Stefano Zappa is the President of the European Obstacle Sports Federation, which oversees the National Federations of over 30 countries in Europe and the very popular OCR European Championships. He is also an experienced obstacle racer who views where our sport is heading, and he is prepared to help lead into the future. We recently had Stefano join us for a few minutes for the next installment of “10 Questions with…
When did you start OCR, and how did you find it?
Back in 2015, when I found out that an Obstacle Race was advertised on social media, it would have taken place not so far from where I was living.
What led you to get involved with FIOCR and then OSF Europe?
I started by taking a course to become a Marshal because I wanted to go to OCREC, and I thought I would never be able to qualify. Then I started meeting people who were involved with FIOCR, and I simply asked if there was anything they needed help with. From there, it has just been an escalation, and I soon found myself taking care of many activities. Then, when election time came for EOSF, some people asked me if I would have liked to submit a candidacy as President, and I did.
As the President of OSF Europe, what are your responsibilities? What is your favorite and least favorite part?
EOSF is a middle-layer Entity between World Obstacle and National Federations; our main job is to bring Countries together and develop Obstacle Sports on European territory. As President, one of my main responsibilities is to cure the relationships with Nationals Federations; I get to know them and make myself be known in order to let them feel they are not alone in their journey toward Sport’s Recognition.
I do love being informed of every little thing, I think knowledge is crucial and being informed of any news from the direct source really gets me excited. Even though I then have to keep the secret and that is difficult!
I sometimes feel the weight of all the time and effort I have to put into this role, but I knew it when I signed up, so I really cannot complain now.
What are your current challenges in OSF Europe?
Since the beginning, the main challenge has been to get a solid contacts network. Pandemic had a very big and bad impact on many Countries and rebuilding has been and still is hard.
Now, the next challenge is to bring everyone to work together and actually do things. There is a lot of stuff to do: first goal is to guide Federations towards Sport’s recognition in their country, while we keep on developing OCR at every level and hopefully for everyone.
I know it has been a few years since the European OCR Championships were held. Tell us what you are expecting this year and how excited are people about the event?
I really really hope to see many athletes join the event after waiting for 3 years! I know people are still a bit afraid of moving around, but I see the situation is improving and I still expect the event to be on the same scale as the pas ones.
We have a huge legacy to uphold to after the wonderful event in Poland in 2019, we are working hard and non-stop to make sure people will enjoy the races and the event as a whole.
People cannot wait to join us in Val Di Fiemme and are looking forward to come to Italy also as a mean to see old friends again and make new connections. Federations are feeling the same way.
How often do you train? How often are you racing?
I must confess I do not train as often as I should to, let’s say 2-3 times a week. Winter always kills my motivation, I really am a summer person. I always reach top condition in July\August when we have almost no race!
Athletes, do not do like me! Winter time is precious to build the next season.
I recently engaged in racing shorter distances: sprints, shorts, up to 4-5 km only. I like overcoming obstacles more than I like running, and there are also a lot more chances to race. I am actually pretty skilled with obstacles. I would say I race every other week, more or less.
Hard to say, every breakthrough I have had: when I joined my team when Italy has been selected to host OCREC, when OCR got attention from IOC.
Rather than a single moment, I would say that one recurrent moment is the party at the end of a race when all tension disappears and beer gets spilled.
What do you see as the short-term and long-term future of OCR in Europe?
In the short term, we have to bring OCR to everyone, including youths and para-athletes. We should give them the proper attention. Everybody involved in the current era should be aware that we are not working for ourselves, but for people who will come later.
I dream and plan for a Europe where all Nations will be at the same level of development and OCR will be on par with more ‘popular’ sports.
When not being the President and racing/training, what do you do for enjoyment and relaxation?
Sleep. Go to the movies. Watch TV shows. Eat outside once in a while. And Happy Hours, they are so much needed sometimes. I do not read much anymore, but I would like to resume it soon.
And of course, I also have a full-time job I pay the bills with! Because no one here is getting paid in any way to ‘work’ in OCR, this is something people seem to forget.
Tell us something about you that we may not know?
I am shy. I was lucky this interview was on paper and not on camera! Be patient with me, everyone, if we meet!
Also, OCR is the top adrenaline activity I engage in. Even rollercoasters are way too much for me. And I used to be afraid of heights, so some obstacles I faced in the past were really challenging. Some people would like me to sky-dive, but…no. Just no. My feet are well placed on the ground or swinging on a multi-rig; this is all I can offer!
Follow Stefano on Instagram: Stefano on Instagram