In the spring of 2004, the Hollola skier was already a member of the domestic skiing association, and even the international top did not make progress at the end of very many kicks and pushes.
Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, 25, had reached this point with a record small athlete budget and completely without state athlete grants.
When rounds and professionalism were to be further increased, this would no longer be enough.
All in all, resources had to be obtained.
Constant concern for livelihood caused constant stress - which, in turn, is known to eat away at the benefits of an athlete’s quality training itself.
The article was originally published in Sports Journal 48/2020.
You will find similar long and high quality stuff in the publication every week.
Ordering instructions are here.
One spring day, Pekka Hietanen, who had helped Saar from support matters, literally rang and detonated a bomb.
The Ski Team, which was launched by Joutsa Bomb in 2002 with big investments and athlete recruitments, wanted Saarinen to join its ranks.
It did not surprise Saari, who had become part of the A-team's standard equipment, but the financial compensation promised for the subsequent transfer hit him on the canvas: 15,000 euros a year!
Deposited into a coaching fund and raised against sports vouchers would still be a tax-free pot.
Aino-Kaisa Saarinen in the colors of Joutsa's Bomb at the Finnish Championships 2007. Gold came in a pair sprint with Riitta-Liisa Roponen. Photo: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva
In the everyday realism of Finnish cross-country skiing, it would still be a matter of cheeky compensation at the club level, let alone in 2004. Today, Finnish skiers who receive EUR 5,000 a year from a club club alone can fit on the fingers of one hand, and that hand has slipped.
Saarinen, who was arguing with her breeder's club Hollola Athletes -46 about the spring 2004 Championship message choices, didn't think long or long before the pen drew the signature on the contract paper to the pride of Joutsa, which is more than an hour's drive from Hollola.
- I am not exaggerating when I say that the club agreement was still extremely decisive at that time.
I finally dared to throw myself full and without constant daily subsistence stress on my dreams.
An athlete needs many things, but the support and faith shown by the environment is the most important of them.
The ski team's contract offer also meant a huge amount from a mental point of view, Saarinen recalls the key moment of his career, which brought 15 valuable competition medals.
Saarinen was not the only one who was called from Joutsa at the right time.
Matti Heikkinen, in his twenties, who moved to the University of Jyväskylä to study economics from the hungry countries of Kainuu, was in two stages in his skiing career in 2002. The sensitive body talent of the Kainuu Ski Club
However, every visit to the ATM returned Heikkinen's feet to the ground.
The economic situation would not allow for an investment that would give us the fins to try to top the world.
The young man, who calculated a different kind of investment, did not see it as a sensible investment in life.
When Joutsa got a call, Heikkinen answered.
- It was a completely decisive call for what happened later.
Without the Joutsa Bomb Ski Team, I would never have become such a skier as I became, a professional, Heikkinen says.
- Of course, it wasn't about bathing in any money when it comes to domestic ski club activities, but Bomb's investment made many things possible: For the first time in my career, they made them really realistic.
Of course, it wasn’t about bathing in any money, but Bomb’s investment made many things possible.
For Matti Heikkinen, the agreement with Bomb was important.
Next to Jari Joutsen. Photo: Matti Björkman / Lehtikuva
When Heikkinen drives from Jyväskylä towards Lahti or vice versa, his coffee teeth often start to crack in Joutsa at the Huttula gas station.
In the corner of its back room, the dining area, stands a glass display case, as if a miniature museum, inside and on the surrounding walls of which there is a special episode of Finnish skiing history.
The showcase features prizes, stylish caricature drawings of athletes and, of course, a race vest in which Heikkinen warmed up at the Holmenkollen World Championships in 2011 before hitting others with a bone in his throat at 15 kilometers.
In such a small space, the property of a company that was one of the supporters of the Ski Team can now accommodate a phenomenon that became one of the hottest skiing topics in the country at the national level in the early 2000s.
Although the so-called shopping clubs were not a new phenomenon in the tradition sport in pursuit of the success of the Finnish Championships, the Ski Team took the matter to the next power when recruiting athletes.
They were promised decent money and bonuses, nationally unprecedented sums.
Jari Joutsen (left) and Pomm's main financier Kalervo Frima in the middle of ski memories at Huttula gas station. Photo: Hannu Rainamo
NOW in front of a glass showcase is a man who has visibly avoided publicity in recent years, culminating in many ways: Ski team manager and main financier Kalervo “Konsta” Friman, 73, whom Matti Heikkinen has thanked the Finnish people on stage at the Sports Gala.
It has been more than ten years since the ski team broke up.
Now the hard-to-reach retiree is ready to open his literal coffin on the subject, but on one condition: a credit person during the Ski Team must come to the scene.
Friman’s good friend, owner of Optiwax ski cream company Jari Joutsen, 42, unconditionally agrees.
For his best sprint career at World Championship level, membership in the Ski Team and Friman’s support were the perfect rescue.
- Already in the 1990s, I tried to gather a club from this area of Joutsa, which would have tough competitive sports goals, but not enough participants could be found.
The parent club Joutsa's Bomb then caught fire, and the primary goal was to bring together Finland's and why not the world's best national-level message teams.
Those were the sales talks that sold this project to athletes and partners, Friman recalls.
The skier, who was of primary importance to the Puuhamies – patronage at the beginning of the project, was a girl from her own village, Pirjo Porvari (now Nieminen), who remained unknown to the general public, around whom Friman gathered the winners of the Finnish Championship gold.
The bourgeoisie became the message winner in both 2005 and 2006 in the teams strengthened by Riitta-Liisa Lassila (later Roponen) and Aino-Kaisa Saarinen.
The starting shot of the ski team in 2002 was not a scourge, but a blockbuster that brought maximum publicity.
When Mika Myllylä, who was banned from competition in 2001, was announced to move from Kiilto in Haapajärvi to Joutsa Bomb, the ambitious ski project of Central Finns rose to the attention of the masses at the latest.
The matter was also significantly influenced when Myllylä was recruited to his new club already during his ban in 2002. He immediately rewarded the people of the Ski Team handsomely by winning two gold medals at the 2003 Finnish Championships immediately after the end of his ban.
- The idea was that Mika would have taken on even wider responsibilities in the Ski Team, even on the coaching side, but in the end it didn't become anything.
Many times we sat in a smoke sauna where Mika made up his mind, Friman recalls.
Mika Myllylä was the club's number one athlete. Photo: Pekka Sakki / Lehtikuva
He makes no secret of the fact that the life management of the late superstar of 2011 began to go into a bad imbalance already in those years.
- At the Iisalmi Finnish Championships in 2004, Mika went to talk to reporters about the gray areas of doping control and realized that he had spoken too late.
We regretted the two of them on the sauna benches, Riman sighs very well, reminiscent of Myllylä.
In the same spring, 2004, Myllylä belonged to the message quartet, which fulfilled the starting goal of the Ski Team.
The message team included athletes who had already achieved or would achieve a total of 20 medals.
Even the only medalist was ranked fourth at the World Championship level.
Heikkinen – Myllylä – Juha Lallukka – Sami Repo is one of the most well-known teams in the history of Finnish Championships.
Sami Repo brings Bomb 4x10 km of message gold in 2004. Photo: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva
At the competition venues, the visibility of the Bomb was guaranteed by a personal drum group led by Harri Koponen working at the Huttula gas station.
The success of the star skiers inspired so much in the small community that at best 50 juniors practiced in the ranks of the parent club.
Although success came, the feedback from the parent company was not exclusively commendable.
The action paid off, and the athletes were promised exceptional benefits.
According to the ski team's annual reports, the great visibility in the sponsorship market could not be optimally utilized, and the main support was dug year after year from the wallet of Friman, a entrepreneur in the construction industry.
Friman knows exactly how much he put into the athletes, but he just says it in order of magnitude:
- A skier who has lost several hundred thousand euros, mostly in bankruptcies and bankruptcy proceedings, says.
- I don't own anything, the part of the pension is in my hands.
But that's not the reason for the Ski Team.
-I do not own anything, the pension is left in the protective part.
But that's not the reason for the Ski Team, Kalervo Friman says. Photo: Hannu Rainamo
Friman tells stories with a smile on his face, but one memory from the end times of the Ski Team makes him even more serious.
The taxpayer investigated Friman's company accounts.
The money paid to the athletes was interpreted as a disguised dividend from the entrepreneur.
The postman brought a good post-tax bank transfer of 100,000 euros for it.
Covertly, Friman also came out in print to say that some athletes received more money than was stipulated in the contracts, but in the dark.
“Crime” is long overdue for everyone.
Sometimes gray money could come, for example, as renovation supplies or some other kind of material.
This was called the custom of the country in Finnish sports for decades.
More than fifty active people worked in the background of the ski team.
Friman's distance to everyone is not good.
When the end is not beautiful, there is rarely a sequel.
The final stages of the team at the turn of the 2010s completely ate up the donor’s physical and financial resources.
Of the six members of the original core group, two have already passed away.
As information spread into the athlete market about Bomb’s solvency, Friman also began to receive outright outrageous requests.
The national team skier, who was already riding towards the sunset, wanted 30,000 euros a year and a car.
A star skier would have joined the Ski Team if Joutsa had been paid 50,000 euros a year.
No agreement was reached with either.
Riitta-Liisa Roponen's husband-coach and Matti Heikkinen's coach Toni Roponen say that the Ski Team project was a specialty not only for success.
- The company had a great sense of togetherness and a good spirit.
We have nothing but good to say.
Imagination was used in fundraising.
- I consider it a rather tough performance for 1,500 people to pay for an entrance ticket when sprint skiing competitions are held in Joutsa in July on canned snow.
In the bomb, everyone had fun and purpose.
There was no normal situation for a club team where athletes are involved with completely different stakes, Jari Joutsen says.
For the 2009–2010 season, Friman could no longer recover from a pulmonary embolism as a convalescent.
The beard of the ski team's activities grew to last color, and Friman had previously kindly guided Heikkinen forward to the Vantaa Ski Club, which continued to pave the queens.
The last star skier left the club in 2011, Saarinen.
The Huttula miniature museum has both a melancholic and a nostalgic atmosphere at the same time.
One showcase holds the intense key experiences of a large crowd from an exceptional period.
Friman is a person who has twice been rewarded by the government for his background in sports, but the “trinket” does not warm up.
It warms up a lot more when Matti Heikkinen calls half an hour before Huttula and calls for coffee.
Although Mika Myllylä's international career did not take off after the ban, both Heikkinen and Joutsen still speak of his absolute sporting eye.
- Mika only needed to see the skier a few times, when he could already say which line would be suitable for this athlete.
It’s something you can’t learn in any coaching training, Joutsen says.
After a joint running run, Heikkinen went to the sauna with Myllylä.
After the stove hissed, the Olympic champion-world champion opened his verbal coffin.
The memory literally shakes Heikki.
-Mika's message was quite concise: It's a boy in the sense that you have to start training both harder and harder.
The rest is history for both the Joutsa Bomb Ski Team and Matti Heikkinen.
Stars and merits
The goal of the Joutsa Bomb Ski Team was above all to succeed in the Finnish Championship messages.
The club won the men's 4x10 kilometer Finnish Championship gold in 2004 with the team Matti Heikkinen – Mika Myllylä – Juha Lallukka – Sami Repo.
From the team, Heikkinen is a world champion and a four-time medalist, Myllylä is an Olympic winner, a multiple world champion and a 15-time medalist.
Repo achieved its Olympic bronze in 1998. Lallukka was one of the best skiers in Finland at the 2011 World Championships, but gave a positive doping test at the end of the year.
Pirjo Porvari (left), Maija Saarinen and Riitta-Liisa Lassila (now Roponen) celebrated 3x5 km of message gold in 2005. Photo: Pekka Sakki / Lehtikuva
In the women's 3x5 kilometer message, Pommi won in 2005, 2006 and 2008. Riitta-Liisa Roponen and Aino-Kaisa Saarinen were involved in those years.
Roponen is a three-time world champion in cross-country skiing and a 7-time medalist.
Saarinen has achieved e.g.
personal world championships, three World Championships in cross-country skiing gold and a total of 15 medals.
In addition to this, Pommi won the women's doubles championship gold in 2007, 2009 and 2011.
Among the value-level skiers, Pomm was also represented by sprinter Jari Joutsen.
At the same time, the club also included Finland's top ski coaches Jarmo Punkkinen (Juha Lallukka), Toni Roponen (Riitta-Liisa Roponen, Matti Heikkinen) and Jarmo Riski (Aino-Kaisa Saarinen).
After the break-up of the ski team at the turn of the 2010s, the star athletes who continued their careers quickly found new clubs.
Heikkinen continued at the Vantaa Ski Club, Lallukka Kouvola Ski Club, Saarinen at the Lempäälä Competition and Roponen at the Oulu Ski Club.