Tuesday, October 14, 2003 - Perspective
Training in Finland

- By: Jeff Seguin

This past July I had the opportunity to head north to Finland for a three week training camp. I can honestly say it was the most incredible experience of my skiing career. Having the opportunity to train with some of Finland’s most promising athletes and champions was simply outstanding.

The camp started with the Finnish Junior Development Team, ST 1, in Vuokatti. Head Coach Esa Hynynen took me under his wing for the week, exposing me to different training styles, technique analysis, and a tremendously difficult hike over Vuokattivaara. I couldn’t help but feel like part of the team. Lunch and dinner provided me with opportunities to ask as many questions as I could, and of course Esa was happy to answer.

The second part of the camp brought me to Kuhmo, Finland, where my coach and good friend Jussi Piirainen calls home. It was first class all the way in this little town. His mother, of course, is a tremendous cook, the training grounds were perfect and right in the back yard. His Father was kind enough to be our photographer for the week, capturing the exhausting moments with a smile. The agenda included some orienteering racing, swamp training and roller skiing on the Kuhmo rollerski course. A thousand thank yous to the Piirainen’s for their hospitality as well as the Mikkola’s for a wonderful evening of great food, friends and tales of triumph, courage...don't forget...excitement (10m!).

The third part of the camp was extreme. I was permitted to train with the Finnish National B Team in Vuokatti. Skiing in the tunnel alone is amazing but alongside World Junior Champions and members of the Finnish National Ski Team was truly an education. Their Head Coach Vesa Mäkipää, who himself is a World Ski Orienteering Champion, treated me as if I was his own athlete. He provided technique feedback and analysis at every opportunity. The athletes were outstanding as well. They made me feel right at home, as if I had known them for years. They allowed me to participate in every activity and test, team dinners, and even team building activities (downhill race car driving, Matti Heikkinen is my hero). I can’t possibly sum up my gratitude in this short article. I could never say enough thank yous to the Ski Cats team. I also hope Vesa’s achilles is healing up well, after he ruptured it in a soccer match with us.....ouch!

Between all these camps and awesome training experiences, I managed to visit some very good friends as well. Jonne Kähkönen and his family were kind enough to host Jussi and I for a couple of nights. His boys are growing up fast, and I know Jonne and Erika will have their hands very full in the future. Seeing his office in Lahti, made me a little jealous, as it looks down into the world class track stadium below. He even supplied a car for Jussi and I to drive to Vuokatti...what a guy!

Seppo Lappalainen arranged for a tour of the Peltonen plant, and some test skis for me to use in the tunnel. As the plant is top secret, I can’t say very much, only thanks a million to Harri for his time! I learned many things...I could tell, but its classified. I can say the big blue boards are gonna be sleek, sexy, and speedy this year so watch out. Seppo even took Jussi and I to lunch, while the vauhti ski tech Jouko Liljeroos, Finnish Champion in 1979 and former member of the Finnish National Team, took care of my skis. Look at this Finnish hospitality!

Overall I can honestly say I was very sad to leave that beautiful country. Clean, clear and wide open forest, amazing food, great people....what more can you ask for. I can only think of one other place I'd rather be, and lucky enough I live here. Many thanks to all the people who made this such an incredible experience. The Piirainen’s, The Mikkola’s, The Kähkönen’s, Esa Hynynen, Mikko Seppänen & Katie Pulkkinen at ST 1, Vesa Mäkipää and Mikko Virtanen in Vuokatti with Ski Cats, Seppo Lappalainen and Harri from Peltonen, Jouko from Vuokatti Ski Service, Hanna & Jussi Piirainen, and to my sponsors ASSANTE, PELTONEN, EXEL, RUDY PROJECT, SIMMONS CANADA and FRESH AIR EXPERIENCE, Thank You! Kiitos!

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