The Finn’s

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.

Photo: Thumbs up!

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

Hunter S. Thompson

Training Log

About tosabarbell

For training opportunities at tosabarbell, call or text Juli at 320-296-9313. e-mail to At tosabarbell, I build relationships cultivated in a strength and learning environment. There is no 12 week magic pill program to strength but rather a lifetime commitment to be the very best and most useful human you can be. tosabarbell is a private, home grown gym with three lifting platforms; squat rack; prowlers; throwing implements; bars, bumpers and everything else needed for an effective strength and conditioning program. Straightforward barbell programming including the Olympic lifts; sound (read: not fancy bullshit) diet advance for weight gain or loss; and strong coaching will ensure you will meet your goals such as becoming stronger, more explosive, and better conditioned. I have been coaching teams and athletes for over 30 years. I grew up participating in various sports at various levels but was always drawn to those that require strength training. I have multiple local, national, and world records in the sports of Weightlifting and Highland Games Heavy Events as well as a combined total of 5 World Championships. My 5 years of training and coaching under Mark Rippetoe provided a wide range of influence from some of the top strength & conditioning and throwing coaches in the country. I will strongly encourage tosabarbell athletes to compete (and prepare you to do so.) However, tosabarbell is also for those who wish to be stronger and go through life feeling better. Matt WanAt is a retired Professional Strongman who competed frequently with Strongman Champions League in Europe. He played a year of D1 football with Iowa before concentrating on his Chemical Engineering degree in Iowa City. He is a native of Wauwatosa and still remains a staunch supporter of Tosa East. This blog will be a mixture of strength notes, coaching and nutrition tips, personal shit; bacon delicacies, and a whole lot of fun.
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