The United States of America Mountain Bike Orienteering Team (US MTBO Team) made their seventh attempt (since 2012) to make a statement at the 2018 World MTBO Championships in Waldviertel, Austria from August 5-13, 2018.
Spoiler Alert: It did not go well.
Here are the WMTBOC 2018 Overall Results (Event – Finishing Place/Total Finishers) of all five US MTBO Team riders:
- MIDDLE – 61/64
- MASS – 78/78
- RELAY – NA
- LONG – 65/68
- SPRINT – 69/80
- MIDDLE – 37/44
- MASS – 32/36
- RELAY – 10/10
- LONG – 28/35
- SPRINT – 41/45
- MIDDLE – 38/44
- MASS – 33/36
- RELAY – NA
- LONG – 31/35
- SPRINT – 36/45
- MIDDLE – 40/44
- MASS – 31/36
- RELAY – 10/10
- LONG – 29/35
- SPRINT – 38/45
- MIDDLE – 43/44
- MASS – 34/36
- RELAY – 10/10
- LONG – 33/35
- SPRINT – 42/45
So, what happened THIS TIME?
There is no disputing that the past seven American MTBO teams have had little success at the World MTBO Championships.
Since 2012, we have finished — both Men and Women Elite teams — in Last Place since starting this International MTBO experiment.
The problem is no longer our inexperience of how World MTBO competition works.
Our problem is now in our inability to stop and ask ourselves “Why is what we are doing not working”?
Are we sending the right MTBO athletes?
Let’s start with why sending this year’s US MTBO Team was a bad idea.
When Orienteering USA (OUSA) announced that five members of the 2018 US MTBO Team, there were no surprises.
Since Orienteering USA has never set up a way to gauge an MTBO athlete’s skill level, the only riders that ask to go are the same riders that did not perform well in past World MTBO Championships.
Nothing against those athletes wanted to “try again” but the results speak for themselves.
And YEARS of results speak volumes.
However, Orienteering USA’s broken racing resume process makes it impossible for anyone to know if they would perform any different this time.
Maybe they spent the past 9-months since the last WMTBOC working their backside off, racing in everything, hiring a coach, getting a better bike, and becoming a completely different athlete.
It can and has been done.
But if all I am looking at is racer submitted race resumes — and not national MTBO results — I have no idea what kind of rider I am sending to another country the represent the United States of American in international competition.
I only have their self-submitted race resume and their word that they can get the job done.
That job being, of course, capable of riding competitively in World MTBO competition.
You would think someone at Orienteering USA would take a moment to reflect on that concept.
But you would be wrong.
It was this revelation alone that was the impetus to why I made the case for NOT sending a team to the World MTBO Championships this year.
Unfortunately, Orienteering USA did not listen.
Are we setting the right example?
Seeing the team at the opening ceremony was another cause for concern.
The World MTBO Championships includes an opening ceremony that is very similar to the opening ceremony at the Olympics.
All athletes participate in this ceremony by carrying their Nation’s flag, wearing their team uniforms, and being the best representatives of their home country while in the host country.
Photos from this event showed the US MTBO Team dressed in what could only be described as “MTBO Tourist” attire.
Did Orienteering USA not prepare them for the protocol?
Did they lose their luggage and not put their jerseys in their carry on?
Did Orienteering USA not provide them with an official whose sole purpose is to make them look good?
In fact, if you go back through all the US MTBO Teams in all the World MTBO Championship Opening Ceremonies (and the World Masters MTBO Championships) you find an assortment of mismatched uniforms, one-off shirt ideas, and no symmetry.
Meanwhile, MTBO teams from other countries — countries that are always on the podium — LOOK like a team.
Even their cycling kits are complete, unlike the US MTBO Team that only has Orienteering USA jersey tops.
Where are the complete Orienteering USA cycling jersey top AND bib bottoms?
To answer these questions, I compared them to other Orienteering USA teams racing internationally.
Other US Orienteering Teams all wear the approved Orienteering USA uniform for opening ceremonies complete with Orienteering USA officials in Orienteering USA approved polo shirts.
So why the stark differences in attire?
One might say that Orienteering USA cares enough about their MTBO team as they do about the entire MTBO discipline.
Which, if you haven’t noticed yet, is not much.
What kind of small changes can you make to start getting a team to start racing as a team?
One way is to have Orienteering USA outfitting MTBO athletes the same way as they do all their other athletes.
They should be presenting and providing a unified international racing attire — on and off the race course — when they allow their teams to compete in other countries.
Instead, the optics look bad, and there is no one to blame but Orienteering USA.
Are we even interested in what they do?
The results that came out of the event in Austria were not good.
And each additional race results posting became more and more depressing.
But then there were the US MTBO Team and Orienteering USA reaction to the results.
The US MTBO Team Facebook page had 7 posts about the team in Austria from August 1st to August 13th.
While the Orienteering USA Facebook page had 1 post — the post that said “Good Luck” the week before the event.
ONE POST IN TWO WEEKS!
That is a crying shame and the Orienteering USA social media person should be fired!
You don’t send an American team into World Championship competition and only talk about it ONE TIME on social media.
Unless it’s about FOOT ORIENTEERING?
Orienteering USA posted seven times about the World Orienteering Championships in Latvia — an international event taking place during the same time as the World MTBO Championships.
SEVEN POSTS to ONE!
Again, seven is not great either.
But this goes to show you just how much of a priority MTBO is to Orienteering USA.
The short answer — not much.
Are we pretending there isn’t a problem with our retrospection?
Are we too sensitive to admit that seven years of poor performance is something we should not be applauding?
Or does Orienteering USA just not care how the US MTBO Team performs to do something about it?
Take these recent US MTBO Team posting on Facebook about the their performance at the World MTBO Championships:
- I’m definitely rusty
- The first day of MTBO racing is always the toughest
- Race proved to be super tough
- We congratulate the U.S. MTBO Team for their tenacity and precision
- The Sprint race, a favorite for the U.S. team
- My navigation for the Long Distance race went smoothly
- It was my best race so far
- It’s such a challenging sports
- I feel like I’m constantly learning something new in every race
- Physically and mentally tough
- I get to compete against the best in the world
- Team USA’s confidence was boosted with today’s Relay race
- Overall improved times
- The official results are out and Team USA has placed 10th
- Awesome coverage looks like an amazing event
Congratulated for their tenacity and precision?
Their navigation went smoothly?
Overall improved times?
Are we being real with these results or are we pretending that what just happened — for the seventh time — was an illusion?
There are accomplishments that every athlete feels they have made and many of those are personal to that athlete.
However, when you spin a 10th place finish into a positive — when the 10th place was actually last place to include a huge deficit between 9th and 10th — the real results tell a very different story.
A story that shows just how out-of-touch the US MTBO Team and Orienteering USA are which these latest results.
These Facebook posts — and the lack of any retrospection in them — show the sunny side of the problem: Not even the team going to the WMTBOC is impacted about their performance to do anything about it.
Do we really want to send another MTBO Team to Denmark 2019?
No more teams should be allowed to go to the World MTBO Championships until this problem is fixed.
If Orienteering USA — and by proxy the United States of America — wants to be taken seriously when it comes to International Mountain Bike Orienteering, it HAS TO REBUILD its entire MTBO program.
Which means that Orienteering USA will first need to HAVE an MTBO program to rebuild!
So build one!
If there is no effort to change the way we select American MTBO athletes before they go to the WMTBOC, then last weeks WMTBOC results will repeat themselves.
We do not need to select another US MTBO Team to represent the United States in 2019.
Better to work on fixing our broken selection process now and NOT send another team, then to allow another group of MTBO Tourists to get defeated in Denmark in 2019.
Either get serious about American MTBO or stop pretending you care!
You’re not fooling anyone anymore.