FINNISH CHAMPS: Promising for the World Champs host nation despite bad weather


Monday 18 July 2005

Pori, Finland - As expected, the world’s furthest javelin thrower of the summer Tero Pitkämäki highlighted the Finnish National Championships, “Kalevan Kisat” last weekend (Fri 15 – Sun 17).

High hopes were placed on the athletes because of the World Championships in Finland in a few weeks time and although not too many new names came forward to be named to the team, there were plenty of very positive performances during the weekend.

Tero Pitkämäki
(Paula Noronen)

Pitkämäki - consistent series

Although Sunday had easily the best weather in the three day competition, it was still not perfect for the national sport, the Javelin Throw. Strong wind which was constantly changing direction was the trademark of the Pori Stadium and made the life of the throwers really difficult during the competition, for all but one thrower. Olympic finalist Esko Mikkola was well below his best marks finishing in second place with a best of 78.83m, exactly nine metres behind world leading thrower Tero Pitkämäki, all of whose five measured throws were better than the best mark by second placer Mikkola.

Pitkämäki opened with a 81.20m following that with a fine 84.00m throw. However, he did give the crowd a big scare with his third attempt in which he fell awkwardly and seemed to twist his ankle, but was quick to get up after falling down and fouling his throw. Pitkämäki said that “he then tried just to get back to rhythm with his fourth round effort” (which landed at 79.17m) before unleashing the winning mark 87.83m, the second best throw of his young career, in round five.

Arsi Harju at the Finnish Champs, Pori
(Paula Noronen)

Pitkämäki confirmed that “he’d be really disappointed to leave the World Championships without a medal” and that he understands that “he has created for himself big expectations with his actions during this summer” in this Javelin mad land.

Harju closes in on full recovery to form

The Championships started on Friday (15) packed with qualifications and heats, but one final, men’s shot put, was in the spotlight. Indeed there was some interesting action there with 2000 Olympic champion Arsi Harju finally coming closer to the level he lost after the 2003 World Indoor Championships.

Tommi Evilä - Finnish Champs, Pori
(Paula Noronen)

After fouling all his six throws in the Shot Put carnival competition just a week earlier, Harju was now able to start his competition with a season’s best 20.11m. He then followed that in round three with 20.21m and finished second behind the top shot putter in Finland right now, Ville Tiisanoja, who won with a 20.42m toss with five of his throws over the 20m line.

Another comeback was seen in third place, Conny Karlsson, 2001 World Championships finalist, who was only able to start his season last week coming back from injury, also came close to his best days with a best of 20.13m in round six.

With Tepa Reinikainen in fourth place at 19.98m, only Tiisanoja has been selected to the World Championships team. Reinikainen has the A-standard from 2004, but Harju and Karlsson, already close to the limit 20.50m, will have their chance to enter the team should they reach the limit before the entry deadline.

Jukka Keskisalo - Finnish Champs, Pori
(Paula Noronen)

Torrential rain and strong winds

Day two, Saturday (16) was mostly ruined by torrent rain and strong headwind in the home straight. The men’s 100m heats saw several personal bests in the backstraight, but the final in the front of the grandstand was not as fast. European championship finalist Markus Pöyhönen just dipped to the finish line before Tommi Hartonen, a former World Championship 200m semi-finalist, to win, 10.54 and 10.56 respectively. The fast times in the heats probably mean and Finland will have a relay team to the World Championships after a long gap.

Keskisalo recovers fast from injury

Mikaela Ingberg at the Finnish Champs, Pori
(Paula Noronen)

One of the most followed athletes on Saturday was steeplechaser Jukka Keskisalo, who after finishing ninth in the Paris World Championships in 2003, has been struggling with all kinds of injuries. Keskisalo’s coach, Tommy Ekblom, himself a World championship finalist steeplechaser back in the inaugural World Champs in 1983, did not expect his pupil to recover quick enough to compete at the World Championships in Helsinki next month.

Keskisalo, who ran a slow 8:50.21 season’s opener in Lapinlahti just 13 days before the National Championships, led the race from the start with Kim Bergdahl, the reigning champion, following behind him all the way. Keskisalo led the race until Bergdahl made his move with 500m to go and seemingly got away too. But Keskisalo, looking extremely relaxed, easily struck back with 300m to go and waving to the crowd won with a four second margin in 8:31.77, the B-standard for the World Champs and good enough to get him into the team.

After the promising steeplechase Keskisalo then took second place in a tight 1500m final on Sunday and, along with women’s 1500m runner Johanna Risku, will be the big running hope for Finns in Helsinki.

Evilä - 8.11m - comes close to national record again

Olli-Pekka Karjalainen - Finnish Champs, Pori
(Paula Noronen)

In the Long Jump Tommi Evilä, who recently placed third in the Golden Gala meeting in Rome, staged another attack at the national record of 8.16m. He bettered his season’s wind legal best twice with the best of 8.11m in round five and although he didn’t get the record this time, he looks to be one of the most consistent long jumpers in the world at the moment. Evilä also has a wind assisted 8.27m jump from Lapinlahti couple of weeks ago.

In the women’s Long Jump there was a surprise winner, but not for the first time. Nina Saarman-Bartholdi, now 28 years old, took her first national title in 1993 in the age of sixteen. She had to wait 12 years to get the second one and also recorded a personal best of 6.37m in the process bettering her earlier best of 6.35m from 2002 by 1cm.

Karjalainen happy in the pouring rain

After a few problematic competitions, World Athletics Final hammer winner from 2004, Olli-Pekka Karjalainen, was really happy with his performance. It was not the result, 78.06m, which made him happy, but the way he got that mark. The competition was carried out in wet conditions with rain pouring down especially in the start of the competition, but also making the ring very wet for the last rounds as well. The World Junior record holder (with the old specification, heavily, implement) said he had four good throws from the slippery ring and was happy to find a consistent throwing rhythm again.

Ingberg continues comeback

Mikaela Ingberg, who is also coming back from injury, again, won her sixth javelin title with a throw of 59.87m. Paula Tarvainen was second with a season’s best of 58.86m and Taina Kolkkala third at 56.21m. Despite of all her injuries, since 1999 Ingberg has finished in top two in all national championships only missing the top podium twice, in 2001 and 2003.

Junior sprint talent

The last day of the championships saw another batch of positive results. In the absence of Tommi Hartonen, who was fastest in the 200m heats, 18-year-old Visa Hongisto took his first national title into a strong headwind clocking 21.21s winning time. His best is only slightly better, 21.17 a couple of weeks ago, but his
race in Pori really suggests he could do a lot better in Kaunas European Junior Championships. Hongisto is well known in Finland for “light training methods”, he and his coach Kai Kepsu think that a young athlete should not be stressed with hard training too early. Following his first national title Hongisto was asked what he thinks he will do after proper training, “at least national records” was his answer.

Lattu has to dip finish

In the 400m Hurdles national record holder Ari-Pekka Lattu was almost caught in the finish line by the former NR holder Janne Mäkelä, who is just coming back from a long break caused by an injury. Both athletes clocked their first sub-50 second times this season with times 49.76 and 49.95 respectively.

2.27m High Jump battle

In the High Jump Oskari Frösén was almost surprised by Heikki Taneli, who bettered his earlier personal best by five cm. Both athletes finished the high standard competition with 2.27m, the World Championships B-standard.

Taneli has been more or less injured for several years, 25-years-old now, he was one of the most promising jumpers in 1998 when he finished fifth in the national championships with 2.14m. The injuries have prevented further progress and before this season his personal best was only 2.18m in 2002.

In the women’s 200m Kirsi Mykkänen sliced 0.4 seconds off her personal best with a winning time of 23.53s to win her second title of the weekend. On Saturday she won the 400m in 52.99m with the rain coming down very hard during the race.

Annemari Sandell-Hyvärinen made it back to the track too, the national record holder in several events, a mother now, won a double over

Mirko Jalava for the IAAF