Finnish one of the legends of skiing Hilkka Riihivuori71, returned to the international competition stage in style by winning two golds in the veterans’ World Ski Championships.
Riihivuori started his race day in Vuokatti by becoming the world champion in the traditional way of skiing in three kilometers. A couple of hours later it was the turn of the free gold medal.
“It was nice to finally be able to start. Of course, the sun warms you, but you could feel its coldness on that side of the shadow, and especially in your breathing, when you suddenly jerk at high speed,” Riihivuori said after his traditional race.
Severe frost canceled all trips on the first two days of the World Cup skiing. Tuesday was a little warmer, but the temperature still remained around 20 degrees below zero.
The organizers had already made a decision in advance to shorten the trips. In the Riihivuori series, the race was shortened from five kilometers to three kilometers.
“When the distance got shorter, I had to add a little more laps to it. It was a bit like a sprint, but the race went pretty well. Nicely,” said the modest master.
He was one of five double world champions on Tuesday.
During his active career in the 1970s and 80s, Riihivuori won six World Cup and four Olympic medals. The golden one was Lahti’s World Championship relay gold from 1978. Now, 46 years later, it was finally the turn of the first individual World Championship gold – on the side of the veteran series.
“Of course the sun warms you, but you could feel its coldness on the other side of the shadow.”
Riihivuori looked so good at the goal that the frost seemed to be his toughest opponent on Tuesday.
The high-speed practice skiing before the traditional start got the back of the shirt wet. The champion skier changed into dry clothes between starts and returned to the starting line.
“I was supposed to have ten days off on Sunday and a traditional Viton on Monday, but these were canceled because of the frost,” he recounted his canceled trips.
“There was a bit of a small thought in advance that we would see when we get to February that there won’t be a severe frost period. And it came too.”
On Wednesday, Riihivuori will be seen in the relay and on Friday in the long distance, which in his series means 15 kilometers. Riihivuori makes the trip easy with free skiing.
“I like free skiing, and I’ve probably skied more than that in the last few years,” Riihivuori said.
“You can say that I have skied all these long distances, like the 90 kilometers of the Pirka ski, because it still feels like an easier skiing technique.”
“I like free skiing, and I’ve probably skied more than that in the last few years.”
To Tampere Riihivuori, who spent his working career as a physical activity instructor in the city, had the job of moving people from babies to the elderly. He continues the same even now as a pensioner.
“As a volunteer, I move senior citizens, take them for a run and encourage them in other ways. I also lead hobby groups, and there are many of us here,” said Riihivuori, referring to the World Cup skiing.
He also followed with interest the performances of his acquaintances on the slopes of Vuokatti.
“I’ve been leading an active jogging group for twenty years, and we have a really good and successful group here. When I listened to the results, I jumped in happiness that there was another medal or top ranking,” said Riihivuori.
According to Riihivuorenki, acquaintances and jogging buddies who toured the veterans’ World Cup skiing, officially called Masters World Cups, attracted them to the racetracks.
“The story starts from 2016, when the previous games were here. At that time, it was a bit like I showed the green light, but I couldn’t participate because of my life situation at the time.”
However, Riihivuori promised to participate when the next games are held in Finland. When the event was granted to Vuokatti, Riihivuori’s phone was filled with messages.
“When I heard the results, I jumped in happiness that there was another medal or a top ranking.”
A skiing legend on Tuesday there was a popular conversation group in Vuokatti. Riihivuori made him stop here to exchange news or receive congratulations.
“There are a lot of my own jogging friends here, and there are a lot of participants from Tampere,” he said.
His goal is to ski at least 2,000 kilometers in winter. So far, at least the target number of kilometers have been put on the meter.
“Sometimes it has been more than 3,000 kilometers if it has been a really long and good winter. I like skiing,” he said.
Riihivuori, who skied ten prestigious medals in his wonderful career, was happy to return to Vuokatti, where he camped for the first time when he was 14 years old.
“Actually, my top skiing career has started here. And how much we have been at camps here and seen Vuokatti’s development. How primitive this place was in 1967 and 1968 in those first camps,” Riihivuori recalled.
“I’ve always liked being here and it’s always nice to come here. I have hiked those Vuokatti hiking trails many times. It was absolutely wonderful to come skiing here while my health and physical condition are still good.”