Four Finnish athletes know what it is like to win a World Championship medal at home field. The most recent one to experience this was long jumper Tommi Evilä, whose jumps at Helsinki Olympic Stadium are now part of Finnish sports history. Who will succeed next at IAAF World U20 Championships in Tampere?
Audiences at home prefer sprinter Samuel Purola, hurdler Viivi Lehikoinen and javelin thrower Elina Kinnunen, who all brought medals back home from last summer’s European Athletics U20 Championships. In addition pole vaulter Saga Andersson, discus thrower Helena Leveelahti and shot putter Arttu Korkeasalo may be counted as Finland’s possible success athletes.
Purola runs and plays
Samuel Purola, 18, who runs for Oulun Pyrintö, is a sprinter in the second generation. Purola has developed quickly under the supervision of his father and coach Mika Purola. A tall (188 cm) sprinter placed third at 100 metres and fifth at 200 metres in the European Athletics U18 Championships in 2016. Last summer he ran silver at 100 metres and bronze at 200 metres in the European Athletics U20 Championships.
– I was surprised that I was able to place so well, Purola confessed in Grosseto.
When this text goes to print, Purola’s records at 100 and 200 metres were 10,31 and 20,84. He tries to be in his best shape in Tampere.
– For the last few weeks I have run better than ever in the rehearsals. I’m waiting for the World U20 Championships with confidence, said Purola.
Purola, who likes to spend his free time playing drums has a background in wrestling and football. His brother Eeli is a sprinter as well.
Lehikonen knows how to have a good timing
Hurdler Viivi Lehikoinen knows how to do her best in the most important races. In 2016 she won 400 metre hurdles with her record 58,28 in European Athletics U18 Championships. A year ago she ran bronze in the European Athletics U20 Championships with the Finnish record in her age group, 56,49.
– When I saw my result at the board I was shocked. I had trouble realising what I had just done, Lehikoinen said in Italy.
Lehikoinen is coached by Jussi Ihamäki who coached Nooralotta Neziri when she won European Athletics U20 Championships and placed third in the European U23 Championships in 100 metre hurdles.
– The progress was as expected during the training season and my technique became better and better. Now during the summer the results have improved step by step. U20s are the main goal of the season, Lehikoinen says.
Lehikoinen, 18, graduated from Mäkelänrinne sports high school this spring.
Kinnunen switched skis to a javelin
Javelin thrower Elina Kinnunen comes from Uusikaupunki, Southwest Finland. Former cross country skier has developed fast under the guidance of her coach Tuomas Laaksonen. Kinnunen has the talent necessary to rise to the international top in her sport.
Kinnunen, 19, placed third in the European U18 Championships in 2016 as well as in the last year’s European U20 Championships.
– Now my goal is to take a brighter medal in Tampere, Kinnunen says about her plans for the coming season.
Her best result so far, 54,30, shows promising signs regarding the upcoming World U20 Championships.
Like Lehikoinen, Kinnunen also graduated from high school this spring.
The fourth place isn’t enough for Andersson anymore
Pole vaulter Saga Andersson wants to put a stop to her row of fourth places this summer in Tampere. She placed fourth at Youth Olympic Festival at Tbilisi, Georgia 2015, as well as in the European U18 Championships hold at the same place a year later. The third fourth place was achieved at the European U20 Championships in Grosseto, Italy, last year.
Andersson, 18, is a pole vaulter in the second generation. Her father Björn Andersson is also her coach. Her record is 442 indoors and 440 outdoors.
– Training has gone well. I have become stronger and faster. I have especially improved the beginning of the jump, Andersson says.
Andersson has competed in a good company for a long time, as Wilma Murto, who jumped the junior’s world record, is just one year older than her. Andersson studies in Swedish speaking high school, Helsinge gymnasium.
Many talented throwers
The Finnish team has several talented throwers, like discus thrower Helena Leveelahti, 18, who comes from Virrat, middle Finland. She placed fifth in the European U20 Championships last year, and her record is 54,67. Shot putter Arttu Korkeasalo, 18, competes for the first time in the U20 Championships and had thrown 19,43 with 6-kilo shot.
– I have what it takes to throw more than 20 metres, Korkeasalo promises.
Also hammer thrower Kiira Väänänen and javelin throwers Teemu Narvi and Roosa Ylönen have chances to place in top 8 in their sports. Narvi is considered to be a truly promising Finnish javelin thrower.