03 JUL 2012 Iaaf News

Javelin artist Soini Nikkinen passes away

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Soini Nikkinen, a legend of Finnish javelin throwing and a World Record holder for less than a week, passed away at his home in Nastola on June 2, aged 88.

Born at Kiuruvesi as 13th child of a large family, Nikkinen´s birthdate in church registry and all official documents always has been 29 Jul 1923, although – as his mother revealed – the actual date was 10 days earlier.

Nikkinen had his Day of Days at Kuhmoinen's first ever national meeting on 24 Jun 1956. Witnessed by a few hundred people around a small sportsground during Midsummer celebrations, in third round of the competition he sent an old-fashioned Finnish birch javelin to a massive distance of 83.56, improving his PB (and Finnish record) by some four and Bud Held´s WR by nearly two metres.

Just six days later, Janusz Sidlo of Poland threw 83,66 in Milano, cutting sports-minded Finland's World record joy short.

Aged 32 and even today the second-oldest WR holder of the event behind Janis Lusis, Nikkinen already was nearing the end of his career including two Olympic Games (12th in London 1948, teammate Tapio Rautavaara winning, and 8th in Helsinki 1952) plus a European Championship bronze medal in Bern 1954. Finnish Champion just once, with four silvers and three bronzes, his earlier national records were 79.60 in 1954 and 79.64 in 1955, both of them at Tampere in cool October meetings.

Just nine days before his Kuhmoinen big throw, Nikkinen had done no more than 67 metres in a Helsinki meeting. An unpredictable athlete with countless ups and downs, later in the season he lost his form so badly he was not selected to Melbourne Olympic Games, in which the winner was Egil Danielsen of Norway with another massive WR of 85.71.

Interestingly, Nikkinen always joked Danielsen's victory was thanks to him. "After three rounds, the Norwegian was the last man to continue the competition in 6th position with just 72,60, a distance which I would have done in my sleep. Danielsen was very lucky for my staying at home."

For many decades Nikkinen worked as the groundsman at Pajulahti Sports Institute near Lahti. A Bohemian character and notoriously problematic athlete with many suspensions for bad conduct during his national team years, he later cleaned his act completely, becoming a very peaceful man. A skilful carpenter, his beautiful cabinet clocks were known all over Finland, many of them given as victory prizes at Pihtipudas Javelin Carnival.

Soini Nikkinen's family included wife Lyyli and two children. The unforgettable Kuhmoinen World record javelin is now displayed in the Finnish Sports Museum in Helsinki.

Matti Hannus for the IAAF

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