Thierry Gueorgiou

Thierry Gueorgiou - photo © Jan Skricka
  • 30 March 1979
  • Saint-Étienne (France)
  • Master of Appllied Ecology and Ethology
  • Police lieutenant assigned to Maison Alfort (like 190 athletes from the Ministry of Defense)
  • 2009

Orienteering: a dream come true
«There has never been anything like the feeling I had when I won my first World Champion title in 2003 at Rapperswil, Switzerland. That day was a dream come true. But the six other titles that followed also have their own story and their own journey. I fell into orienteering on an orienteering course when I was young. When I was four years old, my father had already put a compass in my hands. Since then, I have found that competing is where I find the necessary adrenaline to push myself. It’s all about discovering new places that fascinates me. In 2003, when I achieved my childhood dream of crossing the finish line a winner, I have realized that the reward was not just the medal but the entire road that I had travelled to get there. And because my race was not absolutely perfect, I’m back to work with the sole purpose of finding this utopian perfection. Since then, the only time when I feel truly alive is when I am in the heart of the forest trying to reach my limits.»

My motto: If you dream it, you can do it
«Today, my primary objective is to help people live the dream. Of course, the best way to achieve this is to win races and if possible, the World Championships. But the pleasure I get when I receive an e-mail from a young person who tells me he saw me running and he wants me to become world champion is much greater than the moment when I put the medal around my neck. Unconsciously, there is a certainly a desire to prolong my childhood. I am well aware that these past years have been unexpected. This is not ‘real life’. Clearly this is an exceptional chapter with its freedom and carefree lifestyle. I have always been a bit of a loner and I like having full control of my destiny, without putting any blame on others. Since my childhood I have always enjoyed spending time in the woods. What I love more than anything is not knowing what is waiting for me around the next bend. That’s the beauty of this activity, that every time I compete there is a new playground and a new experience. There is no point of oversaturation.  The hardest thing for me is to overcome the frustration I feel when I fail. Obviously, that has been a key to my success. I believe that if, after a bad performance, I can’t fall asleep easily then I will never reach the top. But I’m often too hard on myself. I should try to take it easier on myself. I have relatively little time to devote to other activities but my fishing rod is one of the things that I will never leave behind when I travel. I have never found a better way to relax before a competition.»
My territory
«Scandinavia is the Mecca of orienteering due to the quality and quantity of the terrain. But the area around New York is also worth a side trip. In France, we can’t complain either with jewels like the old lava flows around Clermont or the area around Larzac.Each winter, in preparation for the competition season, I spend several weeks in the Larzac area. We can’t really say that it’s the best tourist spot… but, when I do my night sessions with my headlamp, I feel truly privileged because the contact with nature there is unique. Everything is so quiet and suddenly we come across a sounder of wild boar or some deer, and again the quiet, it’s like the feeling of being the only person on Earth.»
My source of inspiration
«In fact, I think it’s pretty simple. I am eternally unsatisfied. Whenever I reach a goal I savour the accomplishment for ten seconds and then immediately I am making plans for the next thing. I can’t be happy with what I have. As always, we must above all be passionate because the road can sometimes seem long. In addition, we must not be too complacent and always be able to see ourselves as we truly are rather than how others see us. Because the image that you have of me is often too positive and out of touch with reality or with what I see. I think that we cannot succeed in an orienteering race if there is not this constant search for perfection and clearly it’s an important part of who I am. What I love more than anything are the benefits of my training, when I discover a new particularly demanding area, when I am alone in my car with the music blasting… These moments are priceless, I am simply happy.
My strength in orienteering racing is transposed on the countryside where the technical difficulty is extreme, where each loss of concentration is penalised by a loss of time. With experience, I have learned to rely on this when it really counts: D-Day, the day of the World Championships. Generally, the people who inspire me most are my opponents against whom I compete. So I will quote Switzerland’s Daniel Hubmann, because it was he who pushed me the farthest in my thinking and who forced me to find my limits. So I have great respect for him as well as the other competitors because without them I would not be what I am. I believe in the principle that there is something to be taken from each experience, each conversation. I like to know everyone’s story, the challenges he has faced and how he got there. I think that we can avoid a lot of pitfalls when we take inspiration from other people’s lives.»
A desire to build something new and to work on something that will last
«It’s a bit obvious, I feel close to high-level orienteers who share what I see on a daily basis. I always enjoy welcoming foreign racers to my home and giving them advice. It is also one of the goals I have set for myself before I finish my career: to pass the knowledge that I have accumulated over the past 15 years through meetings, workshops and competitions. Currently I am especially trying to help young people. The door of my classes is always wide open and I’m always happy to have company during my training sessions. I feel that I have a sort of mission. I was one of the first to beat the Scandinavians on their home turf and I have a lot of empathy for the Scandinavian racers who have fewer opportunities to succeed. So it’s a priority for me to try to help them.  In a few years when I have more time in my sports career I see myself coaching a group of orienteers in Sweden, in an orienteering sports studies course, or train the French team if the French Federation allows me. This is something I would enjoy because if I am successful in identifying those things that make me successful then I can show that some of my beliefs are universal. My ultimate dream would be that orienteering racing becomes more popular and grows beyond the insiders.»
The story of Thierry
«I think the most surreal scene I have ever lived through took place in the relay event at the World Championships in Hungary in 2009. I was leading the race with five kilometres to go alongside a Swede, a Norwegian and a Czech. After so many years of unsuccessful attempts it seemed like victory was in my hands. Then, in a fraction of a second, the scenario changed dramatically. I see the Swede, Martin Johansson, who ran below me and to the side, fall to the ground and start screaming in pain. When I was able to reach him I realised he had a branch, three centimetres in diameter, sticking into his quadriceps. When the Norwegian and Czech runners arrived shortly thereafter, we decided to remove it. I took off my race bib to compress the wound but at this moment I realised the gravity of the situation. When I removed the wooden stick from his thigh it was endless, at least 15 centimetres long… My biggest fear was that this would end in a blood bath. The Swede lost consciousness several times but we managed to carry him up to a nearby road to wait for first aid. The wait was long, but the Norwegian racer who had gone to get the organisers at the finish area finally arrived with medical assistance. The Swede was taken to a local hospital and was racing again a few months later. Along with my Czech and Norwegian counterparts, we finished the race still shaken up by this wild scenario. Our places at the finish, 26th, 27th and 28th, were anecdotal even though we would have all won a medal. Incidents like these are fortunately rare but the memory I have of that day is how, in only an instant, we can find ourselves in an emergency situation. Seconds before my rival fell I was thinking only about the best strategy to beat him. In a fraction of a second I found myself at his side, holding his hand and doing everything I could to keep him conscious.»

picto plus Major ascents

- Seven-time World Orienteering Champion, five-time European Orienteering Champion, 2003 – 2009
- World Middle Distance Orienteering Champion (Miskolc, Hungary) and 2d place World Long Distance Orienteering (Miskolc, Hungary) 2009

picto rss Other informations

"Learning to Fly" autobiography, 2011


picto photo Photos

picto video Videos