Welcome to World Cup Windup, where we check in with the top-10 teams from last year’s FIS Cross Country World Cup tour before the season starts with the Ruka Triple in Kuusamo, Finland, on Nov. 24.
Overall in Nations Cup Last Year: Third, by just 106 points over Russia
Women’s Ranking 2016/2017: Third
Men’s Ranking 2016/2017: Fourth
World Cup overall title runner-up Krista Parmakoski, fifth-place Matti Heikkinen, and eighth-place Kerttu Niskanen; Iivo Niskanen, fourth in the distance standings (behind Heikkinen in third); and Laura Mononen, ninth in the distance standings. Plus, podium finisher Anne Kylloenen, and Aino-Kaisa Saarinen who returned to World Cup action after maternity leave and scored some top-tens.
Sami Jauhojärvi. The veteran, who raced on the World Cup for 16 seasons and teamed up with Iivo Niskanen for gold in the 2014 Olympic team sprint, called it quits this spring. “I’m not tired of skiing, but at some point it just happens that competitive instincts begin to fade,” Jauhojärvi told InsideTheGames. “By training I could be pushing my limits for a few more years, but my competition mind is done. … I do not think any more about fighting for gold medals at future Olympics.”
Only a few of the team’s distance skiers competed so far. Krista Parmakoski won a 5 k classic in Muonio, Finland, while Anne Kylloenen won a 10 k skate where Laura Monenen was third and Aino-Kaisa Saarinen fourth, and Iivo Niskanen finished second to Russia’s Alexey Chervotkin in a 15 k skate the same day. Ristomatti Hakola won the sprint in Muonio.
According to the Finnish press, this will be the last Olympics for Matti Heikkinen, who will be 34 years old. He is targeting all the long-distance races and possibly the team sprint. Iivo Niskanen, meanwhile, will not to contest the skate races at the Olympics and focus on classic.
Kerttu Niskanen changed trainers this year, and her new choice is controversial. She is working with Pekka Vähäsöyrinki, one of the coaches involved in the 2001 blood-doping scandal which resulted in suspension of the Finnish ski association. The coach was found to have lied in court; there are allegations that when he was the national team director, he gave EPO and growth hormones to the head coach to use for the athletes.
“For several seasons I have remained at about the same level,” Niskanen told the news agency YLE. “So I want to try something new. “For me [the allegations] are just that. History… People may think what they want. It does not matter to me.”
Meanwhile, Krista Parmakoski is helping to organizing a youth ski racing series in her home district, called the “Krista Cup”. It will be a series of six races open to 7- to 16-year-olds and she will help organize the prizes. “It is important to encourage and inspire young skiers in every way, especially in the Häme district,” she told the local newspaper. “I still remember how much fun we young people had running around, seeing skiers and enjoying the atmosphere. With the Cup, young people can experience fun cross-country races throughout the winter.”
Best Social Media Presence:
Sprinter Lari Lehtonen has an active Facebook page, posting almost daily, and often includes training videos. Iivo Niskanen is also a consistent Twitter and Instagram poster, where you can see his hobby of horse racing as well.