With the European track season now a distant memory and thoughts quickly turning to the EAA’s continental cross country championships on Sunday 16 December in Edinburgh, the Nordic Cross Country Championships took place in Borlänge, Sweden, today.
The championships turned into a exhibition event for Finland’s fast re-emerging distance running reputation. The Finns took three of the four individual golds and two of the four team titles on offer, while the Swedish hosts wrapped up the other two team titles, and Denmark won the remaining individual race.
Finland’s Samuli Vasala won the senior men´s 9.6 km very easily after running 2 to 3 very strong 1600 m-laps in the middle of the race. Vasala took gold by a 18 seconds margin from Sweden´s Mostafa Mohammed, whose compatriot Claes Nyberg took the bronze only one second behind. Sweden has had bad luck in the history of these championships in the senior men´s class: seven silver medals but no golds!
Vasala, 26, the nephew of 1972 Olympic 1500m champion Pekka Vasala has suffered from bad foot injuries since placing 6th in the 1998 European Championships 5000 metres final ( Personal bests – 1500m 3:38.39; 3000m 7:46.95; 5000m 13:28.17; 10,000m 28:31.16). He has gone through three operations and missed the entire track seasons in 2000 and 2003. Last March Vasala had an operation to have some piece of bone cut from his heel and did not have enough time to get his normal running shape during summer.
Nevertheless, in August Vasala won the Finnish Championships in the Duathlon (cycling + running) by a huge 5 minutes margin ahead Mika Luoto, who placed 10th at the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon competition this autumn.
“I could have competed also at the European Duathlon Championships but I am a runner and wanted to make a good come-back at these Nordic Champs,” confirmed Vasala. There was only one real hill on this track, but still it was quite heavy. It was interesting, and I felt really fine trough the race.”
“I have had to make some compromises in my training: instead of running 200 km a week I have run 80 - 100 km but also made long trainings by bike. There are many ways to get oneself fitted after injuries and each athlete has to find the most suitable for himself.”
Sunday was a very special day for Vasala for another reason for this was his first ‘Fathers´ Day’ as a father. He confirmed that he has all the basic things all right in his life and he is ready to try hard ahead of the Olympic Games in Athens next year and the 2005 IAAF World Championships in front of his home crowd in Helsinki.
The Women’s 4.8 km in Borlänge, in foggy and chilly (0 degrees) conditions was won by Finland’s Ulla Tuimala. Tuimala, 22, left Denmark’s Dorthe Wiberg behind by 8 seconds. Bronze went to Norway´s Runa Bostad.
Tuimala kicked strongly in the last lap and said her win was quite easy:
“I decided to spurt on the hill and that did it. I think my Achilles tendon problems are over now after a bad summer,” smiled Tuimala.
Tuimala and her twin-sister Anni has been one of the most promising Finnish female runners for many years. At the 2001 European Junior Champs Ulla took bronze medal and Anni placed 5th at 3000 m.
Ulla Tuimala is only the second Finnish women to win the Nordic Cross Country gold. The other athlete was Annemari Sandell, the 1995 European Senior and World Junior Cross Country champion.
Finland missed only one individual victory when Anna Holm Jörgensen of Denmark who is only 15 years of age, won the women junior race after kicking away from Finland´s Jonna Välimaa. Tuomas Jokinen, 16 years (1.93m tall) won the men’s junior 6,4 km just one second ahead Denmark´s Mohamed Bashir, the European Junior bronze medallist at 10,000 m this year.
The Championships was held in typical Nordic conditions of -2 degrees Celsius.
Antti-Pekka Sonninen (text) and Mikko Nieminen (results) for the IAAF.
Nordic Cross Country Championships, Borlänge (SWE) 9.11.2003
Men's Senior 9.6 km: 1) Samuli Vasala FIN 28.45, 2) Mustafa Mohamed SWE 29.03, 3) Claes Nyberg SWE 29.04, 4) Erik Sjöqvist SWE 29.06, 5) Simo Wannas FIN 29.32, 6) Kristian Algers SWE 29.33, 7) Steen Walter DEN 29.40, 8) Henrik Skoog 29.58, 9) Ingemund Askeland NOR 29.59, 10) Endre Evensen NOR 30.23, 11) Mats Granström SWE 30.24, 12) Roy Kaldheim NOR 30.32, 13) Juha Hellstén FIN 30.42, 14) Mårten Boström FIN 30.45, 15) Sonni Thelmark DEN 30.51, 16) Knut Aalien NOR 30.53, 17) Jari Matinlauri FIN 31.11, 18) Kent Sörensen DEN 31.12, 19) Jeppe Thomsen DEN 31.48, 20) Andreas Carlborg SWE 32.10.
Men's Senior team: 1) SWE (Mohamed, Nyberg, Sjöqvist, Algers), 2) FIN, 3) NOR, 4) DEN.
Women's Senior 4.8 km: 1) Ulla Tuimala FIN 16.31, 2) Dorte Vibjerg DEN 16.39, 3) Runa Bolstad NOR 16.40, 4) Jenny Johannesson SWE 16.46, 5) Hanna Karlsson SWE 16.48, 6) Karolina Arewång Höjsgaard SWE 16.50, 7) Lisa Blommé SWE 16.54, 8) Linda Ström SWE 16.56, 9) Maria Söderström FIN 17.04, 10) Anette Björkgård FIN 17.11, 11) Anna von Schenk SWE 17.17, 12) Anne Jörgensen DEN 17.25, 13) Tina Poulsen DEN 18.15, 14) Tonje Sekse NOR 18.35.
Women´s Senior team: 1) SWE (Johannesson, Karlsson, Arewång Höjsgaard), 2) FIN, 3) DEN.
Men Junior 6.4 km: 1) Tuomas Jokinen FIN 20.23, 2) Mohammed Bashir DEN 20.24, 3) Martin Johansson SWE 20.33, 4) Juha Puttonen FIN 20.33, 5) Morten Munkholm DEN 20.34, 6) Joonas Harjamäki FIN 20.37, 7) Ulrik Heitmann DEN 20.37, 8) Thomas Gabrielsen NOR 20.38, 9) Lars Johansson SWE 20.43, 10) Henri Manninen FIN 21.02, 11) Pål Kvinge NOR 21.05, 12) Christian Björge NOR 21.42, 13) David Nilsson SWE 21.58, 14) Asle Tjelta NOR 22.11, 15) Mhretu Dessalegn Norja.
Men Junior Team: 1) FIN (Jokinen, Puttonen, Harjamäki), 2) DEN, 3) SWE, 4) NOR.
Women Junior 4.8 km:1) Anna Holm Jörgensen DEN 17.20, 2) Jonna Välimaa FIN 17.33, 3) Kari Anne Myhre NOR 17.44, 4) Ingrid Vikman SWE 17.50, 5) Laura Skyttä FIN 17.52, 6) Pia Marie Eikås NOR 18.03, 7) Bodil Have DEN 18.03, 8) Kim Blomkvist SWE 18.12, 9) Saara Skyttä FIN 18.27, 10) Petra Kindlund SWE 18.42, 11) Mariam Berg Hovda NOR 18.57, 12) Laura Salminen FIN 19.05, 13) Emma Lundgren SWE 19.06, 14) Johanna Strömberg SWE 19.08, 15) Nicoline Hansen DEN 19.30.
Women Junior team: 1) FIN (Välimaa, L.Skyttä, S.Skyttä), 2) NOR, 3) SWE, 4) DEN.