The 2013-2016 IAAF Strategic Plan has six Core Values: universality, leadership, unity, excellence, integrity and solidarity, and a Vision Statement: “To lead, govern and develop the sport of athletics in all its forms worldwide, uniting the Athletics Family in a spirit of excellence, integrity and solidarity.”
The Finnish Championships, or Kalevan Kisat, in Lahti, were conducted in pretty good conditions despite a major scare of rainfall for all four days (23-26 August). There was only a little bit of rain, along with favourable winds in the front straight for the last two days which set up the possibility for some good results.
The main point of the championships is always the men’s Javelin Throw. It was no different this time, especially after Finland had seen some success after a few dry years with a bronze medal at both the European Championships and Olympic Games. Last year in Turku Ari Mannio won with a good 85.12m season’s best, but the bronze medal (Antti Ruuskanen) was won with a result under 80 metres (79.51m). The start to this year’s competition was not much better as Ruuskanen needed all three throws in the qualification to get to the top eight (only eight qualify for field events finals in this competition). Tero Pitkämäki had the brightest start throwing 80.01m and 80.13m with the others below 80 metres.
Olympic medallist Ruuskanen had a slow start reaching 79.83m with his third throw, but others were warming up already as Pitkämäki hit a 83.48m result in round three and Mannio took second place with a 82.23m effort in the fourth round. But the competition was far from over and surprisingly many good throws appeared in the last two rounds. Ruuskanen finally found his groove with a 83.71m leading mark in round five and Ari Mannio looking to renew his title from last season, unleashed a 84.62m season’s best mark to lead the competition before the last two throwers.
But Olympic bronze medallist Ruuskanen had another ace in his sleeve with his javelin landing at 87.79m for a personal best and the very first national title for the 28-year-old. Mannio was second and Pitkämäki third with Lassi Etelätalo also getting over the 80m mark for the fourth place (80.15). The first two threw more than the Olympic gold medallist in London - not bad for a national championships competition.
There was a good result in the women’s javelin as well with 23-year-old Oona Sormunen winning the event for the second time in a row. The Tohmajärvi-athlete, coached by former Olympic great Seppo Räty, was in the best form of the season with four throws over 55m in the competition. A 59.14m personal best with her last throw crowned the best competition of her career. The surprise of the event was that Sanni Utriainen was not in second place as 21-year-old Piia Pyykkinen took the silver with a 52.84m personal best, just leaving Utriainen to bronze with 52.78m.
Elsewhere - Karjalainen collects national title No. 15
In other events there were no world class results, but many good performances and some new names coming up. In the men’s 100m it finally seems like Visa Hongisto is coming back to his best level from 2007/2008. Hongisto won the 100m title in 10.54 and was second in 200m in 21.11, his best clocking since August 2008. The 25-year-old was a very promising young sprinter a few years back clocking a 20.56 personal best at the Osaka World Championships in 2007 at 20. In the 200m final Jonathan Åstrand bounced nicely back from a disappointing third place in the 100m setting a season’s best 20.72.
European Championships 1500m finalist Niclas Sandells renewed his 800/1500m double from last season winning both events here too (1:52.72/3:44.17). Lewis Korir was another double winner in 5000/10,000m (13:55.80/28:59.75). 19-year-old Jussi Kanervo can be tipped to be the next great hurdler in Finland as he won his first national title in 110m hurdles in 13.94 personal best, his first ever sub-14 second race. Kanervo was fifth at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona.
In the pole vault Eemeli Salomäki cleared 5.50m to win his fifth national title (two indoors) and Roni Ollikainen took his first in the long jump with a 7.91m result. Mikko Kyyrö won another discus title with a 60.45m result and Olli-Pekka Karjalainen continued his incredible win streak in the hammer winning his 15th straight title with a 73.21m result. The 32-year-old has been injured a lot throughout the years, but has come to the Champs every year to win the title.
Latvala, Lehtinen, Eriksson take double wins – women’s events
In the women’s events Hanna-Maari Latvala ensured her best sprinter status in the country is not going away winning her first double in 100/200m clocking 11.74 in the shorter distance and then a good 23.38 personal best in the 200m. Johanna Lehtinen, another athlete who has been injured a lot, won an unusual 1500/10,000m double in 4:18.31 and a 33:25.70 10000m personal best in her second ever career race (35:53.17 in a mixed race in 2002). 39-year-old veteran Laura Markovaara also cut more than 30 seconds off her previous best to win the silver in 33:32.96 (third in 5000m in 16:21.41 PB).
Sandra Eriksson also won two events clocking a 16:16.04 personal best in 5000m and 9:57.72 to win her sixth straight title in the 3000m Steeplechase. The 23-year-old might not win more titles too easily as 18-year-old Oona Kettunen is coming fast from behind finishing second in both events. A 16:19.23 personal best in 5000m and 9:59.38 national junior record in the steeplechase to become the first Finnish junior under 10 minutes easily make her the most promising women’s distance runner in this country for a while.
Nooralotta Neziri clocked 13.22 to win the 100m hurdles and Eleriin Haas equalled her personal best 1.88m to win the High Jump with Elisa Smolander in second place with a 1.86m PB. In the pole vault Minna Nikkanen has an impressive record as she won another title here with a 4.30m clearance before making three unsuccessful attempts at national record height 4.47m. She has won the last four titles indoors and outdoors since 2009. Elina Torro topped the Triple Jump with a 13.48m season’s best and in the Shot Put Suvi Helin grabbed her third straight title with a 15.01m result.
Tanja Komulainen won the discus with 55.09m and Merja Korpela reached a season’s best 67.43m to win the hammer for the sixth successive time. Niina Kelo won another Heptathlon title with 5649 points hitting a great 54.72m personal best in the javelin. The 32-year-old, who was also second in the Shot Put competition, has won an unbelievable 31 medals from the national championships. This was also the final multi-event competition of her caree as she’ll now concentrate on throwing events only.