Women break losing streak in style at Finnkampen in Gothenburg
Finnish men lose by an equally emphatic margin, despite javelin victory
Finland's women athletes broke the habit at the weekend - namely the habit of losing each year to Sweden in one of the world's few remaining international head-to-head athletics meetings.
The Finnish women’s 11-year dry spell in Finnkampen, the annual Finland vs. Sweden athletics competition, came to a close in an impressive fashion at Gothenburg’s Ullevi Stadium on Sunday: the Finns reaped success across the board, claiming victory by an emphatic margin of 223 points to 187.
One of the architects of Finland’s victory was Johanna Lehtinen, who was the first home in the 5,000-metre race on Saturday and again in the 3,000-metre steeplechase on Sunday.
“It was fun, and I did not even have any blunders”, Lehtinen commented after her steeplechase stint, which saw her cross the line in 10:01.48.
Times and distances are less important than points and winning at this gathering, where the standard of competition generally falls rather short of the Diamond League and other similar events that have usurped the role of such internationals in recent times.
The victory over Sweden pleased the 33-year-old Lehtinen, and the entire team.
“Even though we compete in individual sports, we have a very good team spirit and atmosphere in the Finnish camp.”
Sprinter Hannamaari Latvala disciplined Sweden in three separate events. She took top honours in the women’s 100 and 200-metre races as well as in the 4x100m relay.
“I feel good. This has been a dream summer”, commented Latvala, who has improved her personal bests this season.
The Finnish women’s success can be attributed to two critical factors: fighting spirit and the ability to excel under pressure. The Finns secured victory in ten separate events. The team had no weak links.
Finland’s men were not equally successful.
In the light of statistics from the season to date, the Swedish hosts came to Gothenburg as the favourites, and they did not disappoint the rather sparse home crowd.
In the end Sweden beat Finland 220-187, ending two years of Finnish superiority.
In the men’s javelin, however, Finland secured an anticipated triple victory.
The icing on Finland’s otherwise somewhat dry cake was the international level of results achieved by Tero Pitkämäki (86.86 metres) and Olympic bronze medallist Antti Ruuskanen (85.67 metres).
The autumn’s pressing question is one of what Pitkämäki will do next. Previously the former World Champion has mentioned the possibility of retiring from competitive sports.
“Next I will have a one-month holiday. After that I will have a think about my future. I really cannot say anything certain at this point.”
Ruuskanen was annoyed about losing to Sweden, but not about coming second to Pitkämäki.
“I threw the best series of my life (three times over 85 metres). The fact that Tero was better did not matter. The main thing was to keep the Swedes behind us.”
European Championships bronze medallist Ari Mannio secured third place to give Finland a 16 points to 6 whitewash in the javelin, but it hardly mattered, with a margin of 33 points dividing the two teams.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Ruuskanen adds national title to his London bronze medal (27.8.2012)
Finnkampen: the Finnish men take victory, the women are crushed by the Swedes yet again (12.9.2011)
Finnkampen, the annual Finland-Sweden athletics international (Wikipedia)