Kuitunen rounds off her international skiing career with flair, but no share of the podium
Retro-style skiing outfit created by Italian designer
During her eventful career as a cross-country skier Virpi Kuitunen has always been an impressive athlete.
On Sunday, Kuitunen wrapped up her international career in the World Cup final faithful to her style - imposingly and with flair.
The native of Espoo completed her last World Cup race in a carefully selected outfit and with a twinkle in her eye.
In the 10 km pursuit event Kuitunen, who finished the race well back down the field in 28th but did not seem unduly worried at coming home five and a half minutes after Norway's Marit Björgen, appeared in a retro-style dark blue outfit completed with gold-coloured ski-sticks.
Apparently the outfit had been created by a designer from the Finnish national team’s Italian clothes supplier Sportful.
“I thought it would be nice to wear something slightly different in my last race. We went for a slightly more traditional style with long knee socks and all. I must say I enjoyed skiing in this attire”, Kuitunen explains.
Kuitunen’s fellow competitors remembered the 33-year-old veteran in their own way.
“It did lift my spirit to have everyone greet me at the finish line. At the start all the girls had the text ‘Thank you Virpi!’ written on their bums. That put a smile on my face”, Kuitunen recounts.
After having finished the race Kuitunen thanked the skiing world, waving a small banner that said: “Thanks and Goodbye”.
It took Kuitunen a fair bit of time to hug every member of the large crowd that had gathered to say their farewells to her.
“As a whole I have a long and rewarding career behind me with many good years during which I have had the privilege to get to know many great athletes. From all this I have gained a sackful of wisdom and knowledge to take with me to the next phase of my life.”
Kuitunen has celebrated her international skiing career farewells in various connections during the long weekend in Falun, Sweden.
And the farewells are set to continue during next weekend’s Finnish Championships in Kontiolahti. There Kuitunen is likely to ski her very last events as a competitive cross-country skier.
In the course of 13 years, Kuitunen took part in 147 individual World Cup starts, of which she won 20. Another 23 times she finished either second or third.
She won the overall World Cup title in two seasons, in 2006/07 and 2007/08, and also won the first Tour de Ski event in 2007, when she was also voted Sportswoman of the Year in Finland.
Kuitunen has just two bronze medals from Olympic competition, but at World Championships level she holds six golds, one silver, and one bronze medal from games in 2001, 2005, 2007, and 2009.
The 2001 Nordic Skiing World Championships in Lahti were also one of the low points of her career: in addition to taking an individual gold medal, she was disqualified and lost a silver medal in the women's relay team after she tested positive for doping, along with five other members of the Finnish men's and women's ski team.
She served a two-year competition ban, and is the only one of the Lahti half-dozen to have successfully restarted her international career.
This season Kuitunen has not been able to produce her best form on the track, but she still collected a bronze medal from Vancouver in the women's 4 x 5km relay.
From the Finnish perspective this Olympic year’s World Cup success remained more moderate than during the last couple of years.
In fact, this winter Finland’s World Cup performance was more or less in line with the Olympic success - or rather the lack of it.
Aino-Kaisa Saarinen and Matti Heikkinen both won one competition in the early part of the season. After that Saarinen, widely tipped for glory in Vancouver, made it to the podium on a couple of other occasions, but Heikkinen lost the plot badly after the Tour de Ski event in early January.
Saarinen finished fourth overall in the 2009/10 World Cup.
After the Olympic stint, where she did manage to take one individual bronze medal along with the women's relay success, illness took its toll on Saarinen's performances.
Of all the Finnish skiers, Riitta-Liisa Roponen managed to maintain her form to the end of the season.
In the final World Cup weekend she finished fifth.
“This was certainly my best individual season so far”, estimated Roponen, who finished seventh overall in the World Cup.
She, too, was in the women's relay quartet in Vancouver.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finns fall short in medals department, but there were Olympic highlights after all (1.3.2010)
Virpi Kuitunen retains her cross-country skiing World Cup title (17.3.2008)
FIS: Virpi Kuitunen
Virpi Kuitunen (Wikipedia)