Tiina Lillak: Finnish Javelin Legend

When I was watching the javelin qualification rounds of the Helsinki European Championships, I noticed a prominent banner. Written in bold letters were the words: “Finland the Javelin Country.” Indeed, the javelin throw is a national past time in the Nordic countries. Of the sixty-nine medals awarded in the event since 1896, a staggering thirty-two medals had been won by troika of Sweden, Norway, and Finland. In fact, Finland had swept the medals twice in Olympic history.

The Euro Sport announcers then went on to talk about a certain Tiina Lillak, and how she snatched the inaugural World Championships gold on her final throw – in front of thousands of ecstatic Finns.

Tiina Lillak circa 1983. (Photo from Jos Hendrix)

Britain’s Fatima Whitbread threw down the gauntlet at the first round, throwing the spear to a distance of 69.14s. Lillak was in second place, with distances of 67.34m and 67.46m achieved in the first and fifth rounds. As the legendary Finn prepared for her final throw, the camera focused on Lillak. She was the portrait of sheer determination. Just from her expression, it was apparent that Lillak was summoning something grandiose.

And it was an epic throw, indeed. The moment the Finn released the javelin, the crowd let out a collective roar. When it struck the ground, beyond the Briton’s erstwhile leading mark and beyond seventy-meters (70.82m), the tens of thousands in attendance cheered even louder.

Coming from a country where athletics is nothing more than a fringe sport, the thought of a jam-packed stadium and a dramatically triumphant hometown bet gave me goosebumps.

The Euro Championships Men’s Javelin final will be held tonight. The resurgent 2007 World Champion Tero Pitkämäki and the exuberant Ari Mannio lead the Finnish charge. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed as I cheer for hometown duo, hoping to witness an epic in the making.

Source:

Wikipedia

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