Kalle Palander reveals 2002 drunken driving incident and consequent two-week prison sentence
New book on Finland's top male Alpine skier appeared on Tuesday
Alpine skier Kalle Palander has been known for years to be a refreshingly lively personality among the top Finnish sportsmen, always to be relied upon for a decent quote and the odd swear-word in live interviews.
Still, there have never been any sensational news items about him in the public media, and his image has remained remarkably untarnished, at least if one ignores the cries of "has-been" during the career lows that followed his surprise slalom win at the World Championships in Vail in 1999.
On Tuesday, however, Palander revealed things about himself one could have easily mistaken for April Fool’s jokes.
In October 2002, Palander was caught driving under the influence in Monaco, spent two weeks in prison, and lost his driving licence for a year.
The incident that Palander describes as one of the darkest episodes of his life is revealed in the skier's biography Jyrkimmät rinteet (The Steepest Slopes), published yesterday.
”Those were tough days. I have regretted it terribly. I have not tried to escape the incident, nor hide it. It was best to reveal it myself”, Palander said at the book’s publication launch event in Helsinki.
After an extended restaurant evening Palander could not be bothered to wait for a taxi. Instead he sat behind the wheel of his car, though he knew he was over the limit.
According to the book, he then made a quick U-turn and ran into a parked vehicle. A person sitting in his car was injured.
Palander drove his friend to the hospital, in other words, judicially speaking, he fled from the scene.
As a result, Palander first spent a day in jail, and a year later 15 more days in prison.
From October 2003 to October 2004 Palander did not drive. During this time his trusted friend Kalle Söderholm was usually behind the wheel on competition tours.
But it took six months for Palander to reveal even to Söderholm why he did not want to drive.
Because of his prison term, Palander was unable to take part in the training camp preceding the World Cup opening in Sölden in October 2002.
The directors of the national Alpine ski team invented a severe bronchitis as the reason for Palander’s enforced absence.
Jyrkimmät rinteet has been written by Finnish journalist and media entrepreneur Tapio Nurminen, who lives in Germany.
Palander said that he only set one condition to the project that was commenced just under a year ago. He wanted it to be an honest, truthful, and unembellished bio.
“And it turned out the way I wanted it. There are plenty of knives in my back, but that’s just fun”, Palander commented, and described reminiscing as therapeutic.
The book also sheds light on other painful subjects from Palander’s sporting life as well as his private life. These include affairs with women, arguments with his father Jouni Palander, who has remained his son’s coach all along, the father’s serious illness, and serious clashes with the former national team head coach Christian Leitner that nearly led to a permanent break-up.
His baby sister Annasofia’s death Palander names as one of the turning points of his life. “I am still mad at the world because of it, and I have not gotten over it”, Palander said on Tuesday.
The book also includes some of Palander’s own notes that he started writing ten years ago thinking: “If I am really good one day, I will write a book.”
“I fell to the ground. I was unable to walk. I was on my knees and cried like crazy… I still feel like crying… it is so f**king wrong”, Palander wrote down ten years ago about the moment when he heard from his older sister Kati that his younger sister had drowned in the spring flood waters and ice masses of the northern Torniojoki River.
Kalle Palander's career has been on hold for the past two months, after an operation to a stress fracture in his shin in February brought a premature end to the season.
This was the second time in slightly less than two years that Palander had to go under the surgeon's knife: he tore his anterior cruciate ligament on his left knee in March 2006 after a fall in Åre, but made a full recovery.
Kalle Palander won the slalom World Championship title at Vail in 1999, and was the winner of the FIS Slalom World Cup in 2002-2003. He has won a total of 14 World Cup slalom and giant slalom competitions during his career, most recently at Alta Badia in Italy last December.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Palander´s season over, as skier goes for leg operation (4.2.2008)
Kalle Palander records third World Cup giant slalom win at Alta Badia (17.12.2007)
Kalle Palander (Wikipedia)
Kalle Palander official site