The head coach of Greco-Roman wrestling Marko Yli-Hannuskelanthe most recent Finnish World Cup gold medalist in the sport, his summer vacation was ruined in the corona summer of 2020, on the Monday after Midsummer.
Yli-Hannuksela and the rest of the national team coaching had invested a lot so that the then 22-year-old Toni Metsomäki would advance to the top of the sport. In 2017, the wrestler trained at Ilmajoki had achieved a World Cup medal in both the under-23 and 20-year-old competitions, which was a tough trick.
– I tried to call “Myh”, but I couldn’t get hold of him. Then I called Lower Huikun For Jarko (national team coach), who answered. It must have been about a quarter of a day before the training started, Metsomäki recalled in Kuortane a week and a half before the start of the World Championships in Belgrade.
The message was crushing: the young man said that he would not be seen that evening at Ilmajoki’s wrestling gym – and perhaps never again. Metsomäki announced that he would be on an “indefinite break”.
The pandemic caused a headache
After more than three years have passed since Midsummer of 2020, he is still sitting in an interview with Urheilu, as an athlete selected for the 87 kg category for the World Championships. What exactly happened?
– 2020 was a pandemic, and the outlook in sports was foggy. I was troubled by a feeling of hopelessness and worry about how I would build my future from a financial point of view. My main source of income was a small grant from the Ministry of Education (6,000 net euros per year), at the Ilmajoki Kisailaiide wrestling school 2004–2005, etc. Konsta Mäenpään and Matias Lipastin Metsomäki, who learned the basics of the sport with, admits.
Young men have always left wrestling – for example Pekka Rauhala, That’s right Karila or Mika Lehto – to study medicine. Metsomäki, who admires Karila’s work in particular, was on the same track.
Summer job in a hospital
Metsomäki, who attended sports high school in four years and with a rather relaxed attitude, applied to the Southern Ostrobothnia college in Ilmajoki, where he completed preparatory studies for the 2020-2021 medical faculty entrance exams with a tough attitude. His studies at the University of Tampere began in 2021, and Metsomäki is scheduled to graduate with a medical degree in 2027. At the end of the summer, he worked as a nurse at Tampere University Hospital to learn the hard work of hospital work.
Medical studies involve a lot of compulsory attendance. Outside of that, Metsomäki prefers to study independently with online lectures and literature.
– Even though I stopped wrestling in 2020, I didn’t stop training. I always went with at least a pound. However, I mostly saw Ilmajoki’s wrestling buddies when we went out for a beer on the weekends.
Ten times on the mat
In Tampere, training continued alongside his studies, but he went to the local wrestling gym and has since then very occasionally. Metsomäki’s place in the World Cup is really against the odds. For example, the 97-kilogram SM gold that came last May was preceded by the following kind of sport preparation:
– From January to May, I went to wrestling training maybe a total of ten times before the WC.
Outside of this period, Metsomäki spent some time in Helsinki sparring for Finland’s number one name Arvi Savolainen with.
Metsomäki’s daily weight is 92–93 kilos, so after the spring championship gold, the head coach Juha Lappalainen talked to him thinly about the possibility for the autumn World Championships in the man’s right division, the 87-kilogram. At the World Championships, wrestling is held in 10 divisions, at the Olympic Games in six divisions. 87 kilograms is also an Olympic weight class.
– “Pikkis” also said that it is far from certain whether anyone in the series even meets the selection criteria.
Metsomäki performed well in the international tournament in Dortmund in August and secured his selection.
– The World Cup was not the goal and I don’t want to talk about this as a big comeback. Now, however, I am in a situation where an Olympic place is possible. But I don’t want to worry about that, let alone some Olympic success.
He also does not want to predict whether the exam books will fly to the shelf for a year to gather dust in the way of an intensive Olympic project, if a place for the Paris Olympics in Belgrade becomes available.
The games held in the capital of Serbia were originally awarded to Krasnoyarsk, Russia, from where they were taken away due to the war in Ukraine. However, the umbrella organization UWW also counts Russian and Belarusian wrestlers in its World Championships.
336 Greco-Roman style men will participate in the games, five of whom are Finnish. The top five in each series will be confirmed on the 21st-24th. September Olympic venue. The number used to be six, but now the losers of the bronze matches will once again be pitted against each other to fight for the last place in the competition. More places will be allocated in the Olympic qualifying tournaments in 2024.
Finland’s original team changed by one wrestler. Elmer Mattila (67 kg) very serious illness opened up a place for 82 kg to Artem Shapovalov. Finland could send a maximum of five Greco-Roman wrestlers to the Games. The previous Finnish World Cup medalist is Rami Hietaniemibronze medalist in Istanbul 2011.
In the Olympic Games already in 2021
Metsomäki is aiming for his first Olympic place as a competitor. He was already part of the Finnish Olympic delegation in Tokyo 2021. Arvi Savolainen’s chosen sparring opponent for Japan Vili Ropponen was injured, and Metsomäki got a call.
– It came out of nowhere. I had completely stopped wrestling and summer jobs at Ilmajoki. But I couldn’t leave Arvi in trouble, says Metsomäki, who lived outside the competition village in Tokyo with another sparring partner, Konsta Mäenpää.
On the day of the medal matches, Metsomäki had already helped Savolainen warm up in the exhibition hall in Tokyo, when another, more surprising request for help came. Russia, who prepared for the 97 kg final match of the series – and also won it Musa Yevloyev asked a Finn for help on the warm-up mat.
– He wanted to do a few lifts and wanted a slightly lighter guy to help him.
Finally, it is still worth finding out where the nickname Peruna, which has followed Metsomäki since he was less than 10 years old, comes from.
– There are two alternatives. In elementary school, I cut my head bald at the beginning of summer vacation, and it resembled a potato. Then there is another explanation. When I was 9 years old and we returned to the boys’ club after summer vacation, the coach asked what I did during the summer. I answered that I was driving an ATV and eating potatoes.