Samuli Aro fell into the void and sought professional help – now the multiple world champion returns to the classic competition | Sport

Samuli Aro fell into the void and sought professional help

World Champion Samuli Aron personal experiences of driving around Päijänne are not exactly recent. On Saturday in Vääksy at 08:11 he will return to the starting line of the domestic enduro classic competition. Aro, who will soon turn 49, considers his Päitsi project mainly a challenge to himself.

Salminen Juha (13-time world champion) asked me when we met recently if I might be going through a 50s craze. Actually, for the first time ever, I really enjoyed driving a snowmobile too. I’m going to do my own performance and see what it’s enough for. Isn’t that what they always say in Finnish sports, Aro laughs.

In addition to five individual World Championship golds, Aro, who has also won five national team world championships in his career, is one of those athletes for whom ending a professional career has proven to be a challenge. The change of competing in the world and traveling life to normal everyday life brought a kind of emptiness to life.

– Already half a year after quitting, people close to me suggested that it would be worthwhile for me to go on a trip. They noticed right away that being still was wearing me down.

Receipts flashed

Aro says that he eventually experienced mental burnout and had to resort to professional help.

In hindsight, he realized that the chain of events had its roots in his professional career. Aro was known as a natural talent, for whom physical training was not really a hobby. It created a setting that – despite the world championships – also caused an emotional burden.

– Of course, there was also the pressure of success, but what affected me the most was that I was always comparing myself to other drivers. I looked and thought, oh my, they practice physics so much and it didn’t interest me at all. I just wanted to drive. Instead of physical training, I did a kind of hard mental work in my thoughts.

According to Aro, there was no attempt to force him to join physical training, but sometimes the issue could be sidestepped under the guise of humor. However, the playful acknowledgment also had another side.

– I didn’t take those comments so seriously, but maybe sometimes they would sting a bit. Sometimes there was a bit of a squint, that your stomach has grown a little again in the winter. Usually then I bounced back by immediately winning the next races and probably that season’s championship as well.

Aro describes how after quitting, his thoughts seemed to go into overdrive. According to him, part of the reason for the increase in mental problems could have been an injury in the World Motocross competition held in Vantaa in the summer of 2011, which put a stop to competing in his home country as well.

In the end, realizing the seriousness of the situation and professional help restored mental well-being. Aro has been riding regularly since last fall for Paäits. At the same time, he has made an important observation: For him, driving is like some kind of elixir for feeling good.

– Even my mother was surprised at how enthusiastic I am about driving again. I told him that our people only feel so good about driving when I get to hang out there in the woods and on the sand dunes.

– Of course, it has also occurred to me that this is some sort of subconscious mental patch. I came to the conclusion that this is just my thing. Motorcycles have interested me practically since I learned to walk.

“Junnumoka” in Päitsi 2010

Especially in this millennium, it has been common for Finnish drivers driving the enduro World Series to spend the Päitsi weekend somewhere in southern Europe training or competing instead of snow tracks.

The exception was two World Championship-worthy Päitsi in the last decade. Aro first raced Päits twice at the beginning of his enduro career, at the end of the 1990s. In the spring of 1999, he led the race, but a technical problem a few off-road tests before the finish dropped him to second place.

Aro ended his professional career in the enduro World Championship after the 2009 season, but continued to compete in his home country. In the spring of 2010, he also started for Päits, but according to his own words, fell into a “junnumoka” after starting to ride with his neck bare. The cold wind hit the neck immediately on the first transition from Helsinki to Vantaa Seutula.

– In the end, I couldn’t even get the helmet off my head due to a sore neck. However, on the final day of the competition, there were separate SC points and I was still trying to get rid of those in my mind. The doctor injected a muscle relaxant into my back, but my neck still wouldn’t open. The sleeping mat did come.

The following spring, Aro successfully toured Päijänne and finished fourth, but then the slushy snow spurs were enough.

Last fall, Aro drove an invitational race in Italy, which rekindled the spark for regular driving training as well. Soon after that, his friend started luring him to Päits as well. At first, the ex-champion didn’t warm to the idea, but after watching a few video clips from previous years’ competitions, he turned his sled and decided to join.

On the day of the interview, the ex-world champion warms up after his driving practice by the campfire and feels his driving boot.

– There seems to be someone here too. Then he takes the driving boot off his foot and pours a lick of water off the boot’s shaft.

We’ll see if it’s possible to get around Päijänne with dry feet.