Strongest Man of Finland has been held since 1987.
Contact info: Suomen Vahvin Mies r.y., Ojakatu 1, 21200 Raisio, Ilkka Nummisto p. 0500 526 923
As I have followed these both men for a while now, I truly feel Heinonen should also get an invitation to WSM - he proved in Helsinki he can win even the reining World's Strongest Man, Magnus Samuelsson. With better luck and more flexible rules he'd have the invitation in his pocket already. (... Actually I think the gear in Conan should be made to swing less, that would eliminate many problems. Some changes of rules would be needed also.)
Janne "Jalo" Virtanen comes from Janakkala (close to Hämeenlinna where Ahola lives, also Marko Varalahti lives nereby), is 29 years old, has his sports background in greco-romanic wrestling (130kg class, 18 medals from national level), has also tried sumo wrestling (2nd in World Championships '97, current rank on amateur list 3rd!). Best strongman achievements: 3rd in Helsinki GP 1999, Strongest Man of Finland 98-99. Qualifying in WSM '98 Morocco was a disappointment but he was also one of those who didn't "like the food".
Later this year Virtanen will get a new try in the World's Strongest Man, and probably he gets to team European and World Championships also. An international competition in Scotland is as well part of his plans.
From what I had heard about the competitors, 30 of them were over 300kg deadlifters and some can go over 350. A very impressive group on boat, will surely catch the eye. But this competition proved once again that it doesn't help to be just gym-strong, you need to be good with very different shape of objects and in performances very unfamiliar to most. Tire flip is as much about technique as it's about explosive strength. A slow deadlift won't turn it and you need to get your knee or even both knees under it.
The qualifying area wasn't really that special, just a fence around
... say two trucks. The settings for the final must have been better, as
this competition was designed to fit the helicopter platform on Silja Europa
(no pics because the ship had not arrived yet) . Maybe it was even more
windy there? I wasn't able to go on boat, sorry. So before I see it on
TV I'll cover mostly the qualifying phase.
Events for the Finals:
Truck pull was the second event. It's hard to utilize one's max strength when the speed builds up; more important at that point is how fast you can produce say 70% of your max. Also if the truck is light and comes very fast, you need to pull more with your back and arms, the legs are too slow. Ziljstra proved this to Jouko in Team Championships remember?
Truck pull can be hard to practise for even used trucks can be relatively expensive, but then again what's the use when the setting is always very different and you must be able to adapt to different speeds. You just need to be natural strong and fast. The winner of this event (Räsänen??) pulled 7.4 ton truck 17 meters in 18 seconds, the others needed close to 20 secs and most over 21.
Heinonen was somewhat slow in this, Virtanen did slightly better (4th). Juha Räsänen leads after two events with 6 pts!
Event 3 - Atlas stone carry, 140kg granite for distance
What I heard about this event before it all started was that nobody can hold it against chest, so it must be carried supporting the stone on thigs. 50m is a good performance, the best will go 80. But what did Sami Heinonen do being the first to try it?! He shouldered the stone, then moved it behind his neck and started walking very fast. After 98 meters the gravity won - but so did he! Only one other guy, Jani Lauren, knew the same technique (even the father of it?) - which requires much training indeed, and he came second with 92 meters. Remember they weren't allowed to drop the stone after leaving the start area, which wasn't that wide - no way it would have allowed the stone to be dropped from the shoulder height.
Virtanen came 3rd in this event with about 75 meters (when he was resting at 70 the other strongmen shouted: "now lift it up behind the neck" :-). 5-6 guys went close to 70m and in '95 this same event was still won with only 40m (by Varalahti, who admittedly could have gone much further)!
Kari Pudas, who struggled far enough with the stone to ensure his place
for the finals (7th after first day), fell badly at the end of his walk
and dropped the whole 140kg on his ankle. That gave Jarno Jokinen a free
cruise (9th after first day) as nobody knew if Pudas would be able to continue.
Right after his injury Pudas wasn't that that frustrated about his ankle,
but about not making it the to the finals! But the next day he was up to
competing again, surprising us all.
Some top competitors didn't participate this year: guys like Ahola, Kiri, Ojanaho, Tuhkasaari and many top names from previous years, who have probably seen enough competitions already. The very best don't even "need" to do this competition, as it has become mostly about qualifying for WSM, and when the Strongest Man of Finland isn't really even an IFSA sanctioned event, the rules might actually forbid some to enter.
Of course as Jouko said in public this is also a very tough competition and would need much concentration - therefore he must now concentrate on his U.S. tour with Phil Pfister (6 shows) and 3 GP's shortly after that.
Kiri, Tuhkasaari and Ojanaho find their money elsewhere.
As the mess with the federations, fight for the money and even attempts to monopolize the sport (the wildest claims) continue it seems that Nummisto and Suonenvirta also will have to organize non-sanctioned events in the future (the nature of some of their events is like that). Even Finland's Strongest might experience a big change for next year; there might come a new qualifying system for WSM organized by Kinnunen and IFSA. But we'll see about these things as time goes by.
So, how many of the guys would manage in an international competition then? Only some of the finalist were really that good. Many potential lifters were left outside of the finals of course, but they need much more event training. The last five I could have tried to compete with? If I compare this to U.S. Full Strength Challenge from last year the biggest differences are in energy and in coordination: The Finns understand the competition is about time and speed also and they are all mentally and some are even physically prepared to fight odd shape objects.
21-23 April, corrections 2nd of June, Sami