Finnish skiers have a harsh stomachache – expert Kalle Lassila downloads a gloomy assessment of the prospects of top skiing | Sport

Emotions on the surface See how the Finnish coach had

The Junior World Cup skiing ended on Sunday in Planica. For Finns, the situation remained gloomy.

Super promising on the combined side, 16 years old Minja Korhonen grabbed his first World Youth Championship gold. In the under-20 category, Finland did not receive any medals in cross-country skiing.

The second Finnish medal of the Games, the only one in cross-country skiing, came in the under-23 category and, surprisingly, in the freestyle sprint, when Hilla Niemelä write on silver.

Sports expert Kalle Lassila wrote a dark text during the last ski trip of the Games, the mixed relay of the U23 series.

Seven countries had run away from the others, Finland was far away, and it did not come as a surprise to Lassila.

– Not with today’s team. When you look at the start lists and how the athletes have skied recently, unfortunately it’s just a fact that Finland is skiing at the level it should be at the moment.

– There was no actual failure in the message. The whole team just hasn’t been strong enough for these games in general.

In the relay of the U23 series, Finland was finally eighth (+2.04.1). In the U20 series, Finland was 10th (+4.03.7).

Far from a skiing superpower

During the message contest, ‘s commentary team pondered the term “ski superpower”. The term Finland was rightfully used at the Beijing Olympics 2022, when Finland won six medals.

Commentator Kimmo Porttila asked Lassila if she can see that Finland is now a skiing superpower based on the recent signals from different series.

– It doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment. Yes, the big service truck is the clearest indication of Finnish cross-country skiing’s status as a powerhouse at the moment, Lassila exclaimed.

– Yes, it is of course a tough situation.

Lassila also found bright things. In Finland, there are U23 skiers or those who have already moved on from the youth competitions, many of whom have had the best performances of their careers this season.

Still, the list of negative things is long: The Ski Association’s financial situation, the success of the younger age groups, the small number of top skiers in the World Cup.

In the youth competitions, it makes more sense to focus especially on the U20 series, because the best in the U23 series have already shifted their focus to the adult competitions. Combined and ski jumping don’t even have an U23 series at the Junior World Championships – it’s only held in cross-country skiing.

In Planica, there were no Finns among the top contenders in the U20 series. For a long time, success in the prestigious competitions for young people and at the international level for adults has been on the shoulders of a few. Lassila paints a gloomy picture of the future.

– It seems quieter. The financial situation of the ski association is really miserable. It has been seen in Finnish cross-country skiing for a long time. The Ski Federation has not been able to maintain its role that enables success, as the need would require.

The system should be able to support top sports success at a sufficient level, even if in Finland it is strongly based on the personal investment of individuals.

– And then, outside of these issues, an even more significant factor is that our sports club activities in general, the supportive activities of sports associations towards sports clubs, and the low-level, early-stage skiing hobby are in a really, really bad mess at the moment.

Reason to take seriously

As you can see from the graphic below, Finland has had lean years in the U20 series before in the 2000s. In 2008 and 2011, there were no rankings in the top 10.

From the year 2024, the graphic shows one top 10 ranking, because Finland was 10th in the mixed relay on the closing day of the Games. The year 2011 is the last time that Finland did not get any personal top 10 place in the U20 series.

The listing below takes into account both personal trips and messages.

The fall to the Whistler Games a year ago was drastic. Then in the U20 series Niko Anttola (10 km, v) and Eevi-Inkeri Tossavainen (sprint, p) celebrate gold. Anttola also won silver. Tossavainen and Eero Rantala. In addition, the mixed relay team, Rantala and Ike Melnitz.

In Planica, Finland got only two top 20 rankings in the U20 age group. Nora Kytäjä was 17th in the women’s 10 km (p) and Niilo Mäkinen in men’s 20 kilometers (v) 14:s. Kytäjä’s difference to the top was 1:40.8 and Mäkinen’s was no less than 4:41.8, so the differences in the heavy wet weather stretched wildly.

For a long time, the brightest success of the Finns has depended on individual names. Responsible for the medals in 2018 and 2019 Anita Korva hasn’t raced in years. Next, they grabbed the medals Niilo Moilanen and Alexander Ståhlberg.

In the U23 series, Finland clearly had higher expectations for the Planica games than in the U20 series. In terms of results, the situation was not optimal at all.

Niko Anttola has been a shadow of his last season this season due to significant illnesses. Eevi-Inkeri Tossavainen, who was also ill, was not part of the World Cup team. Vilma Ryytty was at best 20th in Planica, which is a very modest achievement for a woman who has already skied the Tour de Ski in the World Cup.

Expert Lassila’s praise goes to Hilla Niemelä, who, in addition to the sprint medal, was seventh in the traditional 10 km.

In the big picture, the Finns skied in Planica at a level which, looking at the current season, is expected. You can definitely draw guidelines going forward from the youth games, Lassila says.

– Of course, skiers who win medals in youth competitions show the development curve and potential to be successful in adult competitions as well.

– Of course, it is not exclusive. We have a lot of skiers in Finland who are not quite successful in the U20 series yet, but they can still become good, international-level adult athletes.

As an example, Hilla Niemelä, whose best placings in the U20 series of the World Championships were in the 30s. Now Niemelä showed such speed that Lassila dares to expect to rise to the international level of the general series.

– You can’t directly mirror it, but yes, the Junior World Championships on a large scale are a measure of the future level of Finnish cross-country skiing, and the results must be taken seriously.

Finns’ results in the World Junior Championships, individual competitions

U20 series

  • 10 km (p) men: 23. Niilo Mäkinen (+2.26.1), 39. Jalmari Bergqvist (+2.58.1), 43. Akseli Pitkänen (+3.11.7) 47. Juho Länsiluoto (+3.21.5)
  • 10 km (p) women: 17. Nora Kytäjä (+1.40,8), 26. Ella Noora Haapalehto (+2.11,3), 27. Silva Kemppi (+2.22,5) 42. Selene Rossi (+3.34,3)
  • 20 km (v) men: 14. Niilo Mäkinen (+4.41.8), 39. Eemil Naumanen (+7.54.1), 59. Jalmari Bergqvist (passed in the round)
  • 20 km (v) women: 23. Nora Kytäjä (+2.35,4), 28. Silva Kemppi (+3.48,5), 38. Selene Rossi (+5.54,6), 46. Annu Virtanen (+7.26,1)
  • Sprint (v) men: 19. Juho Länsiluoto, 27. Jalmari Bergqvist, 35. Juuso Kinnunen, 50. Akseli Pitkänen
  • Sprint (v) women: 24. Ella Noora Haapalehto, 29. Nora Kytäjä, 39. Emmi Henriksson, 52. Silva Kemppi
  • U23 series

  • 10 km (p) men: 18. Emil Liekari (+1.07,1), 20. Olli-Pekka Laitila (+1.13,3)
  • 10 km (p) women: 7. Hilla Niemelä (+34.1), 23. Siiri Kaijansinkko (+1.36.6), 24. Fanny Kukonlehto (+1.36.7), 32. Vilma Ryytty (+2.03.3)
  • 20 km (v) men: 16. Niko Anttola (+2.34.7), 24. Emil Liekari (+3.41.4), Olli-Pekka Laitila and Veeti Pyykkö stopped
  • 20 km (v) women: 20. Vilma Ryytty (+2.25.0), 23. Hilla Niemelä (+2.35.8), 25. Siiri Kaijansinkko (+2.47.4)
  • Sprint (v) men: 11. Emil Liekari, 15. Ike Melnits, 25. Olli-Pekka Laitila, 58. Eero Rantal
  • Sprint (v) women: 2. Hilla Niemelä, 27. Siiri Kaijansinkko, 30. Fanny Kukonlehto, 34. Vilma Ryytty
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