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Can Finland still be considered a nation of skiers?

March 31, 2010
The ski season is winding down in Finland and there is plenty of reflection to be done in the elite ranks of the sport in this country.
After Finland’s less than stellar performance at the Vancouver Olympics in men’s cross-country skiing, ski jumping and Nordic combined (seriously, these fellas need a good sports psychologist and a coaching change), I have started to wonder whether there needs to be a shake-up in skiing again. At one time Finland was a bastion of skiing excellence, but these days we cannot count on that sisu to get the athletes to the top of the heap – where most Finns expect them to be.
Are they capable? Absolutely.
But can we also put it down to someone having a better day all the time? Nope, something has got to change within the ranks of the Finnish Skiing Federation. The status quo has gone on too long. Even Canada who for the longest time was the butt of jokes in cross-country skiing has blazed some pretty clear trails in recent years. Even with no medals in their pockets, the Canadian men showed the rest of the skiing world that they will no longer be left behind. Come on Finland – DO SOMETHING!
What is also a problem is that even in this northern country with some of the best snowboarders in the world, they have no facilities to practice on.
Men’s halfpipe silver medalist Peetu Piiroinen told the Finnish media that it would be nice if Finland had at least one decent half pipe, so that he and others in the sport didn’t have to go abroad for training. Hmmm… With the snow that northern Finland gets, is it really that difficult to meet a simple request of an athlete on that level? Turn one of the major ski centres in this country into the national team’s snowboarding centre and give them the facilities they need.
Finnish speedskaters deserve better as well. An indoor year-round training facility would cost a bundle probably, but the investment in a future for athletes would certainly be a step in the right direction. I actually got to meet Pekka Koskela last week (that was so cool) and I when I asked him he said that he has been discussing this issue with folks at the Finnish Speed Skating Association for years. And so he should, with Janne Hänninen already in the coaching ranks and the current crop of skaters coming closer to the end of their careers (and thus available for coaching), this is a perfect investment. And another question – why doesn’t Finland compete at the international level in short track? If there was any sport that I thought would be easy and accessible for Finns to take part and be competitive in, it would be short track. There is certainly no shortage of facilities for that discipline!
Spring is springing, so on that note, I think we’re done with winter sports for this season. Ah but wait, there’s still some hockey on the books! Smile
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