Athlete of the Week: Eero Hirvonen (FIN)
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the first non-German Athlete of the Week 2016/17: Eero Hirvonen!
While the dominance of the German team continued also in Lahti on the past weekend, the 20-year-old Finn cemented one thing: the resurrection of Team Finland. Falling in a deep dark hole after the glorious Hannu Manninen years, it took determination, a steady program and continuous hard work to dig the Northern nation out of this black period. With Eero Hirvonen’s triumphal second rank of the past weekend, the dark days might finally be over for Team Finland.
Hirvonen, a product of the careful and patient development of Finnish head coach Petter Kukkonen and his team, displayed an incredible increase in his level of performance already at the season start in Ruka where he just narrowly missed out on the podium as fourth. And like clockwork, he stepped it up one more time in Lahti where he usually has his strongest performances.
The second place which Hirvonen conquered in his only 15th World Cup start is only the second time that the silver rank is not in German hands in this winter, all the more impressive as Hirvonen is just 20 years old and had a fourth place from the Junior World Championships in Rasnov as his best results before this season.
And so, even if the great legend Hannu Manninen made a fantastic comeback with position 18 on the past weekend, all eyes were on one Finn only after the race: Eero Hirvonen. Asked about their strategy for their respective big races in Lahti, funnily enough, both teammates answered with the exact same sentence: „You know, I will just try to ski as fast as possible!“ And even while Manninen's are some pretty big shoes to fill, Hirvonen obviously seems to set out from a very promising base.