Antti Ruuskanen, Finland; Photo: Deca Text & Bild
Scandinavian Report Day 9
Antti Ruuskanen’s seventh place was Finland’s best spot in a not so good Olympics
Javelin is the number one Finnish event ,and on the final day of the competitions in the Olympic stadium in Rio, Antti Ruuskanen, 32, felt a whole nations expectations on his shoulder since he was the only Finn in the final. His goal was a medal but he finished seventh at 83.05. Scandinavia got another top-8-placing in the women’s high jump where Sweden’s Sofie Skoog finished seventh at 1.93 after a personal best of 1.94 in the qualification.
Javelin is the number one athletics event in Finland and their Olympic record is a phenomenal 22 medals for men including seven golds. The latest one was in 1988 when Tapio Korjus threw 84.28 in the last round to beat Jan Zelezny by 16 centimeters, but Heli Rantanen won gold for women in 1996. The lastest medal is from London 2012 when Ruuskanen finished third but was upgraded to silver since Oleksandr Pyatnytsya from Ukraine tested positive for a banned substance in a re-test on 9 August.
In Rio, three Finnish men and one woman participated in the javelin. In the women’s qualification, Sanni Utriainen finished 31st and last with 53.42 and in the men’s qualification Ruuskanen was the only one to reach the final (with 24 centimeters) since Tero PitkÃ¤mÃ¤ki (World championship bronze medallist in 2015) and Ari Mannio (European bronze medallist in 2012) had a really bad day and only threw 79.56 and 77.73 respectively.
Hospitalized in July
Ruuskanen finished third in the European championships in July but got slightly injured and had to visit a hospital. He missed two weeks of proper training but was in a quite good shape in Rio anyway. He reached the final with a small margin and then started it with a foul, continued with with 77.80 and 83.05 which was enough to get another three throws. But with two more fouls followed by 80.00 he finished seventh, 2.38 meters from the bronze.
“My goal was a medal and that would have been possible according to the standard of the meet. After the foul in the first round I tried too hard in the second one”, said Ruuskanen who has a season best of 88.23 set in the qualification at the European championships in Amsterdam.
Except the seventh place, David SÃ¶derberg was eight in the hammer the day before, and that was the only two top-8-placings for Finland which made Rio one their one of the worst Olympics ever in athletics.
Sofie Skoog – new on the international high jump scene
If Antti Ruuskanen wasn’t too excited with his seventh place, Sweden’s high jumper Sofie Skoog was the opposite with hers. She started with athletics as a teenager, but wasn’t very good, and had a personal best of just 1.72 at age 19 and 1.80 when she was 22. Her championship debut was as late as March 2015 at the European indoor championships, when she was 25. Skoog then made it to the World’s in Beijing last year and was fifth at the World indoors in Portland, Oregon, in March.
Since September 2014, she is coached by 2004 Olympic champion Stefan Holm. Holm definitely had had an impact on her progression. In Rio, Skoog targeted her overall personal best of 1.94 in the qualification and then had a tough start in the final where 1.88 was her by far highest start height so far.
But she cleared at her first attempt and was very close to do so also at 1.93. The bar was trembling but suddenly fell and that was a pity because that height was the one which really divided the field in two parts.
Only four cleared 1.97 and that was Ruth Beitia, Spain, Mirela Demireva, Bulgaria, Blanka Vlasic, Croatia, and ChauntÃ© Lowe, USA. Skoog had three okay attempts at 1.97 but none was really close. She finished equal seventh and would have ended fifth if she had cleared 1.93 at her first attempt.
“I felt that 1.97 could go but I didn’t have the flow that you need in order to set a PB with three centimeters. But I am so happy with my performance in Rio and it has been so much fun being here. I will be back in Tokyo in 2020!” says Skoog to Swedish TV.
With age comes experience
Skoog will be 30 by the time of the next summer Olympics and that’s a good age for a high jumper. Ruth Beitia won the gold in Rio and she is 37. Bronze medallist Blanka Vlasic, who participated in her fourth Olympics, is 32.
Skoogs seventh place is the fourth best in the Olympics by a Swedish woman in high jump, a list topped by Kajsa Bergqvist who took bronze in Sydney 2000 but then missed the 2004 Games due to injury and finished her career the year before Beijing 2008. Skoog could definitely advance on that list in the future!