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Mari Laukkanen: ”The best thing is after the Wall uphill, when people scream like crazy”
Kaisa Mäkäräinen and Mari Laukkanen are the big favorites of the Finnish crowd in Kontiolahti Biathlon World Cup. Both of them have already experienced also result wise fine moments, especially in 2014, when Mäkäräinen won three races and Laukkanen was third in Sprint.
”Most definitely my greatest memory on Kontiolahti World Cups is the first ever podium there. The Flowers after the race, it was certainly one of the great ones”, Laukkanen looks back.
The support of the home crowd is unique.
”The best thing is after the Wall uphill, when people scream like crazy. Or, like last year, when the shouting continues throughout the track with crowd everywhere. But when the pain and agony are the worst on top of the uphill, loud shouts help the most”, Laukkanen gives a hint to the spectators with a smile on her face.
She enjoys it in Kontiolahti also because at this site the spectators get close to the athletes. That’s the strength to be proud of.
”To be a World Cup Arena the Stadium is so compact; you can see and feel the atmosphere deeply. That’s nice for the Athletes as well as for the Spectators. In a big crowd the atmosphere is really high.”
Laukkanen and Mäkäräinen headed for the Olympics already on Friday. The first start, Sprint, will be on Saturday, February 10th. Mäkäräinen describes her season so far as ”quite good” and stable.
”On terms of performance it has felt quite stable. It’s been nice to notice that so far what you do yourself is enough to take you onto the podium. It’s small margins whether you are first, second or third”, she joys her podium places during several weeks in a row.
Like Laukkanen, she also enjoys the support at the track and efforts put on mounting trackside spectator zones.
”It’s a completely different thing to ski when there are spectators at the trackside. In Östersund and Pokljuka, for instance, the crowds can’t get to the trackside. On the other hand, Ruhpolding, Oberhof and Anterselva are places, where crowd is all over the track and the atmosphere is just insane. Most definitely that should be encouraged even more widely.”
The work takes Biathlon Stars from one place to another, but what does Mäkäräinen love in her hometown outside the Stadium?
”There are such nice cafes in Joensuu. When at home, I attend Taitokortteli (Craftsmanship quarters) or café Houkutus (Temptation), and there are also some other nice places at the walking street. Living in Noljakka, I find the paths and run routes in Aavaranta and Mehtimäki important in summer. I love to go running from my home just some steps to nice routes. Outdoor recreation routes come close to the city and citizens from various directions. If you like to find something local to buy, there are small attractive shops in Taitokortteli”, she says.
Laukkanen lives nowadays in Thalgau, Austria, but a couple of preferences rise up in her mind:
”On the whole, Joensuu as a city is really versatile and functioning with offers to every taste. That includes also many-sided sports palette, if you like to watch other sports except biathlon, as well. Team sports are practiced at high level in several sports. I stay in Joensuu nowadays mostly in summer. In summertime water system makes the city so alive. It’s a beautiful summer city”, Laukkanen gives a hint to Biathlon friends, too.