Since the European Athletics Indoor Championships began in Vienna in 1970 no Finnish woman had won a gold medal.
That all changed in Istanbul this month as European pole vault champion Wilma Murto secured a historic win with a national indoor record of 4.80m.
And within 24 hours the Atakoy Arena witnessed another Finnish women’s victory as Reetta Hurske equalled her national record of 7.79 to secure the 60m hurdles title.
It was a faultless technical performance which left in her wake the Dutch athlete who won this title in 2019 and 2021 - Nadine Visser who took silver in 7.84 - and Switzerland’s European outdoor bronze medallist Ditaji Kambundji, who was third in 7.91.
“I put myself under a little bit of pressure before the start; I do not know [why] but I was so nervous,” said Hurske. “I know what I am doing but that was my first time winning gold. I believe I can build on this towards the outdoor season.”
It was a decisive victory, coming at the end of an escalatingly good indoor season.
Her form this year has been a model of steady progression - her personal best of 7.79, first set in winning in Madrid, was her fifth Finnish record of the year, following marks of 7.90, 7.88, 7.86 and 7.81.
Her form in last year’s indoor season was also highly impressive, but any hopes she might have had of improving her record at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade - where he reached the semifinals in 2018 - were ended by an untimely bout of COVID.
“I competed in Paris [in the build-up to Belgrade] and after that I was ill for two days. And then I got a positive test, so that was it,” she said laconically.
Hurske, who is coached by Marjukka Suihko, said she had been confident of victory beforehand because of her consistency this season.
“I’ve had five records, and now I have my first gold,” she said. “I’m very satisfied. I know I’m getting in shape, so that’s my goal reached for the indoor season. My goal for the outdoor season is to run my personal best and the national record and to be in my best shape for the World Championships in Budapest.”
The 27-year-old from Ikaalinen has already shown solid form at the World Athletics Championships, having reached the semifinals in Doha in 2019 and in Oregon last year.
Watching Murto win her competition the previous day was an ideal preparation for her as she looked towards her own competition.
“It was a great encouragement when Wilma got the gold,” she said. “I was very pleased that she got the win. I haven’t seen her since because she is already home, but we will talk.”
Asked why she felt she had been able to make such progress this year, she replied: “I’ve been healthy, and I have more strength than last year. There have been no big technical changes.”
Hurske, who likes to follow basketball and ice hockey when she is not busy with athletics, reflected upon the switching fortunes in her event, where the top European in this year’s world list with 7.78, Poland’s Pia Skrzyszowska, was unable to complete her season because of a hamstring injury.
“I think I was unlucky last year and maybe lucky this year!
“The Polish girl was unlucky this year,” she said. “I hope she will be able to compete later this year.”
If so, that will be a competition worth waiting for.
Mike Rowbottom for European Athletics