Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?


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Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby eldanielfire » Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:08 pm

They are still the 4th of all time in the Olympic medal tables, but I can't recall much success or even challenges recently.

Do they have a lack of competativeness in sport these days? Cultural change in their societies? A lack of investiment? Unable or unwilling to challenge nations who have taken elite residence in their former track and field strengths? They don't even seem to be competiting with the bets at an European level. Anybody got any explainations or links as to why?
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby 4:24-miler » Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:30 pm

I grew up running in the early 1980's, went to high school from 1982-86. I member Martti Vainio being one of the best 5K/10K runners in the world. After him it seems Finland stopped producing elite distance runners. Not sure why?
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby doug5321 » Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:46 pm

in yesterdays dubai marathon a star from finlands past got 13th, ann marie hyrlainen who ran 8:48 for 3000, 14:56 for 5000 and 31:40 for 10000 as a junior in 1996. good to see she is still running.
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby lionelp1 » Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:49 pm

4:24-miler wrote:I grew up running in the early 1980's, went to high school from 1982-86. I member Martti Vainio being one of the best 5K/10K runners in the world. After him it seems Finland stopped producing elite distance runners. Not sure why?


Read up a little about this athlete, an early cheat who the Finnish AA were not happy with.!!
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby Conor Dary » Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:56 pm

4:24-miler wrote:I grew up running in the early 1980's, went to high school from 1982-86. I member Martti Vainio being one of the best 5K/10K runners in the world. After him it seems Finland stopped producing elite distance runners. Not sure why?


Vainio. Yes, there is a role model. Getting caught in LA and losing the silver.
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby LopenUupunut » Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:59 pm

My take.

There are many, many explanations. Apart from the rather simple facts that a) we were ahead of our time and the rest of the world caught up with us and b) there's no logical to reason to expect a nation of 5 million to be a leading force in athletics, WW2 hurt us a lot (with Sweden, a neutral country, completely overtaking us). Since such a huge percentage of our able-bodied males spent their time fighting the Russians, practically all our athletes lost many years of good training if they were lucky, and their lives or health if they weren't. Even more worryingly, in many cases the children - those who should have been the greats of the future - grew up with access to less food and other essential supplies than they ought to have, and that had serious long-term effects. The chances of those born in the thirties or late twenties of ever becoming as good as their fathers and older brothers were badly damaged.

Of course much the same happened in many other countries as well, but quite a few coped better than we did, and in any case we were among the most visibly hurt simply since we had so much ground to lose. It didn't help our strength had always been on the men's side, with our women not being much of a factor. (Sadly, this has remained so - our women did pretty well at the Euro Champs in '74, and really, that's it.)

This becomes clear if we look at the 10k top 10 lists around the war years:

1937 - 5 Finns in world top 10
1938 - 6 Finns in world top 10
1939 - 6 Finns in world top 10
1940 - 4 Finns in world top 10
1941 - 0 Finns in world top 10
1942 - 0 Finns in world top 10

We did have another couple decent years after the war was over, but that was a dying gasp fueled largely by surviving athletes too old to keep it up for much longer, not a return to normality; the new generation hadn't developed the way it ought to have. Much the same happened in other events we used to be great at, such as the javelin: a sharp drop, then a couple good years after the war, then another sharp drop when the old heroes finally gave up.

This, of course, started a death spiral. Before (and for some time after) WW2 our sport had been amazingly popular in Finland, but as our athletes were less and less successful so the sport became less and less popular, especially among the younger generations... thus fueling less and less success. (That our sport is still reasonably popular here is a testament to just how much popularity we once had.)

[continued in next post]
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby LopenUupunut » Fri Jan 25, 2013 3:00 pm

[continued from previous post]

There was, as already noted, a partial resurgence of our old distance running power starting in the late 60ies (Arthur Lydiard), continuing through the 70ies and into the 80ies. After that... splat, another sharp drop. It was too good to last. Now we just have the javelin, and even that isn't where it once was.

Certainly it's also true that the lifestyle and mentality of Finns today are less conducive to high-level athletics and distance running in particular, but we still manage to produce good skiers and orienteers somehow - both sports having much in common with distance running - so that's likely just a rather minor problem.

We have enough talent, tradition and popularity left we could be better than we are today. Again, there are many reasons why we aren't, from misuse of resources and incompetent coaching to athletes just not taking it seriously enough, but the main reason is that we lose tons of talent around and just before age 20. If we had a system like the NCAA these athletes could stay in the sport for another few years and hopefully become world-beaters; instead, they turn their attention to something else at just the critical stage. This problem is especially bad on the women's side. (Solution: send all our athletes except maybe the javelin throwers to study in the United States. But that would require plenty of commitment, which in many cases seems to be lacking. And of course, that's not the only problem...)
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby hammer forever » Fri Jan 25, 2013 5:38 pm

What about the Javelin?
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby Olli » Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:55 pm

doug5321 wrote:in yesterdays dubai marathon a star from finlands past got 13th, ann marie hyrlainen who ran 8:48 for 3000, 14:56 for 5000 and 31:40 for 10000 as a junior in 1996. good to see she is still running.


I think you are confusing two runners. The one who ran the junior results is Annemari Hyvärinen (née Sandell). The one in Dubai marathon is Anne-Mari Hyryläinen.
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby spammer » Sat Jan 26, 2013 7:06 am

They still look good in the javelin. In the distance races, the africans have dominated lately. In middle distance the middle eastern and african countries leave little room for anyone else. Maybe the british won the 5000 and 10000 in these olympics, but Mo Farah was born in somalia. Which has a traditional diet that is much more condusive to long distance running than European diets. He probably grew up on Somali food at home, even though he might have grown up in Britain. Finland does not attract people from other parts of the world to immigrate there. This hurts them in modern competition. I don't understand why they are not more competitive in shotput and discus.throwers. In distance running, though, a kenyan or american living in oregon can run outside on dirt or grass 300 days a year. This is something a Finnish athlete probably cannot do.
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby Per Andersen » Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:41 pm

Time to blame Hockey :)
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby BusterZanga » Sun Jan 27, 2013 3:08 pm

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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby tandfman » Sun Jan 27, 2013 7:07 pm

OK, I'm impressed. That's more than a foot beyond his previous PR. Still, it's not likely to remain a world leader for very long.
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby Gebrucilassie » Tue Jan 29, 2013 8:20 pm

Well in fairness to Finland, not many countries are doing well in the distances compared to Kenya and Ethiopia. Still for the 10,000 meters in the last 10 years I could only come up with two men who even made the list of top 150 performers :shock: In 2010 Matti Rasanen ran 28:32 (#139 for the year) and in 2003 Janne Holmen ran 28:09 ( #68 for the year).

I feel like there have probably been a few more in other events (perhaps the steeple?). Still for a country steeped in the traditions of Paavo Nurmi and Lasie Viren it has indeed fallen on hard times.
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby gibson » Tue Jan 29, 2013 9:39 pm

the finns dropped blood doping - after repeated budsts - while others went on to advance the technique.
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby gibson » Tue Jan 29, 2013 9:40 pm

the finns dropped blood doping - after repeated budsts - while others went on to advance the technique.
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby eldanielfire » Tue Jan 29, 2013 11:37 pm

gibson wrote:the finns dropped blood doping - after repeated budsts - while others went on to advance the technique.


What Finish athletes got busted for blood doping?
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby LopenUupunut » Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:21 am

eldanielfire wrote:
gibson wrote:the finns dropped blood doping - after repeated budsts - while others went on to advance the technique.
What Finish athletes got busted for blood doping?
I'm interested in hearing this, too. I won't deny blood doping was used by some Finnish athletes back in the day (a couple of them have even admitted as much), but I'm not aware of any high-profile busts... which isn't overly surprising when you consider that a) there were no tests yet and b) blood doping wasn't even officially forbidden until the mid-80s, by which time our distance-running power was almost gone anyhow. (That said, dropping blood doping can't have helped, even if it wasn't the main cause of our downfall.)

Martti Vainio, of course, did test positive, but that wasn't for blood doping, and by then we'd lost most of our depth anyway.
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby 26mi235 » Wed Jan 30, 2013 5:18 am

He might be referring to the XC skiing, the other top Finnish endurance sport.
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby LopenUupunut » Wed Jan 30, 2013 6:38 am

26mi235 wrote:He might be referring to the XC skiing, the other top Finnish endurance sport.
That could be, yes. But our skiing team still remains pretty good, and the chronology just doesn't fit if one tries to correlate the Finnish doping busts in XC skiing with the waning of our distance-running power.
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby lapsus » Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:08 pm

At least some of the Finnish runners did use some form of blood doping, at least by 1980, according to strong rumors during the 1970s.

I think there is little question that in the 1970s the Finnish throwers were using steroids, including at least some of the javelin throwers. Almost everyone was, after all, and the performance progressions and (some) stories from that period bear this out.

One of the explanations for Martti Vainio's steroid bust was that the blood doping blood that was injected before the Olympics still had traces of steroids ingested during the training season.

Kaarlo Maaninka confessed to blood doping after he got religious.

Aki Karvonen, a cross-country skier, confessed to blood doping in 1985.

Due to the doping scandals of Vainio and others, in the mid 80s Finland became one of the first countries to really start monitoring their own athletes' doping when many other athletics associations were sweeping them under the rug. This was a good four years before Ben Johnson and out of competition testing. The performance levels dropped a lot, and the non-successful, presumably clean Finnish athletes got a lot of crap for lack of training, lack of guts, lack of ability and lack of winning spirit from chauvinistic Finns who were used to success.

A lack of doping does not explain the lack of sub-29 minute 10k runners in Finland today, however. That comes down to a changing culture and a lack of interest from potentially talented runners. The wounds that Vainio case left in Finnish fans' mindset are very deep, and they were really reopened by the Lahti scandal. In addition, mocking your country's best athletes is a good way to kill a culture of success and drive talent away from the sport (at least towards other sports). Who wants to become a runner or a thrower in that situation? If you are not successful you get crap, if you are successful you get accused (at least covertly) of doping.
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby lapsus » Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:20 pm

The above was just my interpretation; LopenUupunut probably has a better memory of 1980s chronology than I do - especially when it was exactly that the performance drop occurred.

One thing that happened in the 1990s (before Lahti scandal) with Finnish skiers was that the breadth of talent dropped - there were a few absolutely elite skiers and then others were minutes away from being world class. One reason for this could be that the elite training methods of the time required a "secret ingredient" to work - and most national level athletes who tried to train in the same way did not get good results from those programs, and therefore could not reach world elite.

Could something similar happened with Finnish runners in the early 1980s? The training methods of the time had been baked in the wild 1970s, and the non-insider coaches who did not know about blood doping consequently ruined many talented runners trying to follow those training programs.
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Re: Whatever happened to Finland as an Athletics force?

Postby dl » Wed Jan 30, 2013 8:54 pm

One word: computers.
If you need a second word: internet.
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