Finnish National Championships recap

Press release from Finnish Ski Association: 

DAY 3

Ristomatti Hakola double champion at Finnish nationals, Saarinen’s first title since 2010

 Ristomatti Hakola and Aino-Kaisa Saarinen were the champions in the Skiathlon on the last day of Finnish nationals in Vantaa on Sunday.

Saarinen has been succesful skier at major championships but she has not won an individual Finnish championships title since 2010. On Sunday there was a pack of four coming to final straight: Saarinen, Riitta-Liisa Roponen, Johanna Matintalo and Anne Kyllönen. All finished within 0,8 seconds in order Saarinen, Matintalo, Roponen and Kyllönen.

”I felt I was in a hurry all the time since morning. At the moment I just feel I can not even find the words to say anything, of course it is nice to win. I enjoyed the classic part where we rotated the front skier, it felt like cosy long distance skiing in good company as also weather was nice. I bet everyone of us four had the last 3,3 km loop in mind for final attacks. When I have recovered well and my body works, I can race free technique well also. And I did today”, Saarinen said.

Hakola’s attack during the last two kilometres was decisive and Matti Heikkinen couldn’t do more than settle for silver. Perttu Hyvärinen took home another bronze.

”I have won Heikkinen at times but in skiathlon I have never been even close! In the race I was waiting for everone else’s move and thought I react on that. Two loops I was waiting Happo’s (Heikkinen’s) attack, but there was none. In the last uphill I decide to check out how much energy the guys have”, Hakola told.

Finnish nationals part 2 take place in Taivalkoski April 6-8th.

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DAY 2 

Roponen and Pentsinen took victories in free technique events at Finnish nationals

Riitta-Liisa Roponen and Anssi Pentsinen won free technique events at Finnish nationals in Vantaa on Saturday. Roponen has been crowned Finnish champion several times but for Pentsinen it was his career-first individual title at Finnish nationals.

Pentsinen has been in Finnish sprint team for years and also this season the main focus was in classic sprint. However, after Ruka and Lillehammer sprints he decided to give a try also for normal distances and his level has been among the best ones in Finland after Iivo Niskanen and Matti Heikkinen also internationally. On Saturday Pentsinen was able to leave Heikkinen to second place by 18,8 seconds winning marginal.

”During the past three weeks normal distances have been going well. I was fighting about it but winning a gold medal by a lot is a big surprise. This one of the most unforgettable moments in my life. Racing itself was just solid, I didn’t make any special attack at any point but there was no weak moments either”, says Pentsinen about taking the first win in front of his home audience in an event organized by his club.

Heikkinen, who felt it was important to secure the double for Vantaan Hiihtoseura, was pushing extra hard in the end and managed to climb to second place. After a not-so-good race in FIS Scandinavian Cup last weekend, he felt it was better racing on Saturday and wants to complete his weekend by winning skiathlon on Sunday. Hyvärinen was equally happy as Pentsinen as his early season has been a pure struggle due to no special reason. Saturday showed he is on the right way again.

Roponen didn’t race neither Tour de Ski nor FIS Scandinavian Cup in Piteå, but trained home and competed in two national 5 km races in between. She is always one of the favorites to win 10 km free, and victory it was for her in Vantaa.

”I am satisfied with the result, but it shows there has been a lot of training. When you win a gold, it is never bad though”, says Roponen who will race skiathlon on Sunday.

Krista Pärmäkoski, Kerttu Niskanen and Iivo Niskanen didn’t race.

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DAY 1

Hakola’s and Pärmäkoski’s teams dominate at Finnish nationals team sprints

Jämin Jänne with Antti Ojansivu and Ristomatti Hakola and Ikaalisten Urheilijat with Maaret Pajunoja and Krista Pärmäkoski won the team sprints in free technique at Finnish national championships in Vantaa on Friday.

Thanks to Hakola’s and Pärmäkoski’s dominant performances, both teams won by a lot. Both teams finished first for the first time in this event at Finnish nationals: Hakola and Ojansivu took silver two years ago, but Pärmäkoski was a lonely rider for years for Ikaalisten Urheilijat and got a team around here only this season.

For Hakola it was his fourth gold at Finnish nationals.

”I think we didn’t even discuss about tactics. I though Antti can do his own decisions and I take care of the rest. When you win gold at nationals, you know you have raced well. Those never come with bad performances. On the way to the Olympics I just try to stay healthy and do my training normally, to live normal life and not to do anything special”, says Hakola.

He is was named to the Finnish olympic team at the first selections and even though classic sprint will be his main event at the Olympics, his performances in longer distances has made him a strong candidate to Finnish relay team as well as for the 50 km classic.

”Also that would be of interest, if I am in good shape. But: it is still weeks until that.”

For Ojansivu, who completed the Tour de Ski, team sprint was the only race at nationals this weekend.

”It was nice to race today. However, I was a little terrified in the heats as I felt like it started straight after Alpe Cermis”, he said with a grin.

Pärmäkoski enjoyed her day in Vantaa, winning gold for your club with a good friend as your team mate is not something you do every day.

”My tactics was to ski in front and go really fast the last two loops. After Tour de Ski there have been good days and bad days, today I felt good since the heats”, Pärmäkoski says.

*Full results can be found HERE