participate in the Universiade.

 

“I am so excited about the Universiade,” she says. “I am sure there will be an amazing spirit between students from all over the world. I look forward to getting to know other cultures, especially Russian.”

 

Like Kubinova, Snuparek (below) too is an accomplished athlete in MTBO but is delighted with the opportunity to be part of the Ski-O contingent at the Universiade.

 

“I am a member of the national team in MTBO and my best achievements are finishing 2nd and 3rdin Junior World Championships,” says Snuparek, who has already proved that nothing is impossible. Despite having Type 1 Diabetes, he is a succesful elite athlete.

 

 

The pedigree and the drive is unquestionable then, but the question is – what are his expectations in Ski-O?

 

“In Ski-O we (Czech) were 5thin the relay at the Junior World Championships,” is the reply. “And as a youth, I was 3rd at the European Championships.” 

 

The message is clear: they are serious contenders. Ski Orienteering begins with the Sprint and Pursuit on 3 March. The entire competition schedule can be found here. The Raduga Cluster, which hosts the Ski-O competition is a massive multifunctional sports complex that comprises of several facilities dedicated to the Winter Universiade 2019. Have a sneak peek at it, in the video below!

 

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