World discus silver medallist Daniel Stahl produced the headline performance at this year’s Finnkampen, the annual Sweden-vs-Finland match, as hosts Sweden retained their men’s and women’s team titles at the conclusion of the two-day contest in Stockholm on Sunday (3).
First held in 1925, the Finnkampen is the only two-nation annual competition still held at the professional level. Finland’s and Sweden’s best athletes often turn out to give their teams the best chance of victory in the long-running friendly rivalry between the two nations.
Sweden ultimately dominated both senior team competitions, winning the men’s contest with 216 points to Finland’s 188, and the women’s contest with 232.5 points to Finland’s 177.5. Both were landmark victories: it was the first time Sweden’s men’s team had won for six consecutive years, while their women’s team achieved a record score and winning margin.
The hosts achieved perfect 1-2-3 finishes in five events, one of which was the men’s discus. In the opening round, Stahl sent his disc flying out to 67.37m to add more than a metre to the competition record. Set in 1973, Ricky Bruch’s 66.16m was one of the oldest competition records at Finnkampen; just two disciplines – the men’s 800m and 5000m – have older marks.
Stahl, who earlier this year broke Bruch’s national record with a world-leading 71.29m, had just two other valid throws in his series, 61.68m and 62.44m, but he had done more than enough to win at Finnkampen for the fourth consecutive year.
While the men’s discus was one of the last events to finish, the weekend had started in similar record-breaking fashion.
In the separate race walking match, Perseus Karlstrom got proceedings underway by breaking the Swedish record in the 10,000m race walk. In what effectively became a solo exhibition, the 27-year-old went on to clock 38:57.45, the second-fastest time in the world this year, to win by almost two minutes.
His 60-year-old mother Siw Karlstrom, the 1986 European 10km race walk bronze medallist, competed in the women’s 5000m race walk and finished fifth in a race won by Finland’s Elisa Neuvonen.
The competition record in the women’s hammer also fell. Having led from the first round, Swedish record-holder Ida Storm set a competition record of 71.09m in round four and then extended it in the next round to 71.26m, the second-best throw of her career.
Fourteen years after making his Finnkampen debut, and 12 years since his first victory, Finland’s 2007 world champion Tero Pitkamaki won the javelin for the eighth time.
The 34-year-old, Finland’s top performer at the IAAF World Championships London 2017, didn’t have it all his own way, though. He trailed Sweden’s Jiannis Smalios for the first half of the competition and only took a slight lead in round four with 78.26m. He eventually landed his spear beyond the 80-metre line, throwing 80.28m in round five.
One day after clocking a 1500m PB at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels, Sweden’s 2014 European 5000m champion Meraf Bahta was back in action at Finnkampen and pulled off an unlikely double.
She won the 800m on Saturday in a PB of 2:04.41 before returning to the track 24 hours later to win the 10,000m in 33:00.28.
Sprinter Elin Ostlund also made a significant contribution to Sweden’s points tally. Battling strong headwinds, the 26-year-old won the 100m in 11.93 (-1.8m/s), the 200m in 23.74 (-1.3m/s) and anchored her team to victory in the 4x100m in 44.63.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF