Finns collect five medals from Nordic World Championships
Predictions fall well short; Hannu Manninen still without a personal medal
The FIS World Nordic Ski Championships came to a close on Sunday, and Finland emerged eventually with five medals, thanks to a flurry of activity on Friday and Saturday.
The total of one gold, three silver medals, and a bronze was one better than in 2003.
The Finnish squad officials had nevertheless rather boldly predicted a haul of 12 medals before the competition, so some questions are likely to be asked about the failure to meet this ambitious target.
Friday's first hardware came in the form of silver medals for skiers Riitta-Liisa Lassila and Pirjo Manninen in the women's 6 x 0.9 km team sprint event, where they were beaten only by the Norwegian duo of Hilde Pedersen and Marit Bjørgen.
In the evening, Janne Ahonen, runaway leader of the ski-jumping World Cup table, made amends for the disappointment of the Finnish team's failure to grab a medal in the normal hill team competition and flew majestically to the gold medal on the K-120 hill.
Ahonen was last man down the hill on both jumps, and despite a rather ungainly landing on his second attempt - when he leapt to within a metre of the hill record - he finished ahead of Roar Ljøkelsøy of Norway and Jakub Janda of the Czech Republic. Matti Hautamäki (6th) and Risto Jussilainen (8th) provided admirable flanking support.
On Saturday, Virpi Kuitunen took silver in the women's 30 kilometres cross-country event, and indicated that had she not gone down with a 'flu bug during the championships she could possibly have collected more hardware than this. She was again pipped by Norway's Marit Bjørgen, who gathered four medals from the competitions. The Norwegian team as a whole ran riot, amassing 19 medals, seven of them gold ones. Saturday evening saw the Finnish ski-jumpers beaten into 2nd place by Austria on the big hill, but for the team of Janne Ahonen, Matti Hautamäki, Risto Jussilainen, and Tami Kiuru this was a solid performance. It gave Ahonen his third medal of the games.
So much for the medals. It has to be noted that the men's cross-country skiers never threatened to add to the total, and that the Nordic Combined, in which Hannu Manninen reigns almost as supreme as Ahonen on the ski-jumping hills, also came up dry.
Manninen seems to have a complex about major competitions, as he still has failed to win an individual medal at Olympic or World Championship level. Manninen finished 9th and 8th in the two individual events at Oberstdorf, and the team could only get to the first non-medal spot of fourth.
For Manninen it was a fairly typical story in the sprint competition on Sunday: he underperfomed on the ski-jumping hill and left himself a Herculean task to catch the leaders. Sometimes this season he has been up to this, but for some reason in Oberstdorf he did not show his usual speed on the ski-tracks.
In Sunday's sprint event the top Finnish placing went to Anssi Koivuranta. The 16-year-old was best on the hill, but could not hold on to this lead on the track. The eventual winner, Ronny Ackermann of Germany, caught him after around 3 kilometres, but Koivuranta nevertheless pluckily hung on to finish 6th, and his performance augurs well for next year's Olympics in Torino.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Ahonen takes bronze in disappointing start to Nordic Skiing World Championships (21.2.2005)
FIS Nordic Ski World Championships
Nordic Ski World Championships 2005