If you visit Finland during February – or just look up the weather for a northern town such as Kuusamo – you won’t have any trouble seeing why Finnish athletes excel at winter sports.
Finland is an arctic nation, with the northern third of the country located above the Arctic Circle, and while Finnish summers are beautiful and green, snow and ice decorate the landscape during the winter months.
It seems natural, then, that Finnish women helped pioneer female participation in winter sports and the Winter Olympics. Our slideshow rediscovers some of the early winners and spotlights several of the many Finnish women competing for medals in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018.
The first woman to win a medal for Finland was German-born figure skater Ludovika Jakobsson. Together with her Finnish husband Walter Jakobsson, she won gold in 1920 and silver in 1924.
At the 1952 Winter Olympics in Norway, the first time women’s cross-country skiing was included, Finnish women gathered all three medals in the 10-kilometre event. Lydia Wideman (photo) became the first Finnish woman to win a cross-country skiing medal. Wideman took gold, Mirja Hietamies captured silver, and Siiri Rantanen got bronze. Photo: TT/Lehtikuva
In 1956 in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, Mirja Hietamies and Siiri Rantanen teamed up with Sirkka Polkunen to win Olympic gold for Finland in the 3x5-kilometre cross-country ski relay. Photo: Sports Museum of Finland/Lehtikuva
Tanja Poutiainen, Finland’s most successful downhill skier of all time, passes a gate in February 2006 during the first run of the giant slalom in Sestriere Colle, Italy. She clocked a total time of 2:09.86 over two runs to win silver. (She retired from competition in 2014.) Photo: Olivier Morin/AFP/Lehtikuva
Finnish snowboarder Enni Rukajärvi flies through the slopestyle qualifying round at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. She went on to won silver in the event. Photo: Mikhail Mokrushin/RIA Novosti/Lehtikuva
Is it Finland’s destiny to win a medal in mixed doubles curling, the newest addition to the Winter Olympic Games? Oona Kauste represents Finland in Pyeongchang, South Korea together with partner Tomi Rantamäki. Photo: Jonathan Hayward/PA Photos/Lehtikuva
Kaisa Mäkäräinen is one of the Finnish medal hopes in biathlon, which plays out on a cross-country ski race course with target-shooting stations at regular intervals. Photo: Matthias Schrader/AP/Lehtikuva
Finland is always a contender in ice hockey. The 2018 women’s team gathers at a rink in Finland for a group portrait before departing for South Korea. Photo: Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva
By Emma Rispoli and ThisisFINLAND staff, February 2018