The Finnish season is now getting started properly. (Meaning: people are competing abroad enough to create the illusion of the Finnish season having started properly).
Several people have narrowly made the standards for Euro Champs, without giving any real hope of actual success there. (For nbonaddio: Välimäki opened with 47.2x, Heikkilä has started with 50.60 and 51.02.) We'll probably be able to field a bigger team than last time, causing lots of happy faces and people congratulating each other in the national alphabet, even if 90 per cent of them will go out in heats/qualifying. The only real change seems to be that Mikko Kyyrö is supplanting Kruger as our top discus thrower, but since this is almost solely due to Kruger going down I'm not particularly happy about that.
Seppo Räty's blog is also going again. It's always great to read, even if he mostly repeats one thing over and over again: all Finnish javelin guys of today have inconsistent and immature techniques. Most recently he wrote about Frydrych, contrasting his solidity, consistent and continuing development and Železný-like technique with, you guessed it, our own throwers. (Unfortunately Kurt Francis isn't here to agree wholeheartedly, but I'll do it for him )
Jukka Keskisalo's first steeplechase this year was 8:30 and a well-beaten 3rd... doesn't look too good. Ari Mannio threw 85.12 at Äänekoski - unfortunately, that's a national leader ahead of Wirkkala's 85.04... I still maintain this will be his year, mostly because I'm finding it hard to see this being any of our other guys' year.
OK, as expected, we finished a looooooooong way (68 points) from not being relegated. It's hard to find anything positive about our performance. None of the biggest names impressed - Keskisalo is clearly nowhere near his form in '09 or '06, Karjalainen threw his worst mark (outside the very easy FInnish NC qualifiers where he's never had to give his best) in more than 9 years etc. The depth is atrocious, especially on women's side (how hard can it be to find somebody who can run 5000m under 17 minutes and not lose to the second-last finisher by more than a minute?) We totalled more injuries than podium finishes, with Evilä and Torro replaced due to apparently minor problems, Heikkilä out of the 400mH thanks to injuring himself in the warm-up and Mononen crash-landing in the pole vault. The only positive surprises were Jonathan Åstrand's 7th place in men's 200m and, well, there weren't any others really.
LopenUupunut wrote:OK, as expected, we finished a looooooooong way (68 points) from not being relegated. It's hard to find anything positive about our performance. None of the biggest names impressed - Keskisalo is clearly nowhere near his form in '09 or '06, Karjalainen threw his worst mark (outside the very easy FInnish NC qualifiers where he's never had to give his best) in more than 9 years etc. The depth is atrocious, especially on women's side (how hard can it be to find somebody who can run 5000m under 17 minutes and not lose to the second-last finisher by more than a minute?) We totalled more injuries than podium finishes, with Evilä and Torro replaced due to apparently minor problems, Heikkilä out of the 400mH thanks to injuring himself in the warm-up and Mononen crash-landing in the pole vault. The only positive surprises were Jonathan Åstrand's 7th place in men's 200m and, well, there weren't any others really.
Can't argue any of this. Couldn't be more disappointed. I wasn't expecting miracles, but I was expecting competency. There are a good 100 colleges here in the States that can run a 3:12 4x4..
The Finnish domestic season has finally opened That is to say, the first Elite Games meeting was held today at Kuortane.
Men's javelin, which enjoyed a nice tailwind, had by far the most impressive field.
1. Andreas Thorkildsen 88.10 2. Tero Pitkämäki 86.92 3. Teemu Wirkkala 86.53 4. Antti Ruuskanen 82.58 5. Ari Mannio 81.30
The top three all impressed (Thorkildsen's 2nd best was 87.95, Pitkämäki's 86.78 and Wirkkala was also reasonably consistent). Mannio, unfortunately, disappointed again.
Men's long jump, which also had a tailwind, was the other reasonably strong event.
1. Tommi Evilä 807w (+2.1) 2. Kim Deok-Hyeon KOR 806w (+2.3) 3. Luvo Manyonya RSA 803w (+2.1, 18-yo) 5. Petteri Lax 797w (+2.1)
Mikko Kivinen, who did quite well at European Team Champs with 784 in inferior conditions, disappointed with 760 today. They definitely weren't cheating with those wind readings
Keskisalo showed some signs of improvement, winning the flat 3k with 7:56.96, but I still don't see him anywhere near repeating his '06 gold. (Incidentally, IAAF reports Tahri with a 2000mSC world best.)
Another meet at Espoo today. Nothing really memorable, though Jensen's LJ was good.
mJT 1. Antti Ruuskanen 81.16 - Ari Mannio NM
Six fouls for Mannio. In a couple of weeks he's gone from very solid at a high level to having huge technical problems...
mHT 1. Szymon Ziółkowski POL 75.42 2. David Söderberg 74.24 3. Olli-Pekka Karjalainen 73.73
OK, that's it, I'm giving up on Karjalainen for this year. Söderberg hasn't gone up - quite the contrary - yet he now has a decent claim to being our #1 hammer thrower.
mLJ 1. Morten Jensen DEN 821 2. Tommi Evilä 807 3. Kim Deok-Hyeon KOR 807 4. Luvo Manyonya RSA 803 5. Petteri Lax 794w (+2.2)
For the second consecutive comp Lax meets the European Champs qualification standard of 790, only to have very slightly too much wind. Not the first time this is happening to Finnish long jumpers... Jensen's first jump was very good but there was no real back-up. (He was 4th at Kuortane.) Evilä had a foul in the Jensen territory but of course that's no use. (He complained about that foul a bit, even though it was clear enough there shouldn't have been any argument.)
m200 1. Steve Mullings JAM 20.96 (-1.2) 3. Jonathan Åstrand 21.03
m400 1. Matti Välimäki 47.29 =SB
For nbonaddio. This was his third 47.29 this year... Good pacing with a strong last 100.
m3000SC 1. Mustafa Mohamed SWE 8:31.48 2. Joonas Harjamäki 8:35.75 PB
mHJ 1. Osku Torro 225
He was disappointed, saying he felt good today and the conditions were excellent. Then, none of his jumps at 230 were really close.
w100 1. Sheri-Ann Brooks JAM 11.32 (-0.6)
None of the five Finns broke 12 seconds in this race...
Event carnivals this weekend: lots of meets around the country with 1 or 2 events only. The most eagerly expected, of course, was the javelin meet. A ticket for the European Champs at Barcelona would be awarded to the winner, supposing a result of 84m or better. Only one man was up to the task today...
mJT: 1. Harri Haatainen 84.53 SB
Previous SB 78m and bits, second best throw today 75.64. Very definite shades of Sami Saksio back in '97 - every year we're afraid something like this happens, and this time it did. His best effort in 9 years, and after many serious injuries, so congrats and good for him of course... but it shows the downsides of having a trial meet. Mind you, last year we had a supposed dream team and that didn't work either.
2. Tero Pitkämäki 83.69 3. Teemu Wirkkala 82.47 4. Antti Ruuskanen 81.39 5. Ari Mannio 80.43 6. Tero Järvenpää 79.08
wJT: 1. Laura Whittingham GBR 58.27 PB
None of our girls even made 53. They've all forgotten how to throw, probably because certain others have forgotten how to coach.
mLJ: 1. Otto Kilpi 796 PB
Finally, some news from the Department of Pleasant Surprises, which I already thought was down for good. Previously a hurdler with some national age group records, he switched to long jump in the wake of Evilä's '05 "Finns can compete on a high level in the long jump after all" thingy, and that seems to be paying off. We're starting to have actual depth in this event... probably at the cost of some other events, unfortunately.
Another Elite Games meet today at Lappeenranta. Some promising results, some less promising.
m100: 1. Steve Mullings 10.16 (-1.3) (ran a 10.03 (+1.2) SB in the heats)
m3000: 1. Geoffrey Kipsang KEN 7:59.57 2. Matti Räsänen 8:02.18 3. Jukka Keskisalo 8:02.23
Decidedly not promising for Keskisalo. The conditions were difficult (heat, wind), but top 2 almost duplicated their times from a couple weeks back when Keskisalo beat them easily in 7:56.97. Doesn't look good for EC title defense...
mLJ: 1. Tommi Evilä 819w (816 wind-legal) 2. Morten Jensen DEN 816 3. Kim Deok-Hyeon KOR 810 4. Luvo Manyonga RSA 804 5. Otto Kilpi 791
The only event in this meet series that consistently has a strong field. A very solid series from Evilä, who had all five non-foul jumps at 8+.
mJT: 1. Antti Ruuskanen 81.08 2. Harri Haatainen 77.34
w100: 1. Joanna Atkins USA 11.33 (+1.1) 2. Sheniqua Ferguson BAH 11.36 3. Sheri-Ann Brooks JAM 11.40
Yet another Elite Games meet today at Lapinlahti. Some quality marks, unfortunately very few of them from Finnish athletes.
m100: 1. Steve Mullings JAM 10.14 (+1.7) 2. Hannu Hämäläinen 10.41
m200: 1. Steve Mullings JAM 20.21w (+2.8) 2. Jonathan Åstrand 20.69 3. Greg Nixon USA 20.86
m1500: 1. Will Leer USA 3:42.42 2. Russell Brown USA 3:42.85 ... 12. Jukka Keskisalo FIN 3:45.92
OK, if a final confirmation was needed that this just isn't his year, here it is. So far he's reached good shape every 3 years ('03/'06/'09), so hopefully he'll be back for London 2012
m5000: 1. Kiprono Menjo KEN 13:06.28
Complete solo effort. He's really in shape now, hopefully he'll get into some bigger meets. It's a bit unclear though what his best distance is as he's running everything in sight from 1500 to 10K.
mLJ: 1. Michel Tornéus SWE 821w (+3.4) 2. Morten Jensen DEN 807w (ditto)
mJT: 1. Tero Järvenpää 83.81 2. Harri Haatainen 81.26 3. Antti Ruuskanen 79.37
First good non-foul from Järvenpää in 2 years ) Haatainen's second-best meet this year, but he's throwing very high which could be a big problem in different wind conditions. Still, it's nice to see at least some backup for his trials effort.
1. Caster Semenya 2:02.41 2. Sofia Öberg 2:04.27 3. Anna Verkhovskaya 2:04.41
So we saw that one coming. Very even splits again, that seems to be her new strategy (or maybe she's just afraid she can't sustain a faster early pace - not that there's anything wrong with splitting even!) See also viewtopic.php?f=1&t=40664 Atkins, by the way, was a completely useless 2nd rabbit. I suggest she stays a human.
Team Finland for Barcelona announced... My analysis and assessment of its potential follows. Here's the key to understanding my assessments:
OK chances - expected to make the final, may have chances to medal some chances - could reasonably make the final but highly unlikely to medal slim chances - highly unlikely to even make the final (or equivalent if straight final) no chances - will only make the final if everyone else is simultaneously injured, included in the team just to show how "deep" FInnish athletics currently is
m200: Jonathan Åstrand - 20.87/20.87 - chances: slim He's improved a lot this year and is very capable of going faster than his PB, but he's still a long, long way from the top.
m800: Mikko Lahtio - 1:48.10/1:46.59 - chances: none He's got a good kick, and a decent tactical eye, but just isn't anywhere near his '08 shape.
m1500: Jonas Hamm - 3:39.93/3:39.93 - chances: slim Niclas Sandells - 3:40.30/3:41.01 - chances: slim Mikael Bergdahl - 3:41.41/3:41.41 - chances: none There's a heap of faster and better runners in Europe, and their SBs are from the early season, but as Sandells has a decent kick and I haven't seen much of Hamm who's mostly competed in Germany, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt.
m5000: Matti Räsänen - 13:42.6h/13:42.6h - chances: slim Jussi Utriainen - 13:45.27/13:42.64 - chances: none They should probably concentrate on 10k, too much depth here.
m10000: Matti Räsänen - 28:32.84/28:32.84 - chances: some Jussi Utriainen - 28:56.22/28:50.20 - chances: slim Uncomfortably high assessments mostly caused by an almost complete lack of European depth in this event that I'm aware of. Still, there's no way they'll be in the medal contention.
m110H: Juha Sonck - 13.74/13.65 - chances: none Actually made the entry standard by a comfortable margin, unlike many of our other guys, but there's enough depth he still has no real chances.
m3000SC: Jukka Keskisalo - 8:30.22/8:10.67 - chances: slim Joonas Harjamäki - 8:35.75/8:35.75 - chances: none Janne Ukonmaanaho - 8:36.30/8:36.30 - chances: none Keskisalo gets an optimistic slim mostly based on his old merits. He hasn't done much this year to earn it and his form even seems to be going down.
mHJ: Osku Torro - 232i/232i - chances: OK He's not really worth that 232i, but a solid 226 could get him surprisingly high.
mPV: Eemeli Salomäki - 560/560 - chances: none Vesa Rantanen - 550/572 - chances: none Salomäki seemed to be improving and would have been a slim at least without his recent shoulder injury, but it definitely doesn't look very promising now. Rantanen is solid but way too old.
mLJ: Tommi Evilä - 822/822 - chances: OK Otto Kilpi - 796/796 - chances: slim Petteri Lax - 787/811 - chances: slim Evilä is one of our very few genuine medal candidates (though I'm certainly not picking him to medal). The others will have to perform at their absolute best to make the final, but LJ qualifications are always random enough they'll have a chance.
mDT: Mikko Kyyrö - 64.14/62.43 - chances: some Frantz Kruger - 70.32/62.02 - chances: some They'll probably have to perform at or near SB level to make the final, but it could happen. I've doubted Kruger the last two years yet he's made it by some fraction of an inch. Unfortunately even if they do make the final there are zero chances of a top 6 placing.
mHT: Olli-Pekka Karjalainen - 83.30/76.94 - chances: slim David Söderberg - 78.83/76.05 - chances: slim Tuomas Seppänen - 74.60/74.60 - chances: none Karjalainen has been a big disappointment this year, up there with Keskisalo. But as the current global and European level of male hammer throwing is hardly impressive, he and Söderberg have some hope of making the final.
mJT: Tero Pitkämäki - 91.53/86.92 - chances: OK Teemu Wirkkala - 87.23/86.53 - chances: OK Harri Haatainen - 86.63/84.53 - chances: some Our strongest event obviously, even if this year has disappointed and we really shouldn't be sending anyone with merely "some" chances. Hoping for a medal, won't be surprised not to get one.
mDec: Mikko Halvari - 7736/7736 - chances: none Just not up there.
m50kRW: Jarkko Kinnunen - 3:47.36/- - chances: OK Not much of a name yet internationally, but this could be his big breakthrough. A surprise medal isn't at all impossible.
m4x100: Hannu Hämäläinen/Joni Rautanen/Jonathan Åstrand/Hannu Ali-Huokuna/Niko Taavitsainen - chances: none The best they could do is threaten the NR of 39.30, and that's highly unlikely. Even if it happens they're not in the final.
w400mH: Ilona Ranta - 56.48/57.33 - chances: none See above, under Juha Sonck.
w3000mSC: Sandra Eriksson - 9:45.50/9:54.20 - chances: slim She's been a disappointment this year, and there's a lot of European depth in this event. But a promising 1500 today moves her up to slim.
wPV: Minna Nikkanen - 446/440 - chances: slim Too much depth here. She'll have to overperform to make the final, but still narrowly misses the criteria for none.
wDT: Tanja Komulainen - 57.03/57.03 - chances: none Sanna Kämäräinen - 56.19/56.19 - chances: none Avoiding last place is the aim.
wHT: Merja Korpela - 69.56/68.49 - chances: slim Not nearly as good as last year, and that wouldn't have been good for a some, but a miracle could happen.
wJT: Oona Sormunen - 57.68/57.50 - chances: slim Will take her a PB to make the final, but that could conceivably happen - though she's been struggling with technical problems lately.
Days 2 and 3 have brought quite a few surprise winners. Eemeli Salomäki - who only missed out on making the Euro Champs final on countback - NH'd in men's pole vault, leaving the door open for Jere Bergius and his 550 outdoor PB.
Today featured our current second-strongest event (after men's javelin, obviously), which incredibly enough is men's long jump. Our team there may not exactly frighten the Americans for example, but we did manage to get 4 guys over 770 sans wind assistance on a slow track. 19-yo Roni Ollikainen was a pleasant surprise with his 775 PB, enough for a bronze. Other pleasant surprises so far have included Maiju Mattila's 185 win in wHJ over long-time event empress Hanna Grobler (Mattila got 4th at WYC '05 in girls' heptathlon, not quite fulfilling that promise yet) and Tuomas Seppänen's 74.73 PB in mHT (though O-P Karjalainen still got his 13th victory despite injuring himself).
Niina Kelo (Pitkämäki's girlfriend) has a busy weekend - after placing 6th in the discus final yesterday, she today navigated the one-day qualification/final well enough for a silver in the shot put, snatched a bronze in the javelin and, yes, leads the heptathlon after four events.
It is somewhat anti-climactic, yes (though less than it would be if we needed some sort of major-meet trials in more than one or two events...); our NCs do almost always come a couple weeks before the major champs. Euro Champs this year were earlier than usual - earlier than any major meet of the '00s, but still not all that early. Perhaps those clever guys at the national alphabet just decided to ignore Euros and instead focus on FIN v. SWE (late Aug) as a meet where we'd at least have some semblance of a chance
Pitkämäki at least got a solid series. Wirkkala opened with a completely lazy ~76m non-effort, but they somehow forgot to take the mark so he got a new 1st attempt and threw that 83.88 That was about his only throw with any energy in, though he did have a 81.53 2nd best. Haatainen was 8th at 73.60...
Sandra Eriksson got her third gold this weekend in the 5000 after previously winning the 1500 and her main event, the steeplechase. She's not any kind of super-athlete, we just don't have anybody else 16-yo Anna Hämäläinen (daughter of Eduard) won the w200 but again, that doesn't indicate talent as much as our complete lack of depth.
Wirkkala apparently leaving Hannu Kangas (his coach since 2007, Pitkämäki's coach since before the Big Bang and national coach), following in the footsteps of Kangas' own daughter who fired his dad last year. Hopefully this will get him back on track (though I wouldn't bet on it)...
Missed this year's Paavo Nurmi Games. The weather for most of the meet wasn't quite optimal (15 degrees, rain) but the rain apparently stopped just before men's 5K, which produced the one good mark in this meet.
m5000: 1. Josphat Kiprono Menjo KEN 12:55.95
Complete solo effort, nobody in sight at any point except the guys he was lapping (i.e. almost everybody).
m100: 1. Justin Gatlin USA 10.28 (-2.0) (10.19 +2.3 in heats)
Wasn't easing very much in the final, he's not probably capable of that much better (into a ~2m/s wind anyway). Steve Mullings, who could potentially have won the Elite Games jackpot, was out injured. Gatlin himself says 10-flat with a tailwind. Seems about right.
mMile: 1. Josephat Kiprono Menjo KEN 3:53.62 ... 6. Vyacheslav Shabunin RUS 4:01.62
Another strong performance from Menjo, in windy conditions. This time he did have a rabbit until 700m or so. I included Shabunin just to keep TrackCEO happy, in case he happens to read this...
mLJ: 1. Morten Jensen DEN 810 (should have been ruled a foul, 805 2nd best) 2. Roni Ollikainen FIN 786w (+2.2) 3. Tommi Evilä FIN 783
w200: 1. Natasha Hastings USA 23.30 (-0.8)
wHJ: 1. Lavern Spencer LCA 182
Not up to her usual standards (she doesn't seem to be in form right now) but enough to win the Elite Games jackpot of €30K. Jensen was 2nd in that contest (€15K) and Salomäki 3rd (€10K)
Sudden comeback from 2000 Olympic champion Arsi Harju, who competed this weekend for the first time in 6 years, recording a mark of 18.48.
This may well have been inspired by the fact that our current level in the shot put is lower than mump's confidence in life after seeing Justin Gatlin get a warm welcome. On the national stage, 18.48 now is about the equivalent of 21m in his prime
Ari Mannio opened his season with an okay 83.57 in Dessau. Up here in Finland, the domestic season is slowly getting underway; in Lappeenranta, Kristiina Mäkelä jumped a wTJ NJR of 13.64. I know, not really noteworthy by the standards of anyplace else, with the possible exception of the US
This year's Elite Games series opened in Tampere. Conditions excellent for sprints (very warm, wind), bad for most other events (very warm, wind, a bit of rain for the later events). Nothing stellar happened, though the 100m times were excellent by Finnish standards...
100m: 1. Hannu Hämäläinen 10.29w (+2.3) heats: Jonathan Åstrand 10.26 (+2.0) (3rd all-time on Finnish lists...) Hannu Hämäläinen 10.26w (+2.4)
Heikkilä hasn't opened yet (not sure if he's injured). Hongisto is healthy but in very bad form. Välimäki's doing okay (47.29 this year - well, that passes for okay here...), though he lost in his opener to Petteri Monni (who's currently our #2 guy at 47.63).
Teemu Wirkkala had an elbow operation, which puts him out of any action for the next few months.
In other news, Finland (as noted elsewhere) stays on the second-highest level of European team competition. Day 1 was a disappointment, day 2 on the other hand was mostly good. The highlight of day 2 was Jonathan Åstrand's 20.50 (+1.8) PB in the 200, putting him 2nd on the all-time national list. Hardly a surprise after the excellent 100 from last week and good 200 form indoors, though he did get somewhat lucky with the conditions. Now let's just hope he stays healthy... It was also nice to see Johanna Lehtinen back in decent form (taking 2nd in a very slow w1500) after many consecutive years spoiled by injuries.