Olympics-Cross-country skiing-Finns favour classic route to Olympic ski medals – Metro US

Olympics-Cross-country skiing-Finns favour classic route to Olympic ski medals

Victory Ceremony – Cross-Country Skiing – Women’s 10km Classic
Victory Ceremony – Cross-Country Skiing – Women’s 10km Classic

ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) – Beating Sweden at ice hockey may still reign supreme when it comes to what Finnish sports fans love the most but the words “classic style” in cross-country skiing can still set their hearts aflutter as they usually mean Olympic medals.

Thursday’s 10km classic race almost yielded an Olympic gold for Kerttu Niskanen who only just lost out to Norway’s Therese Johaug nL8N2UL2S7 by four-tenths of a second, with fellow Finn Krista Parmakoski picking up the bronze.

It was the latest in a long line of achievements in classic style for the people from a nation of 5.5 million known for their stoicism and love of celebrating great sporting triumphs at what they call “torille” – their nearest market square.

“We like traditions, you know, I guess that’s the primary reason — throughout the years we’ve had classic skiers,” Ville Oksanen, head coach at the Finnish Ski Association told reporters after watching his skiers bag two more Olympic medals.

Kerttu’s brother Iivo won Olympic gold over 50km in classic style at Pyeongchang 2018 and was in front in Sunday’s skiathlon during the classic half of the race before falling away in the freestyle, also known as skate style, eventually taking bronze.

“I think we’re good at training it and also coaching it … with the classic you have these kickbacks, you have to get grip on the ground, and then with the different conditions, it changes,” Oksanen explained.

“I think for skating, we don’t have long uphills like many other countries do, so that might be one factor. In skating, I think you need good endurance in your muscles,” he added.

Unfortunately for the Finns, the two long-distance events alternate between classical and freestyle at each Olympics and in the Beijing Games the women’s 30km and men’s 50km will be contested using the freestyle technique.

Nevertheless, Oksanen said the Finns were improving in that style, with Joni Maki missing out on a medal by 0.81 of a second in Tuesday’s freestyle sprint final.

“That was clearly the best result for us in a championship in skate sprint and I think last year the guys they took the silver medal in the team sprint (at the FIS world championships) in skate sprint, so I think it’s getting more even,” he said.

(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Ken Ferris)