My best Jukola memory

Just a couple of minutes after the flower ceremony of the WOC 2003 Middle distance, I was asked by one of the journalists the following question: “And what is your next dream now?” Without a single moment of hesitation I answered: “To win Jukola with Kalevan Rasti.” From this moment, there was not a single day where I wouldn’t think about this race. At the beginning of the season, when I was deciding about my goals for 2004, I set Jukola at the very top of my list, on the same level as the World Championships.

Starting the last leg of Jukola in the lead, together with Emil Wingstedt from Halden SK, was a very nice, but not painfree, experience, offered by the excellent work of my teammates. The biggest part of my race felt like being stuck in the corner of a boxing ring with Mike Tyson. At almost any time, I could put a step in front of him. When you run a relay, it is always important that your opponent knows that you are here and that you can follow his speed without a single problem. Ideally, you need to put some pressure on him. This kind of fight, this man-to-man battle, is first and foremost a mental one. The idea in this situation is always the same: to make your opponent fight not only against the terrain, but also his imagination. Then, you have a little better chance to succeed.

But up to the spectator control, with only 3 kilometres to go, I had the feeling of not having a single chance, nowhere to hide. But realizing that I was coming closer to the finish line was like a wake-up call, I was getting closer to my biggest dream – winning the Jukola. It was exactly what I needed to stimulate something deep inside, a kind of ‘survival instinct’ that gave me the energy to fight.

Everything happened in the last two controls, where we were both running as fast as we could. I got the time to prepare those legs beforehand and barley not read the map at all. I got a small edge on Emil before the last control and keep it up to the very end.

Little by little, I realized that finally our dream was coming true – Kalevan Rasti was going to be a Jukola winner team. Meeting my teammates on the way and crossing the finish together as winners was the best feeling I had experienced in orienteering. Seeing a mix of tears and happiness in the eyes of my teammates and coaches still means a lot to me even today. And when I was leaving the competition arena of Jukola 2004, I thought I could die peacefully, because I was a Jukola winner!!

Thierry Gueorgiou 
13-time World champion and Jukola relay winner 2004, 2005, 2007, 2013 and 2014
Twitter: @tgueorgiou