By Teemu Virtanen
Last season, Team Mäenpää was the only Pro Team from Finland, and Ari Luusua’s third place at Jizerska 50 was the first ever podium achievement for Finland in the history of Visma Ski Classics. The most successful Finnish team continues without Ari, and their strongest skier is now Niko Koskela who managed to be in the top 10 twice in 2018 and won Tartu Maraton last winter. Additionally, Victor Mäenpää broke through last season and finished 15that Jizerska 50 and 21stat Ylläs-Levi. The team has lost their Swedish recruit Evelina Bångman who was the Youth Champion for two consecutive years in 2017 and 2018.
During the season 2017-18, there were a couple Finnish Pro Teams in the roster, but their athletes didn’t participate in many of the Pro Tour events. Now, Finland is back on the map again. There are two other Pro Teams from the country of Sibelius, sauna and “sisu” (guts). One of the teams is actually a combination of Finland and Norway but run by a Finn.
Team Minken has two successful female skiers; Anni Kainulainen and Niina Virtanen, the former has several relay medals at the Finnish National Championships while the latter won Finlandia-hiihto, the biggest ski race in Finland, last winter. Esa Mursu, Olli Tyrväinen and Jonas Granlund are established long distance skiers but haven’t scored any points in Visma Ski Classics yet.
Team Northern Fish Hätälä has two athletes from Finland and three from Norway. Heikki Korpela, the director of the troop, is familiar with the Norwegian ways as he has spent a lot of time in the mecca of cross-country skiing training with the best athletes of the sport. He finished 5th at the 50 km National Championship race in Finland and took home 26th place at Ylläs-Levi last season. The other Finn Kari Varis is a skating specialist who has got many medals at the Finnish Nationals over the years, and he has the record number of victories at Finlandia-hiihto. Of the three Norwegians in the team, Håkon Mikalsen has the best result with his the 27th position at Reistadløpet.
In addition to these three Pro Teams, there are individual Finnish athletes in two other Pro Teams. Team Austria has Mikko Harju, Veli-Matti Räsänen and Terhi Pollari while Vltava Fund Team has been lucky to get two of the best Finnish long distance skiers; Ari Luusua and Heli Heiskanen and two other potential skiers; Noora Kivikko and Isac Holmström.
In addition to having Pro Teams on display in Season X, Finland hosts the final race of the upcoming season. Ylläs-Levi, 70 km, takes place on April 4, 2020.