Kaisa Mäkäräinen crowned Sports Personality of the Year
Fourth time in succession the accolade goes to a woman
Women continue to rule the roost in Finnish sport, after a panel of sports journalists yesterday selected the biathlete Kaisa Mäkäräinen, a native of Joensuu in Northern Karelia, as the Sports Personality of the Year for 2011.
Mäkäräinen was ultimately an overwhelming winner. She collected 3,205 votes and no less than 251 number one spots.
The second prize went to the 15-kilometre cross-country skiing World Champion Matti Heikkinen, who accumulated 2, 453 votes (14 journalists ranked him first). The victorious Finnish Ice Hockey World Championships team landed in the 3rd-place spot with 1,578 votes (48).
“My hands are shaking a hundred times more than they ever do in a biathlon competition”, Mäkäräinen confessed immediately after her victory had been confirmed.
Outwardly Mäkäräinen, who was dressed in a turquoise evening dress, appeared calm and composed and took her win in her stride. She even joked at the expense of the journalists who had elected her.
“Based on your recent writings, I'm convinced you would all make really competent shooting coaches”, said Mäkäräinen, whose shooting accuracy in recent competitions has left some room for improvement.
The three previous Sports Personality of the Year titles were also won by a female athlete.
In 2008, victory went to Satu Mäkelä-Nummela, the gold medallist in the women's trap event at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
After her the number one spot was conquered by cross-country skier Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, who took three gold medals and one bronze at the 2009 FIS Nordic Skiing World Championships in Liberec.
Last year the most luminous and successful athlete in the country was the seven-time orienteering World Champion Minna Kauppi, who in 2010 added two more world titles to her collection.
The last man to have earned the accolade is Tero Pitkämäki, who took the World Championship title in men’s javelin in 2007.
“Kaisa was definitely my choice. Her rise to become the World Champion and the clinching of the FIS World Cup title last season are glorious and huge achievements”, Pitkämäki commented.
Ice hockey coach Jukka Jalonen, who was voted the coach of the year agreed: “I was totally knocked out by Mäkäräinen’s last season’s performances.”
Jalonen’s Finnish Lions, the current ice hockey World Champions, were as expected named as the team of the year for 2011, and Mikael Granlund's lacrosse-style wonder-goal in the World Championships semi-final against Russia was deemed to have been the most stirring moment in Finnish sport in the past twelve months.
One of the most popular recipients at the televised gala event was former Liverpool, Bayer Leverkusen and Finland footballer Sami Hyypiä, who picked up a career award on the eve of his first day back at school.
Hyypiä is embarking on the process of getting his coaching certificates, in order to continue his work in the sport.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Kaisa Mäkäräinen wins her first Biathlon World Cup event of the season on her birthday (12.1.2012)
Finland goes wild at Ice Hockey World Championships victory (16.5.2011)
Oslo World Championships: Matti Heikkinen´s gold medal breaks 12-year drought for men´s cross-country skiing (2.3.2011)
Minna Kauppi takes Sports Personality of the Year title for 2010 (11.1.2011)
Aino-Kaisa Saarinen cleans up at Sports Gala (12.1.2010)
Kaisa Mäkäräinen website