Nordic walking to the Olympics!
A hard-bitten sports journalist goes against his principles
By Ari Pusa
Tomps, tomps, tomps, tomps, skrrr, skrrr.
The sounds come from just behind me and they emanate from my poles. I'm feeling a bit strange, as I have found myself obliged to forgo one of my basic principles to live by, namely that I will never, ever go out for a Nordic walking jaunt.
Back in the office, I'd already received much sound advice for the endeavour, which took place the evening before last. "Don't forget to put your shades on, as that way the neighbours won't know it's you", suggested my colleague Pekka (names have not been changed to protect the guilty).
How have I come to this? The reason lies in nagging aches and pains I've been having in my shoulders and neck. Something radical had to be done, particularly after the chiropractor I visited led me to believe that my triceps brachii muscle on my left upper arm was in pretty disgusting shape. I believe "atrophied" was the word.
At push-comes-to-shove moments like this, apparently humans resort to extreme measures.
Tomps, tomps, skrrr, skrrr. On we go, and we're positively flying. Don't you even raise a sweat with this stuff?
When swinging the poles, it is good to let your thoughts flow freely. And that is of course one of the basic aims of all exercise.
Nordic walking has already developed into a burgeoning little export number for Finland.
But let's ramp things up a stage further while we walk. Make Nordic walking an Olympic event. How's that sound, eh?
An excellent choice for the man to champion such a venture would be Tuomo Jantunen. The executive director of Suomen Latu* can head off to Lausanne to acquaint the international Olympic family with the joys of the discipline just as soon as his election campaign obligations are out of the way.
Yes indeedy, it will turn the heads of those sports administrators when a former professional soldier starts to demand Olympic status for the event he developed.
Nordic walking would definitely go into the Summer Games programme. I mean, nobody goes out walking with poles in the snow.
Then again, there are so many events on the Olympic roster that something would have to be taken off the list. Hmmm.
Walking could get the chop. Nobody's interested in that. Except the Finns, of course, when a Finnish walker collects gold on road or track.
On the Nordic walking front, the Finns would have an excellent shot at Olympic glory. According to a questionnaire carried out in 2006, there are about 1.5 million Nordic walking enthusiasts in the country.
Marimekko would definitely have to be got on board, taking their product development in a new direction and producing an official Olympic pole in that colourful Unikko floral pattern.
Tomps, skrrr. Almost home now. My shirt's got a bit damp, and it's not from the rain.
My shoulders are warm and my arms are beginning to send distress signals. I guess that means the blood is starting to circulate again.
Car headlights sweep into the drive. Oh no. Argh! The neighbours are arriving home. He'll see me.
Too late to hide the sticks anywhere now. And I left my damn sunglasses at home, too.
My neighbour winds down the window. He has a mischievous grin all over his face. It's too late to do anything now. I've been sussed.
But his wife saves the day. "Look at that, Antero. Tomorrow we'll go down to the shops and get you a pair."
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 10.3.2007
*Translator's note: "The Finnish Central Association for Recreational Sports and Outdoor Activities" is the official English name.
Previously in HS International Edition:
When Finland "Nordic walked" itself onto the world map (23.1.2007)
Marimekko - Unikko
ARI PUSA / Helsingin Sanomat