Nordic Passion – Finnish Skating History
Special thanks to the Finnish Figure Skating Association for the informational materials
Figure skating is one of the most multifaceted and enjoyable sports. That is why it keeps attracting new people of all ages. There are excellent opportunities to train figure skating in Finland. Figure skating clubs organize many kinds of activities for kids, teenagers and adults. Those, who aim to become competitive skaters, can choose from a variety of sports: single skating, synchronized skating, pair skating or ice dance.
Figure skating was first introduced in Finland by the American Jackson Haines, who visited Finland in 1875. He performed in Helsinki and Kokkola, where he died and was buried.
Haines’ visit kicked off organized figure skating activities. The first club was Helsingfors Skridskoklubb (HSK), which exists still in Helsinki. The Finnish Skating Association, nowadays the Finnish Figure Skating Association (FFSA), was formed in 1908, when figure skaters and speed skaters were together under the same association. The Finnish Figure Skating Association was formed in 1968.
Finnish figure skaters gained international success from the early years of the sport. The pair skaters Ludovika and Walter Jakobsson won silver at World Championships in 1910, 1912, 1913 and 1922, and became World Champions in 1911, 1914 and 1923. At the Olympics they won gold in Antwerpen in 1920 and silver in 1924.
The next time Finnish figure skating gained the world’s attention in late 1970s, when Kristiina Wegelius, Susan Broman and Pekka Leskinen competed at European and World Championships. Wegelius placed fourth at the Worlds tree times during years 1979 and 1981 and sixth in 1981 and 1983. She was tenth at the Olympics in 1980. Pekka Leskinen’s best placement at the Europeans was fifth in 1977, and at the Worlds he placed tenth in 1976 and 1977.
The most famous Finnish figure skaters are the ice dancers Susanna Rahkamo and Petri Kokko, who won their first championship medal, bronze, at the 1993 Europeans, which was followed by the bronze medal at the 1994 Worlds. They did their breakthrough in 1995: gold at the Europeans and silver at the Worlds. After turning professional they were very successful at different shows and competitions.
In the early 90s singles skating the most known Finnish skaters were Mila Kajas and Oulu Jaaskelainen. Later in the decade Finland was most often represented by Alisa Drei and Markus Leminen.
There are 69 FFSA member clubs in Finland, with around 5000 active skaters and 10 000 skate school kids.
Especially synchronized skating has become increasingly popular since the 90s. There are almost 130 synchronized skating teams in Finland. For several years Finland has been one of the world’s top countries in synchronized skating, winning altogether 16 medals (5/2011) at Worlds Championships, of which six are gold. The most successful senior teams are Marigold IceUnity, Rockettes and Team Unique.
The 2000s has been time of success for Finland also in singles skating. In 2001 Susanna Poykio became the first Finnish lady to win a championship medal, bronze at the Junior Worlds. In addition to Poykio, at the early 2000s the most successful skaters were Elina Kettunen and Alisa Drei, who ended her excellent skating career in 2007.
Susanna Poykio became also the first Finnish lady to win a championship medal at the senior level, silver at the 2005 Europeans in Torino. Her success was followed by Kiira Korpi’s bronze medal at the 2007 Europeas in Warsav. Laura Lepisto competed for her first time at the Europeans in 2008, and won right away bronze.
A year later at the 2009 Europeans in Helsinki the Finnish ladies made history, when Laura Lepisto became the first Finn to win gold and Susanna Poykio won bronze. Lepisto was also the first Finnish lady to step on the podium in the World Championships winning bronze medal 2010. The succes was followed by Kiira Korpi`s bronze in the Europeans 2011.
In addition to kids’ and teenagers’ training groups figure skating clubs offer active groups for adults, varying from traditional skating to different conditioning exercises.