It would be negligent to not mention the locals we encountered during our Suomi visit. The first Finn we met sat between us (I like the window, Bigg likes the aisle) on the plane ride from Helsinki to Kuusamo. He talked a bit about Finland in between some work stuff. When he mentioned that one of the remarkable things about Finland is all of the lakes I thought, ‘dude, I’m from Minnesota. Land of 10,000 lakes YO!’ and I had just finished my thought when he said they have over 100,000 lakes. Oh. You win.
We had dinner that evening with Ilkka (2 kisses), competitor Tomi Lota with part of his family, and Petri. Petri is one of the workers for the event and Bigg happened to have a picture of Petri and his boy up on the facebook earlier. When I told him at dinner his son is cute, he said, “Yes. Like me” with a big smile. So Finn’s are sassy too. Good to know. Most of the conversation was in the local language and I just tried to follow along. I understood part of it. ‘Ok; Highland Games; Mya (Tomi’s wife.)’ That’s it. So clearly I pick it up pretty quick.
The next day, activity started picking up. I met Sari, a woman Matt has talked about from past Iceman’s. She is wonderful. With a full, rich voice, she yelled across the road “American Matt!”
As is most often the case at these types of competitions, the support staff are some of the most important people on the field. The cool things about the Finnish though is that when they’re setting up; cheering the Strongman to keep moving; or whatever they need to do to be helpful; they’re yelling in Finnish.
I later told Topi (above) that I loved how in every event, I saw him yelling encouragement to all the competitors. He told me that’s his job, to do anything he can to help. So awesome. Also being helpful is our “Iz goood” friend, Mikko, who caught me before Matt went on the Ice Wheel and said he gave him very important advice for the event. I say, “Ya? What’s that?” He say, “Don’t go too fast or you’ll get dizzy.” So Finn’s are a bit dorky too. Hee.
I have to say a word about Finnish competitor Jarno Kirsela. Before the truck pull, the Strongman were told that they couldn’t use their spikes because it would be too easy. If they had track shoes with spikes, they could wear those but who in the world would think to bring track shoes with spikes? Jarno, that’s who. After he competed, Ilkka yelled at him to get them off and give them to Matt. And he did. Matt came out to truck pull telling Marcel that the shoes were 3 sizes too small…and he had a great event. I talked to Jarno a little during the other pulls and told him how nice he was to share his shoes and give others an advantage in the pull. He just smiled and said, “Ya Sure because boots don’t work.” That’s Finnish sportsmanship.
I feel very fortunate to have met, and watched these wonderful people in action. It was a treat and they’ll always have a soft spot in my heart.
OH! They also know how to post-party. Big time. In fact, some silly boy who was a bit bigger than the other Euro skinny jeans wearing crowd decided to mess with Jarno. I only saw the after affects of his putting on his coat with a bloody nose. I guess he grabbed the back of Jarno’s shirt while he was walking by and was quickly headbutted in the face. Problem solved. Finn style.
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
Hunter S. Thompson