Lari Lehtonen, national team member of Finland has decided to end his career as a professional Cross-Country athlete. In a statement on the Finnish Ski Federations website, Lari explaines his decision:
"During the past winter, a decision matured inside me to end my career as a national team athlete and professional skier. The plans for the spring went new and the Salpausselä competitions in Lahti as well as the spring Finnish Championships were interrupted. Unfortunately, I was ill during the Salpausselä Games and the last games of the spring were not skied due to the corona epidemic. In the context of the Games, I would have liked to have publicly thanked you all the partners, fans, teams, support staff, those who walked along the athlete’s path with me, and especially my family. In these exceptional circumstances, I would now like to do so in the form of a bulletin.
My career as a professional athlete started in the 2004-2005 season in Switzerland at the age of 17 with the Youth EYOF (European Olympic Festivals) victory. In 2008 I skied my first World Cup in Lahti. The most memorable moment of my career culminated in the ninth skiathlon at the 2017 Lahti Home World Championships.
I've been to three Olympic Games and five World Ski Championships and represented the value of the race Suomena message more than once. The trip has occurred in a variety of bends, having had injuries and surgeries over and over again and then training hard to fight back to become a top athlete in the international field. All of this leaves me with a tremendous amount of memories, acquaintances, experiences, and lessons in life that I could not have gotten anywhere else.
"I took my body’s endurance in top sports as far as I could and I know I did everything I could to be the best version of myself as an athlete. Developing ever better from these starting points no longer seems like a realistic idea, which is why I decided to leave the International competitions to others."
Now is the time to turn a new page in life and direct it in a huge amount of energy, which I have used in sport, new challenges, my family, my friends and my loved ones.
I won't turn my back to the sport. I get a great opportunity in my current hometown to direct the experience that my sports career brings to club work. From the beginning of May, I will be the executive director of Hollola Urheilijat, carrying out club development work and providing expertise, time and sparring for the preparation of children and young people, among other things.
In addition, I will continue in the position of trust as a member of the Board of Nordic Ski Finland Oy, which I started in 2018 to develop the commercial operations of Nordic sports.
At this point, I would like to give a special thank you to the Imatra Athletes for my club for the great work you have done for me from the very first time I joined the activity when I was 7 years old, to this day. Thank you.
I am grateful that I had the chance to compete in the most prestigious international Cross-Country competitions for the past 12 years together with the Finish sport team and to share successes and failures. Now the spring of 2020, I am primarily a father to my children and husband to my wife Salla-Mari.
THANK YOU Lari for your contributions to the sport and for sharing your passion and expertise with the FIS Cross-Country family. FIS Cross-Country is thrilled to hear your engagements at Hollola Urheilijat, to share your experience and to inspire the next generation of skiers. All the best for your exciting next chapter in life!