Tanja Poutiainen – so much passion and success!
At only 32, Tanja Poutiainen is now the veteran on the World Cup Tour - the Finn just began her 15th season on the international circuit ! One of the best gate skiers in recent years with a total of 11 victories and 46 podiums since December 2001 as well as three World Cup titles in giant slalom and slalom, Tanja is still aiming for more in the coming winters. At Schladming, she’ll attend her 9th FIS World Championships next February since Sestrière 97!
A very consistent racer, the racer from Rovaniemi was able to end most of the competitions she has entered in her career. She has finished 14 out of her 16 competitions at the Worlds Championships and in the last ten years only failed 14 times to complete a technical event. From January 2007 to March 2011 Tanja ended all the 67 World Cup races in which she had started!
A long and successful career.
Tanja Poutiainen was introduced to skiing not long after having learned how to walk, following her brothers to the Ounasvaara ski slopes in her home town of Rovaniemi when she was only three years old and Tanja has managed to let her talent flourish in a sport which is regarded inferior to the Nordic disciplines in her native Finland to become the most successful female skier.
Tanja was already showing promise as a world-class skier at junior level. In 1995 she won the Under-15's World Championship, displaying her technical prowess in the slalom and giant slalom. At that time the Finnish women's national team consisted of only two racers, prompting the Finnish Ski Association to launch a women's Alpine skiing project in 1996 called "Project 2000" with the aim of helping at least one woman achieve world-class status by the turn of the millennium.
She was crowned junior World Champion in March 1997 in the slalom which qualified her for the following World Cup Finals at Vail, Colotrado!. In December of the following season, she claimed her first World Cup points, finishing 18th in the slalom at Val d'Isère. A string of top 30 finishes saw her called up to the Finnish team for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, the most prestigious tournament of her fledgling career.
Tough injuries for Tanja in 1998!
The young Finn then suffered a double setback in spring of 1998 when she broke the tibia and fibula in her right leg in a supposedly fun ski jump. Just as she was building up for the successive campaign she broke her right tibia again in October 1999, forcing her to withdraw from the entire World Cup 2000 season. The gutsy skier drew on all her mental resources to embark on another rehabilitation program and showing incredible tenacity returned to peak fitness ahead of the 2001 season.
December proved to be her lucky month also a year later when at Sestriere, in Italy, she climbed upon the podium for the first time on the senior circuit after finishing second in the slalom, becoming the first female skier from her country to step onto the winners' podium in the World Cup.
In March of the same season she repeated her podium escapades with a third place finish in the giant slalom at Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria. The young Finn however struggled to maintain her own high standards in the following season and question marks were raised over her desire to be a champion. However, it was simply a question of distilling the highest quality over time.
Two second places in 2003 underlined the potential the Finn possessed, which was to flourish the following year when she eventually climbed onto the highest step of the podium. The first Finn to achieve such distinction in the women's tour did it in her own back yard, at Levi on the 28th of February 2004, the first time a World Cup event was held in Finland.
More FIS medals for Poutiainen.
That first taste of success erased the inhibitions that had been blocking her way to reach the top as a professional and the new found confidence surged through her skiing at the start of the following season when she imposed herself on the established champions, winning three slalom races and her first giant slalom, adding 10 podium placements throughout the 2005 season to momentarily lead the overall classification. Crystal globes in the slalom and giant slalom were just reward for an outstanding campaign. Poutiainen had set another first for her country in female skiing when at the Bormio World Championships in February 2005 she clinched two silver medals in the two technical events.
The Turin Winter Games of 2006 could not have arrived at a better time. Brimful of confidence she used the opening months of the season as preparation for the main event of the calendar in order to be at her peak for Turin. In the final Alpine event of the games, Poutiainen clinched a silver medal in the giant slalom.
Only one win each in season 2007 and 2008 may be difficult to explain, but when she wins she wins big with the Snow Queen Trophy in Zagreb in 2008, the second time she has won the most prestigious race of the year.
In the 2008/09 season Poutiainen claimed another crystal globe in giant slalom, four years after her first. Although she only managed one victory in the discipline (at La Molina in December) she dominated the event alongside the Austrian Kathrin Zettel. The two came to a head-to-head in the finals of Are where Zettel had a 41 point lead going into the final race but Poutiainen's nerves held strong and she powered to second place with Zettel crumbling under the pressure to finish eighth.
To add to this, she picked up two bronze medals at the World Championships of Val d'Isère in the slalom and giant slalom, to take her tally to four overall (after the two silver medals from Santa Caterina).
Tanja is a keen footballer and has twice won a national award for individual skills. She also has a rich life away from the sporting world and intends to finish her economics degree when the time comes to hang up her skis and has been working on behalf of the United Nations World Food Program to raise the level of awareness of the fight against hunger in Finland.