Pielavesi turns out to celebrate local Olympic medallist Antti Ruuskanen
Avid fisherman Ruuskanen got a boat as a gift at his bronze metal party
Edited from an article by the Finnish news agency (STT) in Pielavesi
Long queues were snaking to tables stacked with coffee and layer cake. Fuses blew across the municipality of Pielavesi in Eastern Finland, when numerous coffee machines were powered up simultaneously.
Life in the little municipality of 5,000 souls changed all at once on a Sunday afternoon in August 2012.
People thronged into the market place, which was filled with people celebrating Antti Ruuskanen’s bronze medal from the London Olympics.
According to a cautious estimate, the number of partiers was 2,500, which is basically half of the population of Pielavesi.
”It is fine that so many people have turned up”, Ruuskanen said happily.
Ruuskanen was flooded with various kinds of presents from both private and official gift-bringers.
The Olympic hero got for example flowers and a large box of strawberries.
The Sports Federation’s present was a hunting weapon. The largest gift was a motor boat equipped with a 60 horsepower outboard, which was handed over by the municipality of Pielavesi and the Regional Council of Pohjois-Savo.
”We remembered that Antti is a keen fisherman. And a fisherman naturally needs a boat”, said Mika Sivula, the municipal manager of Pielavesi.
Antti Ruuskanen, a javelin thrower who picked up a bronze medal at the London Olympics, is everyone's Antti. That is a fact that one can sense at the market place in Pielavesi.
”Here everybody knows all about Antti”, confirmed Ninni Niskanen, who was selling bread made by the local bakery.
Traditional local delicacies were quite enough at Ruuskanen’s party in Pielavesi. There was no need for sparkling wine or empty phrases. A jovial atmosphere crowned the festival arranged for Pielavesi’s local hero.
School secretary Anna-Liisa Poutiainen knew Ruuskanen already when he went to school.
”Antti is a straightforward sympathetic type. He is friendly to everyone”, Poutiainen enthused.
Archbishop Leo, the Head of the Finnish Orthodox Church, who was born in Pielavesi himself, listed instructions for the Olympic medallist for his future competitions.
The archbishop had his own advice for example on how victory can be achieved.
”Long throws should be delivered upfront, in the first round. It paralyses everyone else”, Leo said.
The Olympic hero absorbed the instructions immediately, passing them up the chain.
”Some gentlemen from the Finnish Sports Federation are present here, too. It might be worth their while to call the archbishop if anyone wishes to have javelin training tips”, Ruuskanen quipped.
Olympic medallist Ruuskanen’s party was not arranged for Pielavesi residents alone.
Partiers from many surrounding municipalities had also turned up.
”I have to show the Olympic medallist to my sons”, said Jarkko Räsänen from Maaninka.
Räsänen had come to the party with his sons Luukas aged 5 and Otto, 3, as well as his partner Liisa Pietikäinen. She believes that Ruuskanen’s Olympic bronze will stimulate the discipline that the Finns love best.
”This will certainly act as a stimulus to javelin throwing. Antti will serve as an idol for young people”, Pietikäinen said.
Ruuskanen's bronze was one of only three medals won in London, where the Finns - who have a rich Olympic heritage, summer and winter - failed to secure a gold medal at the summer Games for only the second time since 1908.
Pietikäinen's remarks about a discipline that the Finns hold dear are borne out by the fact that more than a million tuned in on the final Saturday night of the Olympics to watch the three Finnish men in the javelin final, in the hope that one of them might become the eighth Finnish javelin Olympic Champion.
Since Finland joined in the Olympics, even before the country became formally independent, the men's javelin - and later on the women's event - has delivered up a massive haul in hardware, including 1-2-3 clean sweeps in 1920 and 1932.
Even the tower of the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki has a javelin connection, as its height of 72.71 metres (238' 6") is allegedly modelled on the distance of the winning throw by Matti Järvinen at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 20.8.2012
Previously in HS International Edition:
No new medals, but steady progress in sailing and athletics (9.8.2012)
All´s well that ends (reasonably) well for Finns at London 2012 (13.8.2012)
EDITORIAL: No great cause for satisfaction in London medals haul (14.8.2012)
Finnish Sports Federation
Antti Ruuskanen (Wikipedia)