Who is Who
J. Salmenkylä, M75, FIN
Picture: left, Juhani Salmenkylä on Feb 10th in Tocha, Portugal (ten days ago); right, winner team of Jukola 1970, Helsingin Suunnistajat. Salmenkylä is the second from top (second from down is Vesa Turku). Picture from the book "Jukolan Viestin Tarina: 1948-1988", written by Juhani's late brother Matti Salmenkylä.
1966 seems to have been one of best seasons in your sport career. Let's begin by the World Orienteering Championships who just had the first event this year. You did the third leg in Relay and Finland won the silver medal. Your team-mates were Erkki Kohvakka, Rolf Koskinen and Aimo Tepsell. Do you still remember this race at Fiskars, Finland?
Cold and rainy, wonderful orienteering, real fighters in my team, everybody European Champion in relay in 1964 in Switzerland, Erkki even individual champ. The day before Aimo took silver in WOC. Sweden was clearly better. All my medals have through the years been toys for children and grandchildren. Once our nearest neighbour was horrified to find some in the childrens sand box.
In 1968, next WOC, you did again third leg and Finland repeated silver medal in Relay. This time, your mates were Rolf Koskinen, Veijo Tahvanainen and Markku Salminen. What do you still remember from this event in Linköping, Sweden?
We lost with some seconds having led most of the relay. The last 300 meters on the field were critical - again we lost for Sweden and Göran Öhlund on the last leg. To remember: all the relays had only one course on every leg. The methods of spreading the controls, to make the teams to run 'own' routes, became may be in 1971 or later in different races.
Also in individual races you got excellent scores: 5th in 1966 and 4th in 1968. Forty years and hundreds (thousands?) races after, what can you still remember from these two races, where you missed a medal by 33 seconds in 1966, and 65 seconds in 1968?
The best map ever made allowed faster running in1966 than before. It was still an old-style map, quite different from maps used today. I was honoured to open the World champs by starting first, with number 2, and finishing first. Really good course with many routes to choose. And some very tricky controls. In 1968 I still had the lead about 2 kilometers before the finish but the course was too long for me and I made a couple of little errors and met Gordon Pirie, who then came after me in the finish.
In 1966, you won in Men Elite the 2nd O-ringen in Smaland, Västergötland. At that time, of course, you couldn't realize the importance of this victory. O-ringen was just beginning. Competitors were 672 in that 2nd edition, very far from the 23000 in 1985. But now, looking back, what do you feel? How do you remember that success when you were, I suppose, 34 years old?
What I remember best is the control descriptions. That time no symbols were yet used. They were originally written in Swedish. We Finns got them in the start translated into Finnish. The translator had made terrible mistakes: east was west, re-entrant was open rock, etc. You just could not trust or understand them. So it was quite ashtonishing we took a double victory first day. Laughing I went to speak with the organizers and then I translated for all 4 following days in Finnish, meaning all categories with Finns running (I was the leader of the Finnish group with 40 runners in 10 classes) - and even the following years.
However, gold was something that you already knew a dozen years before. Your team won Tiomila in 1954. You did last leg and your mates were Einar Virtanen, Matti Niemi, Ilmo Hakkarainen, Erkki Kupiainen, Juhani Hämäläinen, Arvo Ek, Olavi Mäenpää, Erkki Aro and Tapio Haarma. What do you remember from this event, from your colleagues and from this victory half a century ago?
It was the time when the changeovers were in different places and auto-caravans always moved to next place. Some hours of sleep on hard a floor somewhere in a school. It was still dark when we were transported to the changeover place. I never had a radio with me but many Swedes had. I heard them cursing the Finns still leading, so I tried to hear the reporter - and I heard him telling it was my club Helsingin Suunnistajat. The Swedes did not know me, so I could concentrate and warm up in peace until I put my number - lucky 13 - on my chest. Then there he was closing, our long time president of the club, Tapio, tall and thin and with his usual comment 'No errors', he kicked me out to the last leg. I did not know how many minutes there were to the second team. On the long leg, from control 4 to 5, I took a road not knowing the trafic was guided that way. Soon a car passed me and stopped: No hurry, you had 25 minutes lead in the changeover, called a Finnish sport journalist. The team was good and lucky. Juhani Hämäläinen our no-nerve night specialist broke his lamp late on his course, but could finish watching other lamps. He and all the others were or are Finnish Champions in relay or Jukola relay winners. Erkki Kupiainen, called world's smallest top orienteer. Matti Niemi, my brother-in-law, twice Jukola winner (Pirkko's brother = family sport), Erkki Aro sports teacher, Pirkko's trainer in school time and mine later, 7 times Jukola relay winner like me, many times Finnish Champ, Arvo Ek 4 times Jukola winner and with Erkki and myself 3 Finnish relay championships in 3 years.
At that time, you also got excellent results in Nordic Orienteering Championships (NOC): 2nd place in 1955 and 1959. Do you specially remember any of these events?
Actually the best result came already in 1953, the last not-yet-NOC-champ (Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland) when I won the race with 6 minutes, having started first with number 1. What makes it historical, is that there were not and still are not any controls on my race map, only the finish was drawn. In that event we got controls one by one from the model maps: in start the 1st control, in the 1st control the 2nd one and so on. I never drew them. So I ran remembering the controls by heart and with all my heart, because I got in the team as a junior (that time). This was my first ever run without losing any time but focusing to make everything just sure and counting my steps as always. When after the race I told about my running with little or no compass and showed my map and route without any controls to the Swedish sports journalists, they said "you can not orienteer like that". My late brother, Matti, well known sports journalist (and the most skilful orienteer in the family, 2 Jukola wins) responded: "True, you can not orienteer, but you can win with 6 minutes". And the map was black and white, only the lakes and ditches were blue. In 1955 I was lucky to cross the finish line and I was told to have staggered from left to right before reaching the line. The race was once again too long for me but very good. In 1959 wonderful orienteering in the famous area in Jylland, Denmark, with many good events to come later. Just one mistake.
NOC also gave you silver in 1967 and 1969, but in relays. Can you tell us a little about the importance of "Nordisk Mesterskap" at that time?
NOC was the main event between European and World Championships. It usually meant good terrains, maps and planning - and specially good fighting for victory. In 1969 I had the last leg in the Finnish team 2, running against 3 Swedish teams, the first Finnish was ahead (I hoped) and Norway much behind. It was tactical race from the beginning, choosing different routes, watching the others, seeing one Swede to pass 5 meters left of the flag, nobody saying a word. He vanished. Awaiting somebody else to make an error. Nobody did. But the others took a route to the second last control detouring just too much in my mind. So I recharged my legs and feet and with fresh force just contradictory to my usual methods, 'jumped' over a hill and came perfectly to the control and when turning towards the last control there they came 50 meters still to go - enough for me to get silver to my team.
Nowadays, NOC became a "must" also for non-Scandinavian? In 2007 Simone Niggli won Middle and Long, and Matthias Merz won Sprint and Long, both from Switzerland. It is like a mini-WOC, or a pre-WOC (it is in May, three months before WOC). What do you think about the present importance of NOC?
It still is a good and demanding competition. You could recommend it to everybody entitled to participate. Really good training. The problem is timing the top condition to World Champs.
You were in top performance when the global future of orienteering was decided in 60's. O-ringen began in 1965, WOC in 1966. Scandinavia "exported" orienteering and "imported" orienteers: Scandinavian travelers, with good orienteers, visit many countries and do orienteering there; foreigners started coming Scandinavia to do orienteering? How did you live that "revolution"?
The most important revolution happened with the maps. Today's young orienteers have difficulties to understand the enormous 'evolution'. I have been lucky to live it and enjoy orienteering more and more. I really appreciate the good mappers. The good maps allowed the second revolution: compass running changed to map reading orienteering (like above 1953). I have been coaching many foreign teams in Finland, Swiss for WOC 1966 (a silver medal in ladies, Käthy v. Salis Perch Nielsen), later many Hungarians and Estonians, even Robinson family from New Zealand, Yotaro Ogasawara from Japan has been running in my Jukola team over 25 years, Swiss Veteran Camp in 2002, but sorry, not yet any Portuguese. I travelled first time in 1956 to Switzerland. It was the opening of the most wonderful adventures round the world, competing, leading groups (now over 160 to WMOC). You can say I have a second 'home' in many countries, even in Portugal.
People living out of Scandinavia, and even young people in Scandinavia, no easily can imagine how orienteering was at that time...
When I started orienteering in 1945 in boy scouts I was already an experienced forest wanderer. My mother had taught us, my brother and me, to pick berries and mushrooms, even cones, which was very important in war time. We got used to moving in terrain without any map. So when I got the first map in my hands for orienteering 1:30.000 nothing could stop me. Black and white, sometimes more black than white. Real shock was the russian map 1:21.000 or 1:42.000 (made before 1917, the independence of Finland), sometimes corrected by printing lakes in blue on the hills. So where was the hill then? Another shock was a map 1:100.000 when participating Tiomila in 1952. 10 km were 10 cm on the map. We called it a scrawl map.
Orienteering was really a social event. After meeting in the morning in a certain place we were transported in a cell on an old truck sitting tight on the benches and back in the evening. But the really nice thing was that almost after every competition there was a sauna prepared for the participants in the finishing area.
Very strong trousers or short shorts and leather shoes with long spikes were the usual equipment in early times. And the compass was always reliable SUUNTO.
I already mentioned Tiomila 1954, but "your" relay is Jukola...
Actually I have been running Jukola since 1950, till 2007 my last. Over 50 times. In 1949 I was not allowed to run. 'Too young' they told me from the federation. Now I do not await any calls telling me you are too old! So in 1949 I was official in the first changeover. Once planner and once chairman of organizing committee watching everybody preparing their job beginning over three years before the event. Only 3 times I have been somewhere else, twice for my great love and preferred sport - basketball, in 1964 in Geneva basketball Olympic qualifications helping the Finnish team to qualify to Tokyo Olympics- as it did. Since 1951 Jukola has been organized from one focal race centre. Tiomila adopted it 20 years later. Gradually Jukola grew to a huge folk festival. Ladies came at first running individually and then in teams of four runners. Everybody wants to run Jukola. I had twice the Finnish Prime Minister, Harri Holkeri, running in my team. For instance my colleagues, lawyers, have had a team many years, so the president's (of Finland) office with the spouse of Mrs. President, professor Pentti Arajärvi, in the team, army generals, etc. Thousands of tents for a night and 2 days. 25.000 people watching, most of them through the light night. Very famous is the whispering radio broadcasting directly from the controls and through the night. But the point is: marvellous orienteering, much better than Tiomila. And the challenge of beating the teams behind you, even on the ranks after 1000.
As a M60 you had an excellent period in first half 90's. In Australia 1992, you won the pre-event and got silver medal in Veteran World Cup, same place as your wife Pirkko. Any memories?
It is worth a book, but shortly: We travelled through New Zealand to 5-days OL organized by our good friend John 'Robbie' Robinson and his family. "It never rains this time of the year" (December) we still hear him telling. After the last run we went to the ocean with a water temperature of 17 degrees Celsius for a swim and to warm up from the icy thunder rain. Wonderful week in NZ. Thanks, Robbie. Next, Australia. Tasmania is really OL area. My wife Pirkko and me were happy to have the medals after crawling up and down in the tin mines. Very good and interesting OL. Awaiting the start standing inside a half burned eucalyptus tree.
In same period you won Scottish 6 Days in 1993 and were 2nd in 1995.
It was not difficult, but my team fellow made it such by running a really good time in the last run. I knew the time and that I should beat him to get the overall win. So focusing on every step, avoiding mistakes, everything went OK until 500 m before the finish a heavy rain made map reading impossible and I found the 2 last controls reading control descriptions. It helped me to get the needed 1000 points as they used to give. 1995 I simply was not fast enough. Interesting and fast orienteering.
In recent years you became a Portuguese races fan. I noticed your presence at least in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2007... What warnings and suggestions can you give to our guests?
I love orienteering in Portugal, especially the dune forests; Obidos-Peniche in December 2007 was very good. Please, watch the similarities in the forest, the little ups and downs are easy to get confused with. And watch your eating: lots of good Portuguese food. And, sorry, watch carefully your luggage even starting from the airport, in the rental cars, etc.
Leena Salmenkylä (gold medal in WOC Relay 1979), Pirkko Salmenkylä, Matti Salmenkylä, Tuulikki Salmenkylä... Can you introduce your family to us?
The head of the orienteering family was my father Anton (1900-1980), top athlete and sprinter representing Finland in Paris Olympics 1924, later top orienteer in veteran classes, my brother Matti (1930-2006) as told above. Once we all three won the Federation Champ same day in our classes, I think it was in 1950. Pirkko, my wife, an architect, in Finnish national teams of basketball and orienteering, many times Finnish Champ. And a first class cook. Both her father and brother Matti (as above) even orienteers. Our children Hilkka the lawyer, Leena, Veli Matti and Tuulikki are all basketball and orienteering 'professionals', Leena World Champ in relay 1979, Tuulikki veteran champ in NZ 2000, everybody Finnish champs. And 6 of our grandchildren will run Open classes in Portugal WMOC 2008. Even two sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law will run WMOC. So we are 14 to enjoy the wonderful dunes.
What is the secret for your sporting long life?
Family, hard training, good coaches beginning from my father and brother, success; first Finnish champ. 1947 with a second, in two years older class M17, gave a strong belief and firm ground to build future. And my sports teacher 1942-50 encouraging in basketball, orienteering and running, and my class-mates and team-mates etc.
I don't need to ask about your job. On the web we have many news about Juhani and Hilkka Salmenkyla "attorneys-at-law": ("We provide legal services to private persons and companies in all legal matters"). It seems you have a big lawyers society. How could you, 20 or 30 years ago, coordinate your professional and sporting life?
Work was never allowed to disturb sporting. The easy way to avoid conflicts was to run 10 km to the work in the morning and the same back in the evening, and a little more weekends. The hardest weeks over 210 km of running. A greater problem was the family until the children started OL. The clever becoming lawyer asked mother Pirkko, when will father pay another visit or whether he will stay overnight?
If I could understand, in a Finnish article you would be mentioned as president of Lions Club. Was it another and different challenge?
Different but not challenging.
Do you have any responsible position in your club or in your federation?
Pirkko has been for 10 years time Mrs. President of the club, now Mrs. Honorary President. I am only Honorary member, my role has been to think up ideas for orienteering. My job has been mostly in basketball, President of the Federation 1970-71, member of the board, even in Finnish Central Sports Federation, coach since 1948, international referee and commissioner, refereeing in Tokyo Olympics 1964, still a member in ruling committee.
In a recent interview, Thierry Gueorgiou observed that orienteering still goes like a "confidential sport", far from media. Can you comment this point of view? What do you think about efforts to put orienteering in Olympic Games?
Our problem is that there are very few top sports journalists who know what orienteering is and what it really takes to do it well - some of them are present in WMOC 2008. We need to get the less knowledgeable inside - in the forest, to solve the orienteering problems with dirty shoes on (and rain pouring). Schooling - them and our own people - is the key word. Orienteering is a fun challenge, let us teach it. The battle between sports is hard. There are so many easy disciplines to watch and follow. Olympics is a greater problem. Real orienteering should be there, but with our conditions. We have already electronic transmitters to make it easier for spectators to follow races. Helicopter broadcasting etc, there are ways with lots of MONEY.
More than 50 years after your first race, what are you still looking for in orienteering?
To learn orienteering, nobody ever did. More than 60 years gone, I only have nine runs with no mistakes, not a second. So I need the 10th one. Happiness. Have you ever been in the finish watching the young people closing with broad smiles in their faces. Relaxation. Sun shining on your tired face in the finish. To meet friends and find new ones.
HAPPY YEAR 2008, ENJOY THE FINE ORIENTEERING IN DUNE FORESTS!
(Interview by Manuel Dias. Questions and answers by e-mail. Received on 2008 Jan. 4th.)
[2008-06-20] Carlos Monteiro, WMOC Event Director
[2008-06-20] Dieter Wolf, M55, SUI
[2008-06-19] Timo Teinila, WMOC speaker
[2008-06-19] Jorge Simões, WMOC Event Director assistant
[2008-06-18] Blair Trewin, M35, AUS
[2008-06-18] Mariett Matias, WMOC Media responsible
[2008-06-17] David May, WMOC Senior Event Advisor
[2008-06-16] Gottfried Tobler, M60, AUT
[2008-06-16] Tuulikki Salmenkylä, W45, FIN
[2008-06-16] Arvo Majoinen, M80, FIN
[2008-06-14] Fernando Costa, WMOC Marketing responsible
[2008-06-13] Sarah Dunn, W40, GBR
[2008-06-12] Santos Sousa, WMOC planner
[2008-06-11] Sigurd Daehli, M55, NOR
[2008-06-10] Alexandre Reis, WMOC mapper and planner
[2008-06-09] Nick Duca, M40, CAN
[2008-06-07] Tiago Aires, WMOC mapper and planner
[2008-06-06] Irina Stepanova, W55, RUS
[2008-06-05] Luís Sérgio, WMOC mapper
[2008-06-04] Ari Kattainen, M50, FIN
[2008-06-03] Rui Antunes, WMOC Mapping coordinator
[2008-06-02] Jon Musgrave, M45, GBR
[2008-05-31] Jacinto Eleutério, WMOC Course coordinator
[2008-05-30] Rune Carlsson, M70, SWE
[2008-05-29] Åke Jacobson, IOF President
[2008-05-29] Augusto Almeida, POF President
[2008-05-28] Jurate Uleviciene, W55, LIT
[2008-05-26] Vladimir Ioffe, M70, ISR
[2008-05-23] José Fernandes, M45, POR
[2008-05-21] Ezio Paris, M55, ITA
[2008-05-19] Gabriella Györffy, W40, HUN
[2008-05-16] Alberto Minguez, M40, ESP
[2008-05-14] Tomas Zdrahal, M55, CZE
[2008-05-12] Paulo Becker, M45, BRA
[2008-05-09] Ingrid Roll, W70, NOR
[2008-05-07] Jerzy Parzewski, M55, POL
[2008-05-05] Hugh Moore, M60, AUS
[2008-05-02] Martin Checkley, M55, GBR
[2008-04-30] Etienne Bousser, M60, FRA
[2008-04-28] Andreas Grote, M40, SUI
[2008-04-24] Liudmila Labutina, W65, RUS
[2008-04-22] Freddy Sillien, M60, BEL
[2008-04-17] Tomislav Kaniski, M35, CRO
[2008-04-14] Eero Tuuteri, M85, FIN
[2008-04-10] Lena Nordahl, W80, SWE
[2008-04-07] Albano João, M45, POR
[2008-04-03] Tom A. Karlsen, M55, NOR
[2008-03-31] Kayoko Sakai, W55, JPN
[2008-03-27] Finn Arildsen, M45, DEN
[2008-03-24] Anne Nurmi, W45, FIN
[2008-03-20] Peo Bengtsson, M75, SWE
[2008-03-17] Alida Abola, W50, LAT
[2008-03-13] Matti Railimo, M60, FIN
[2008-03-10] Cornelia Eckardt, W35, GER
[2008-03-06] Joaquim Sousa, M35, POR
[2008-03-03] Birgitta Olsson, W75, SWE
[2008-02-20] J. Salmenkylä, M75, FIN
[2008-02-18] Torid Kvaal, W65, NOR
[2008-02-15] Mykola Bozhko, M55, UKR
[2008-02-13] Pavlina Brautigam, W45, USA
[2008-02-11] Ferran Santoyo, M35, ESP
[2008-02-08] Sole Nieminen, W80, FIN
[2008-02-06] Stefano Galletti, M40, ITA
[2008-02-04] Gillian Ingham, W50, NZL
[2008-02-01] Jörgen Mårtensson, M45, SWE
[2008-01-30] Tom Hiltebrand, M50, SUI
[2008-01-28] Baiba Ozola, W40, LAT
[2008-01-25] Eddie Harwood, M55, GBR
[2008-01-23] Marje Viirmann, W45, EST
[2008-01-21] Alexander Afonyushkin, M40, RUS
[2008-01-18] Paulina Majova, W55, SVK
[2008-01-16] Björn Linnersjö, M65, SWE
[2008-01-15] Lillian Røss, W85, NOR
[2008-01-10] Tapio Peippo, M55, FIN
[2008-01-07] Elizabeth Brown, W90, GBR
[2008-01-04] Erkki Luntamo, M90, FIN