Minna Nikkanen competing in Beijing last summer (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Tampere, Finland

Piktämáki wins, Karjalainen opens, while Nikkanen vaults national record in Tampere

Junior athlete Minna Nikkanen’s new national senior record in the women’s Pole Vault was one of the most promising highlights at the opening of the annual Finnish Elite Games series, which took place in Tampere on Wednesday 20 June.

The 2007 Elite Games Series is composed of five meets including the EAA Permit meeting in Lapinlahti on 22 July. Click here for full details about the series.

All three of Finland’s 2006 European Championship medals winners were competing last night with victories for the two silver medallists Tero Pitkämáki (JT) and Olli-Pekka Karjalainen (HT), and a third place in the flat 3000m for European champion Jukka Keskisalo (Steeplechase).

Looking for international experience

Nikkanen who is 19-years-old, was 6th both at the 2005 Youth World Champs and 2006 World Junior Champs, and improved her previous NR, set in Lapinlahti last summer, by one centimetre to 4.20m, but she has jumped 4.21 indoors already in March 2006. She took three attempts on 4.30, which is the "B" entry standard fot the IAAF World Championships in Osaka, but none of the jumps was even close to succeeding.

"The winning jump was very good, as didn’t touch the bar. I took 4.30m next, because I really want to compete in Osaka. I need a lot of international experience", said Nikkanen, who is aiming for a good position at the European Junior Championships in Hengelo, the Netherlands, next month.

Wednesday was a sunny and windy night at the Ratina stadium, but Nikkanen did not want to blame it at all.

"The conditions are always the same for all the jumpers, and I have decided to stop talking about them."

Nikkanen, was not the only glad young Finnish vaulter. Vanessa Vandy, whose father is a New Zealand citizen, improved her PB by 15cm when she cleared 4.10 and left a lot of space between herself and the bar.

‘Tired’ Pitkämäki throws 83.97 to head Mikkola, 82.34

In the men’s Javelin Throw, the spectators expected the European silver medallist Tero Pitkämäki to put Kimmo Kinnunen´s 11-year-old arena record of 85.32m into the history books, but Pitkämäki was not at his best.

The winner of the opening IAAF Golden League meeting in Oslo last Friday (15), last night threw 82.92 in the third round, and that would have been enough for the first place. Pitkämäki´s last throw flew 83.97m - not a brilliant one, but quite understandable according to what he said:

"I have had very hard training during the few last days, and I felt my body tired tonight. The wind was not the best possible, but I don’t want to blame it.”

Pitkämäki knows that only first place will do at the European Cup 1st League in Vaasa, Finland next weekend. His toughest opponent there will probably be Sweden’s Magnus Arvidsson, who has thrown over 85 metres this season.

Esko Mikkola, 33, showed his season's best of 82.34m in the 6th round, and so indicated that the battle for the two Osaka-team tickets behind Pitkämäki is not only for the youngsters.

"In this wind I should have thrown lower throws already during the earlier rounds", admitted Mikkola, who has been studying for several years in the United States.

The third Finn over the 80m line last night was Tero Järvenpää (PB 84.94m), who set his SB of 80.38m - his longest throw ever at his home stadium.

Tarvainen over 60m

The wind was tricky for the women javelin throwers too, but Finnish Record holder Paula Tarvainen threw 60.44 in the 5th round.

"That was the only good throw today, even though I have made some very solid training series," said Tarvainen, who was sixth at the 2005 World Championships.

‘OPK’ opens his season

Olli-Pekka Karjalainen, the European silver medallist opened his hammer throwing season with a 76.96m winning result in the 4th round and let it fly to 76.81 in the 6th, too. Karjalainen was selected for the Finnish Team for the European Cup as David Söderberg placed 2nd with 74.71.

“When having only 74.91 after the 3rd round I thought this was going to be disaster, but now I can be quite satisfied. Well, my throws were not beautiful, but I managed to put some power behind them,” laughed Karjalainen who is getting married this year.

Ruostekivi 10.38 in the heats

Jarkko Ruostekivi strengthened his status as the fastest man in Finland right now when he spurted to his PB of 10.34 in the 100m heats in a tailwind of 1.0 m/s. With that run Ruostekivi, 22, jumped into the 3rd place on Finland's all-time list behind Tommi Hartonen's 10.21 and Markus Pöyhönen's 10.23.

Ruostekivi did not run the final, because he felt some extra tightness in his groin.

"No panic – it’s just a reflection from an old injury. I didn’t want to risk anything only three days before the European Cup," Ruostekivi explained.

Heavy legged Keskisalo ‘normal for June’

The crowd of about 4000 spectators cheered loudly for the European 3000m Steeplechase champion Jukka Keskisalo in the flat 3000 metres hoping to help him go under 8 minutes.

Keskisalo didn’t do it and was not happy at all despite setting his new PB of 8:04.68. He placed third behind two Kenyans, Kiprono Menjo 7:50.97 and Lewis Korir 8:03.32.

Menjo, who has run the 10,000m in 27:04.61 in this season, took a clear lead in the second kilometre and Keskisalo just could not follow him. Anyway, his coach Tommy Ekblom, himself a World Championship Steeplechase finalist in 1983, was not worried and said, that was a "normal June level for Jukka" who has had some very good training spells this year.

Järvenpää short of record pace

Mari Järvenpää tried to set a new national record in the women’s 1000 metres, but her winning time of 2:43.91 was more than two seconds slower than Kaisa Siitonen’s record from the year 1988.

Petteri Lax leapt a windy 7.89m in the men’s Long Jump, and Johanna Halkoaho sprinted 13.25 in a 0.1 m/s head wind in the women’s 100m Hurdles.

The second edition of this year´s Elite Series will take place on 1 July at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku, which is one of the oldest one-day meets in the world.

Antti-Pekka Sonninen for the IAAF

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