START OF THE SPORTING
· Saarinen started cross-country skiing at the age of 2, and adapted an active lifestyle enjoying life and nature. “Skiing brings me closer to nature and it has always been the most natural way of moving for me...” she says.
· Her main competitor in cross-country skiing and running through childhood was her twin sister Maija.
· The two sisters were equally good for a long time, and the constant competition was a good motivator for them.
· Holmenkollen has been a special place for Saarinen’s career moments: she took her first World Cup podium in 30 km in 2003, and her first World Cup victory in 2007 in the same distance.
· She became a beloved skier amongst the Finnish ski fans after winning 3 gold medals and one bronze in Liberec 2009 – and received the Athlete of the year award in Finland.
· Before the season 2011/12 she suffered her first ever injury in November, a shoulder injury, which meant her first World Cup appearance was not until Davos
· In addition to skiing, Saarinen was active in track and field and did quite well. In 1994 she finished fourth in the national championship in pole vault.
· Saarinen’s long-time coach Jarmo Riski retired in 2010, and eventually she started being more responsible about her training having some new coaches as her mentors.
· After being one season on her own, she teamed up with Ismo Hämäläinen, Finnish ladies’ coach 2002-6.
· It lasted only for one season, as she has been on her own last season, having help from mentors again.
· In the summer of 2012 she took up an invitation from Kikkan Randall, and spent 3 weeks training in Alaska with Randall & co. She felt she needed a change, and Alaska camp offered it at its best. “The best training camp of my career. We had so much fun”, Saarinen praises her new experience and new friends.
· Last season did not go as planned for Saarinen. She qualified for the World Championships in Val di Fiemme but competed only in one competition – 30 km mass start free
· Second part of the season was better as Saarinen finished 8th in Lahti in 10 km classic and 18th in the World Cup Final in Falun
· She has 3 sisters, two older ones and her twin sister Maija, who also made appearances at World Cup races and became a good middle distance runner later on.
· The twins have teamed up successfully to win at Finnish nationals in team sprint & relay for their club.
· Saarinen loves picking berries and mushrooms.
· She is a student at the University of Lapland, majoring in marketing, although her studies are on hold at the moment, as Saarinen prefers to focus on one thing at the time.
· In the Summer of 2012 she fulfilled two her long-term dreams off the ski trails: in July she got married to her long-time boyfriend Tom Gustafsson, a former Finnish national league basketball player, and the couple’s dream home was built in their beloved Hollola.
· Finnish athlete of the year 2009