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Finland in Rio

August 18, 2016

Well, we’re entering the final stretch of the Rio Olympics already. Team Finland sent 54 athletes to Rio with most of the medal contenders being women. Thus far their performances have produced only one medal and the English language media in the country has been strangely quiet on reporting anything about Finland’s athletes at the games. Actually it has been a bit underwhelming for Finland, and the upsets and surprises have come from other countries. It’s not that Finland is bad (and whoever says so is wrong), it’s just that everyone else has upped their game.

Finland captured its first medal yesterday, a bronze in women’s boxing, courtesy of Mira Potkonen! Finland’s other medal hope lay with last year’s World Championship silver medalist, Petra Olli in women’s wrestling (60kg), but she was unfortunately eliminated from competition in the early rounds. She was incredibly disappointed. The women’s 60kg class is definitely one of the most competitive in women’s wrestling!

While Finland has traditionally been a powerhouse in men’s javelin, only Antti Ruuskanen qualified for the final. Ruuskanen, was incidentally upgraded to a silver medal for London 2012 on August 10 because of a doping infraction by the Ukranian thrower, Oleksander P’yatnytsya). The IOC delivered its verdict here.

Elite athletes face tremendous pressure to perform when it comes to crunch time and I wonder if this time, the pressure was just too much for some of Finland’s best. They were expected to perform and fell a little short in the end. The other question I have is, are we supporting Finland’s athletes enough? These days it seems to be the women who are stepping up and meeting the mark as far as competitiveness goes. We all know that Finland’s female athletes deserve far more attention and coverage than the press currently gives them. (I hope to correct that here, in this blog – and share some names of both Finnish women and men who are too underrated for the sporting performances they put in. Look for it.) The other thing is is that Finland is still largely a winter sporting nation, where its athletes are given far more attention than the summer sporting crew.

I’d like to see more attention paid to coaches as well, because athletes do not get where they are without their coaches. I hope that is something else I have time to rectify, seeing how I am a coach, I feel we all deserve a little more recognition for the hours we put into shaping tomorrow’s stars.😉

I guess I can sum it up by saying I had high expectations for Finland at the Rio games, but I suppose I was poisoned by the media hype. The team will come back and reflect, do better and make space (hopefully) for the up-and-comers. The future is theirs.

Summer festivals draw thousands to small rural communities

August 4, 2016

Summer happenings and events in small communities across the country make the population swell! Today’s Helsingin Sanomat rang up the numbers of several events across the country that bring thousands of people to small communities and temporarily increase the population many times over.

Have you ever been to any of these events? (Some of these are definitely on my bucket list!*)

*The World Swamp Soccer Championships in Hyrynsalmi every July. The population of Hyrynsalmi is 2420 and the town receives 30 000 (!) during the tournament. Wow!

The Kaustinen Folk Music Festival that lasts a week every July. Kaustinen is home to 4288 people, but receives nearly 17 000 visitors.

*The Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä is held every June. Some 28 000 people take in the film festival and come from all corners of the globe to see it.

The Strawberry Carnival in Suonenjoki attracts about 20 000 visitors every July. The population is normally 7370.

Sonkajärvi‘s place on the map is sealed with the annual Wife Carrying World Championships, held every July. More than 7000 people visit, nearly tripling the population of the town.

Sulkava (pop. 2707) is host to Finland’s largest annual rowing event, the Sulkava Rowing Race, held every July and attacting more than 4000 people every year.

Joutsa doubles its population (4698) during the annual Joutopäivät (a music festival) held the first weekend of July.

Kuhmo (pop. 8745) also nearly doubles its population with the annual Chamber Music Festival. The two-week event is held every July.

Surely there are logistical challenges (hotels are full and the shelves in the stores are empty), but the economic windfalls are definitely a benefit for these places. You gotta love it!

Loma loppuu!

August 4, 2016

The holidays have come and gone, so the radio silence is over!

I just got back from a three and a half week holiday back home in northern Ontario (Canada) and it was super great to be home! I’d have to say this was the best holiday ever back home, we saw and did a lot – mostly in local places. We did, however, go somewhere new (for the Mr. and the Little Miss) – Ottawa (Canada’s capital) and to a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game. The Mr. made a concerted effort to understand more about the game and I even think he enjoyed himself when we went to the game in Toronto on July 29.🙂

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In any case, I have an entry ready to go, and that’s up next!

Life in Finland continues, as I continue to recover from jet lag, which seems to worse this time around than any time before… Watch this space.

Happy Midsummer!

June 23, 2016

It’s nearly here. Juhannus, aka Midsummer – the traditional kick-off of summer in Finland and it looks like parts of Finland will get the summery weather to go with it! It’s a long weekend here, so today people will begin the exodus to the countryside and tomorrow everything will be closed.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish a happy Midsummer to everyone. Stay safe, don’t drink and drive (or boat) and arrive alive! Oh, and wear sunscreen!😉

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Police officer deaths in Finland (updated)

June 21, 2016

Last week on June 17, a police officer was killed in a confrontation with an armed man in Vihti. The suspect (who was later found dead on the property of a suspected suicide), was known to police and opened fire on the two reporting police officers without warning. The second officer was wounded seriously, but is said to be recovering well from his injuries. Four other officers were also caught up in the confrontation but did not suffer any injuries.

The death of the 30 year-old officer is the first since 2007, when a 20 year-old drunk driver ran down an officer in Kälviä in central Pohjanmaa. The offender was sentenced to five years in prison.

One of the most infamous police killings in Finland was in 1997. Danish criminal Steen Christensen gunned down two officers in Helsinki after robbing the Palace hotel. He was convicted and sentenced in Finland, and was later sent back to Denmark to serve out the rest of his sentence. Apparently he is still behind bars.

In March 1969 four police officers were killed in Pihtipudas when Tauno Pasanen opened fire on them. Pasanen was pardoned by President Mauno Koivisto in 1982. In 1996 Pasanen was convicted for the killing of his former wife. He was freed from jail in 2000.

Dozens of other officers lost their lives in Finland, more than 130 in fact, but a great many of those people were killed during the wars.

As the relative and friend of police officers in both Canada and Finland, I urge people to respect the dangerous work police officers do every single day. A man did not make it home last Friday and that is sad indeed.

RIP to the fallen officer, Tomi Keskinen*, and condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

With information from the June 19 and 21, 2016 edition of Helsingin Sanomat and Wikipedia.

*Updated on June 22 to include the deceased officer’s name with information from Iltalehti.

Picture of the Day

June 14, 2016

Its warming up again, but it was a bit chilly this morning on the way to work. I rode my bike through the central park in Espoo, AKA keskuspuisto. At 5.40 a.m. the land was breathing fog, totally worth the stop to take today’s picture of the day.

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Things I didn’t know last week

June 13, 2016

Well, I have actually learned these things over the course of the last few weeks in meeting people and reading a few books I picked up last year. There’s no theme, just a mishmash of information.

  • Diplomatic relations between Finland and Canada were established in November 1947.
  • Suomenlinna was home to thousands of people during the second World War. Today only about 800 people live on the islands year round. I found a really interesting book at a secondhand store, which I am still reading…
  • I wrote about Espoonjoki a little while ago, so here are some other things I learned about  it: Espoonjoki is 27km and its source is near Serena in north Espoo. Five lakes are part of Espoonjoki’s catchment area and 22,000 people live around the shores of Pitkäjärvi, one of those lakes in the catchment area.
  • The Träskända manor house is owned by the City of Espoo, but is not currently being used. The city is looking for tenants. There are some huge oak trees on the grounds of the manor. There is also a small hiking trail system that is suitable for kids. I didn’t have a chance to spend much time there, so I have to make a point to go back.

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  • This is called the Temple of Love and is across the valley from the Träskända Manor. It’s been vandalized a lot in the past, but it looked in pretty good shape when I stopped to take a look at it.

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  • Last week, Finland was host to what is possibly the world’s biggest soccer (football) tournament for girls and women. The Stadi Cup was established in 1985. In 2015, some 330 teams from around the world took part!
  • The Finnish Canine Museum is an on-line historical look at dogs in Finland. I just stumbled across it the other day. So today’s new fact is, the Finnish Kennel Club was established on May 11, 1889.
  • On a more morbid front, and I am not sure how we got to this discussion point with the fellow I was speaking with… Finland was hit by different epidemics back in the 1800s, for example, cholera. Deceased victims in Helsinki were often disposed of in the South Harbour area (where the cruise ships leave from), or buried on the grounds of the Vanha Kirkko in downtown Helsinki. I am not sure if any of this is true, so if anyone knows, I’d love to hear more about this particular tidbit!

To do: explore more!🙂

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