Disappearing from result lists and then announcing a club change to Kalevan Rasti. What’s up Miika Kirmula?

Miika Kirmula, young Finnish orienteering talent, will be running for Kalevan Rasti next year. Miika announced this suprising and hot club change from Angelniemen Ankkurit to Kalevan Rasti in between the years after a long quiet and calm period. Where and why was Miika hiding the whole autumn and how come he decided to join the already strong red-black team?

We couldnt’t find you on result lists in the 2nd half of the last season. Where did you disappear Miika Kirmula?

After WOC-relay I didn’t run any competition last season. I had problems in my groin. That was though. It was only that I finally got to train normally after a difficult winter that I was again forced to stop. I was training to WOC too much on my limits as I only started running trainings in February last year. Still I got some shape with only 90 hours of running and orienteering from November 2016 to July 2017! Surely I did other type of trainings with a motivation higher than ever.

How did you handle that disappointment?

We decided together with the doctor that the groin which already bothered me the whole winter, had to be taken care of with time. Back then it was releaving just to hang out with my parents at our summer cottage and summarize and think it all through. This was one of the hardest parts in my career this far. Was as well tough to stop the season in the middle of it but now I can say it was the only right option.


And how does the future look like now?

At the moment all looks good! My next big goal is in Norway in WOC in 2019 TOP 6. Sure there are important competitions in between too but Norway remains as the biggest goal. Next season there will be EOC and WOC and of course I try to beat my last summer’s result 19th on long distance. My winter season will include many training camps abroad.

Your decision to change club to Kalevan Rasti is for sure one of the hottest topics in the orienteering world this winter. Could you tell us your thoughts about it?

I felt like now is the right moment to try something new so that I won’t have to regret it once I am older. I guess you usually regret those things you didn’t try. I haven’t yet have many chances to hang out with my new clubmates, but many of them I know before hand and cool guys all of them! In the beginning of February we will have training camp together in Portugal and I am already looking forward to that. With a smaller group we already visited Latvia shortly.

From my old club Angelniemen Ankkurit I will miss those great friends I have and in general all people from AngA. But luckily they will stay there even though I will carry a new shirt this season.

Swimrun – a challenge for your endurance, mind and teamwork skills

Team VJ-SPORT, a former national team swimmer Juha Lindfors and a former elite triathlete Mika Luoto, will participate in Porkkala Swimrun on saturday 22/7. Both of them are experienced swimrunners with top10 results (together with their own race partners) in ÖtillÖ – swimrun world championships. Porkkala swimrun will put their teamwork skills to a test – it will be intersting to see how it goes and if we’ll see them racing together later as well.


Swimrun is a sport there the teamwork is everything – no matter if you are an elite athlete or a rookie. Even if the team members are physically in top shape, the result will probably not be good if the team members aren’t on the same page. You can’t push your team mate too hard or leave him behind when his having hard time. A rubber ribbon between the team members can help to equalize the tempo to a certain level, but trainings together will show you what you pair is capable of. And training together is fun!

Both of us, Juha and Mika, have competed in a tough indivual sport at a high level, so our background is quite similar. The both are fascinated of swimrun because it’s very different compared to our earlier experiences, but challenges the physics and the mind as well. It’s a team sport, where you’re always racing together with someone and taking care of your partner, whitch is more demanding but also really rewarding.

We believe that it’s easier for beinners to dare to participate in a swimrun race because you’ll always have a partner. Something that feels impossible may feel more like a challenge when you’ll do it together. And after a succesful race you’ll get so share the good feeling with your pair. On top of that, swimrun is actually a really natural way to excercise; after a while you won’t even remember you gear when you’re just pushing forward. The best thing is that swimrun has so many varying elements, so the time goes flying by and you get to visit beautiful places you would never visit otherwise.

/Mika Luoto and Juha Lindfors, Team VJ-SPORT


(A translation, original text in finnish)

Bring it on

I wake up and I stand up next to the bed. I ask myself: ”How are my legs feeling?”. I know it’s a stupid question, it’s already the 11th of July and I can’t do anything about it. Today is the middle distance final at JWOC, the first medal race, and I have been preparing for months. So for now, it’s all about focusing on what to do in the forest!

JWOC in Tampere in Finland will be my fourth and last JWOC. JWOC has been my main focus during the last years and this year has been no different. During those tough interval sessions in the winter, I have been thinking about how the JWOC-races will be: how I will focus before the race, how I will attack the difficult controls, how I will plan the long route choice legs and how I will suffer in the last uphill. But also about how happy I will be if I succeed and how sad I will be if I don’t. I have had the chance to experience both feelings and I know which one I would choose to have in Tampere in the second week of July.

JWOC Long simulation, before the start
JWOC long simulation training in a forest south of Stockholm in November. Hope for better weather at JWOC!

The nice thing about your own performances is that you have the chance to decide the outcome by yourself. That is not the case for results, they depend on a lot of different other factors which you can’t influence, mainly what the other runners do! So to have the chance to decide my own performance I try to be as well prepared as I can be. I have been to two camps in the Tampere region and I have been searching for relevant terrains close to my home in Huddinge, Stockholm. I will also try to prepare as good as possible physically, to have a good feeling in my legs the day of the race. But for me, it’s more important to prepare mentally, to get in the race mode and to focus on what I will do in the forest.

All three JWOCs I have been on have been situated in winter resorts: Borovets in Bulgaria 2014, Rauland in Norway in 2015 and Engadin in Switzerland 2016. This year will be different, there are no high mountains in Tampere and there are no ski slopes in the terrain. Uphill running will be in less focus than last year in Switzerland, this year there will be more focus on running in soft and uneven ground, not seldom with a few branches here and there. Precise navigation in terrain where the features are not always so distinct will be important! I look forward to meeting the terrains in Tampere because they are quite similar to the ones I have at home, and they look really challenging. And of course, the factory for VJ shoes is just outside Tampere, so they are tested here and suits well in this terrain!

Training camp in Tampere in June

However, there will be a great portion of anxiety! Have I been training well during the winter? Am I really prepared for what is waiting? What if I fail? I believe this is part of working towards a goal, the bigger the goal, the greater these feelings! I look forward to both positive and maybe some negative feelings during the JWOC week, so bring it on!

One minute left, I have recieved my control description from an organizer and in 55 seconds I will be holding my map upside down on a table and an organizer will hold my shoulder to make sure I don’t start too early. I breathe in heavily and I relax, I repeat to myself what I will focus on in the forest. I start and I flip my map, this is what I have been looking forward to!


Like a Phoenix


It was time to take a small time-out after the World Cup and a tough spring with a lots of traveling and racing. I faced my limits in the chasing start and had to quit the race. Still, somehow I’m proud that I was smart enough to listen to my body and it’s signals before it was too late.


I’m really satisfied with the first period of this season. I managed to qualify to the World Championships, I was the fastest on my leg at 10Mila, won the Huippuliiga elite cup in Finland and got a gold medal at Finnish Championships middle distance. I mean, after the motivation problems I had last autumn and winter, I really have to appreciate these results.

Kuva: Jarmo Jokila
Pic: Jarmo Jokila
Pic: Jarmo Jokila
Pic: Jarmo Jokila

I’ve been struggling with some big questions. Am I aloud to live this kind of privileged life? What is the point of my career when everything is going wrong? I still haven’t found all the answers, but step by step I’m trusting myself more and more as an athlete. The good thing is that besides orienteering, I’ve had also some other stuff going on during this spring. My career will probably continue even after this season, but I think that the best solution for me is to find something else to do as well.


Now when my energy and motivation is on a different level, it has been a relief to see that I’m still in the game. If you saw my interview after my performance at Huippuliiga in Nousiainen, you might have felt some of the feelings that I have felt inside me. My tears was a sign of gratitude and joy and pictured the fight I have had against myself.

Pic: Pekka Kinnala
Pic: Pekka Kinnala









The second part of this season started with a WOC pre-camp in Estonia and the last month before WOC is about the basics. The life is a rollercoaster, but everything is easier when you know what you want. The Phoenix bird reborns and rises from the ashes. We’ll see in what that will result at this time.



(Translated from original text)


I have postponed the writing of this blog as long as I could. It seemed that I always had something more important to do: lots of trainings, exams, university work… Or maybe I was just too lazy to take the time to reflect on the changes I made last autumn.

To me, variety is perhaps what made me love so much orienteering, and also what enables me not to give up everything after each important competition, what makes me want to go on for countless trainings. You know tomorrow will always be different. Still, one needs routine too. In training and life. To do things well, to master them, to feel confident. The key for me staying motivated is to find this balance between good routine and changes.



Last year, I started to feel I had been living and training the same way for a long time, 6 years. 6 years ago, I went back living in my home town, Lyon, and started civil engineering studies. Those years have been maybe the funniest, happiest and most enjoyable years in my life. I had also never trained so long in the same place before. And as I still have 1.5 years of studies ahead of me, this was not likely to change. Lyon is going to remain my training base for at least 1.5 years.

But I definitely started to need some changes in my life. That was something I felt deep in me, that I needed to explore new places, meet new people, or maybe just find a new challenge. As this change couldn’t come from the “French dimension” of my career, it had to come from somewhere else. I therefore took the hard decision to leave the first and only Scandinavian club I had had, OK Denseln, with whom I had developed such a good relationship and shared so many nice memories.

Destination: Uppsala and OK Linné. Tough decision, but if felt right. And still does.


Scandinavian clubs are very important for French orienteers. Not so much to prepare WOC, get daily training opportunities or find a training group, as we already have a good training environment and resources back home. But to get as close as possible to one’s best abilities, only Scandinavian clubs and competitions can provide the last bit we don’t have at home:  the pressure and nervousness of running a big relay. And team preparation as well.



It may seem not much. But it’s huge. It’s only 2 or 3 races a year. But it has so much impact on one’s development. And, as far as I am concerned, on my motivation to train and pursue my dreams and goals. Maybe I could do without OK Linné and perform well at WOC or World Cup or whatever. But I would miss the magic. Running Tiomila in a strong team, knowing I am not allowed to miss or fail, for the team. And try to win it.

That’s the kind of challenge I needed, to keep on training hard. And until now, still in the middle of winter, but closer than ever to the beginning of the season, I can say the training has been good.



Our Christmas gift: 24 answers you always wanted to know

This Christmas we asked 24 different athletes running with VJ Sport one question each. Read below 24 answers you always wanted to know.

1. Sara Hagström, Swedish orienteer: Your favorite substituting training?

My favorite substitute training is long distance xc skiing with my sister on a sunny day!



2. Olav Lundanes, norwegian orienteer: What is your biggest dream at the moment related to sports?

My biggest dream is to win both the middle, long and relay at the same WOC. I am getting closer, but there are still a lot of improvements that need to be done to achive it.

3. Anna Bachman, Swedish orienteer: How to get rid off being too nervous before competitions?

I try to think of what I can affect, like the technical performance and my worm up preparations. And not think about what I can’t affect on the competition day, like my physical shape or other conditions. If I do as good as I know I can do technically, it will be a very good race. That thought calms me down if I’m to nervous.


4. Saila Kinni, Finnish orienteer: Key to successful relay team?

It is relaxed, encouraging and joyful team spirit, where you can be as you are and orienteer as good as you can. There is no need to pretend a superhero!



5. Ida Bobach, Danish orienteer: Favorite orienteering terrain in the world and arguments for that?

The terrrains from WOC 2011 in France (middle final and relay). I felt so entertained when I was running in these terrains. The terrains were full of small features and that made the orienteering really difficult and fun.

6. Severi Kymäläinen, Finnish orienteer: What are the biggest differences between Suisse and Finnish orienteers?

The swiss are in general more laid-back, faster with the compass, and better in tolerating shitty terrains. However, they are yet to understand night-O and the misery a seemingly endless winter causes.

7. Florian Howald, Suisse orienteer: What are the biggest differences between Suisse and Finnish orienteers?

I think we Swiss orienteers in general are very structured, rational and well planned in training and orienteering. Sometimes I miss the trainings close to the limit, the spontaneous actions or the crazy stuff you can experience easily with Finnish orienteers, such as 3h-o-trainings, 4-session-days or camps where the last session is called ‘arkunnaula’ (last nail to the tomb). But I have had a lot of fun with both Swiss & Finnish orienteers and I think we are not too different after all: Also with my Swiss friends I can enjoy a good amount of Löyly in Sauna after a hard session.

8. Mikko Sirén, Finnish orienteer: How to react when you don’t achieve your goal?

Analyze your performance and take pros and cons from race. But remember to focus good things and do it like that next time!



9. Miika Kirmula, Finnish orienteer: Favourite orienteering training and arguments for that?

O-intervals in a small group, after each interval chasing start to the next interval.
Great training for handling the pressure in different kind of situations. Another benefit in group trainings that you’ll be pushing harder yourself.



10. Jonathan Albon, British/Norwegian all-round athlete: What is the most important skill needed on skyracing?

To be able to run on technical train. Without this skill it would be impossible to finish a skyraces within the time cutoffs, in addition to this the routes are often along exposed mountain passes where a slip or a trip can prove fatal.

11. Minna Kauppi, Finnish orienteer: Is there something you learned during your elit orienteering career that has helped you extra much now after your career in “normal” life?

I’ve always been active with my studies, own managering and other possibilities, which have helped me to create good skills and great contact network during my sports career.


12. Lucas Basset, French orienteer: Where to go for active holiday in France?

The best place is of course Font-Romeu in the Pyreenees, both for a training camp or for sports holidays. You’ll find everything there: snow in winter, great weather in the summer, awesome orienteering maps, beautiful hikes in the mountains, lakes to swin in or hot springs to bath in. Everything is over 2000m over the sea level, and if you’re lucky you can have a run with Mo Farah or Martin Fourcade who spend a good part of the year there!



13. Karin Karlsson, Swedish OCR-athlete: How to start OCR training?

Well, the sport OCR is basically moving your body forward, concurring obstacles on the way. If you’re about to run your first OCR, track down your strengths and weaknesses. Find a place where you can practice techniques on obstacles so you have tried it before the actual race, some techniques are really easy, you just need to practice it before the race.

14. Thierry Gueorgiou, French orienteer: One tip to improve orienteering technique?

Be honest with yourself and never go to bed without knowing what’s the true reason behind a mistake. Come back the next day and start fresh again!



15. Fredric Portin, Finnish orienteer: A lot of orienteers move to Halden – is it worth it?

It’s definately worth it, the number of orienteerers moving there every year is a evidence of that. Halden SK really want to focus on the training environment and those, who really highlight the training atmosphere there instead of going to training camps whole winter really enjoy Halden. The many events for the whole club, the high class orienteering trainings and the smile on everybody’s faces is what I will miss most from our time in Halden. I also understand why that many orienteering families settle down in the small city; it’s great to live in the Mecca for orienteerers, no matter on which level you are competing.

16. Elias Kuukka, Finnish orienteer: How to react when your little brother beats you?

Well… then he must have done really well;)



17. Anton Kuukka, Finnish orienteer: How does drawing maps improve your orienteering technique?

Mapping improves my map-reading skills and 3D-visualization. It also challenge my ability to concentrate.

18. Anton Johansson, Swedish orienteer: How to stay away from being injured?

The most important thing is to listen to your body. I know my body pretty well after experienced a few injuries the last years. I know when I should take it easier and when it’s just full speed in my training.

19. Annika Billstam, Swedish orienteer: To what pay attention on eating as a vegetarian athlete?

I’m always careful to refuel with protein which is often quoted as the nutrient that vegetarians won’t get enough of (e.g.egg. milk, cheese, eggs, beans, tofu) + food rich in iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin B12 and riboflavin. To be sure I meet my needs when I train hard I take supplements designed for vegetarians with these vitamins and minerals bought at the pharmacy.

20. Lotta Kirvesmies, Finnish orienteer: What can an orienteer learn from Australia?

I would say a lot, but for orienteering the courage to run fast enough is important as well as getting to know new terrains. In general Australians are way more laid-back than Finns and I wanna take home with me the “no worries”-attitude.



21. Jerker Lysell, Swedish orienteer: How to become mästarn?

Buy a cap and spend your days in a swimming pool.

22. Hannu Airila, Finnish orienteer: How to combine work and trainings on elit athlete level?

The key is to find a good balance between the training and work. I make calendar reservations for the important trainings to be sure they will be at the first priority. The main problem is to find enough recovery time. I put focus on good sleep at nights and 2-4 times a week I take a small nap on the afternoon.

23. Maja Alm, Danish orienteer: Where to find motivation?

Motivation is very important when you want to have an elite carrer. For it is important to have high but realistic goals that I’m training hard to reach. I find it very motivating to complete a very hard training periode and really puch my limit of what I think I can do. What is really important for me to keep my motivation over time is to have an off season periode, where I’m trying to all the things and see all the people that I don’t always have time to during the season.

24. Santa Claus: Will you bring me VJ Sport shoes this Christmas?

Ho-ho-hoo, that is a secret you will find out sooner or later! If you for some reason don’t get them, I have heard that nowadays they are even sold on some stores and not only produced on my huge Christmas gift factory. Can you imagine that?


Thierry shares his knowledge with Swedish national team

The king of the orienteering, frenchman Thierry Gueorgiou, informed one month ago that season 2017 will be his last at top level (http://www.vjsport.fi/fi/farewell-tour-2017/). Back then he didn’t yet tell the big audience what are his plans after that. However today 25.11. Swedish orienteering federation announced Thierry will be a new national team coach from 2018 on.

– This is a great opportunity and also a good way to start my new career, Thierry comments to VJ Sport.

– I am really looking forward to this and it felt like a natural step to take. I have been considering coaching as my next step for some time. It is my own father who first gave my inspiration to coaching as he used to work in French national team back in the days, Thierry tells on the release of Swedish national team.


Thierry will work as one of the coaches of Swedish national team starting next season 2018. At the moment he is still fully focusing on World Championships in Otepää Estonia next summer 2017. On national team Thierry will be focusing on orienteering technique and will for example plan the training programs for the training camps. Thierry lives currently in Sweden in Uppsala with his partner former elit orienteer Annika Billstam.

– My task is to take care that no one will train better than us, we will have the best quality in our trainings. I am happy to have Annika home to test my ideas with her, Thierry says.

Swedish orienteering federation calls Thierry as a “dream catch”. The current head coach Håkan Carlsson who will continue working with Thierry is already looking forward to season 2018.

Farewell tour 2017

After the World Championships this summer, I had no other goal than knowing what I really wanted for my near future. It is not always easy to stand at a crossing and not being sure about the direction to take, even for the most experienced orienteers. “Is it really the end? Was the WOC in Strömstad finally my last one, and the time to explore some new tracks coming? Or did I had still something left in the tank?”


I always heard that when a sport career is coming to an end, the sportsman could feel it coming, and one morning he wakes up and knows it is/was the last call. Thus, I decided to not rush by saying something I might have regretted later on, and let the decision comes to me. I felt quite empty after World Championships and I had anyway no competition to prepare.

But in fact, it was not a completely new situation for me, as I had already experienced this feeling of emptiness. Twice before, in my sport career, I felt I had lost the direction. The first time was back in 2007, after a perfect season (10 WOC/WCup starts – 10 wins). I knew I would never be as good as this, and it wasn´t that easy to continue. But luckily, the World Championships in France were around the corner, and became my driving force for the following years. The WOC 2011 was another climax, and, by far, the emotional peak of my career. I knew that nothing would taste the same again. But still, I was, somehow, always excited to know there will be a control, a leg, or a course, somewhere in a nice forest, which will be a big enough challenge to keep training hard.


The weeks after WOC were quickly filled with nice adventures here and there, and also different meetings to see a bit more clearly how could look my future outside elite orienteering. During that period, two small happenings pushed me toward one clear direction.

The first one was happening during my trip in the US, when I was attending AC/DC concert in New York. This band has always been in my playlist before the biggest competitions and for sure, it was a special moment to finally see them playing live. But seeing the lead guitarist and legendary Angus Young, 61 year´s old, in his schoolboy-uniform stage outfits, bounding and scampering and duckwalking all over the stage during the two-and-a-half-hour show, brought me a smile. He delivered riffs he has played thousands of times, and seemed to enjoy it as much as the fans. Highly inspiring.


But when I travelled back from the US, my thoughts were still quite unclear, with many unanswered questions. And surprisingly, it was during one of the smallest competition, here in Uppsala, that I found a big part of the answers I was looking for. I ran a middle distance in Hammarskogen, at the beginning of October, 10 kilometres from our home. It is definitively not the nicest piece of forest around here, and I wasn´t especially in good shape, but the joy of orienteering was maximal. Everything felt so right. I was just happy. And I had much difficulties to find an answer of this last question: “Why stopping something which brings you so much happiness?” And finally decided to let this one unanswered also for 2017.


On top of that, I also realized that it was not fair to leave the scene, when Hannu (Airila) has never been that close to beat me in a WOC race. I definitively wanted to give him another chance!

Of course, as an elite orienteer, your training should be goal-oriented at some point. And naturally, my main goal for the coming 8 months is the WOC in Estonia. The terrain is even a bit familiar as I was running a World Cup there in… 1998. Oh god, feel almost like yesterday! ; )


Saila chases medals, not Pokemons

For then years relationship some good co-operation, fun moments together and most importantly kept promises are needed. Finnish national team runner Saila Kinni has been running with VJ shoes for 10 years now providing us with happy and exciting moments. More of these moments are to come as World Orienteering Championships in Sweden are going to start tomorrow. Saila will be running both of her favourite distances in Strömstad:

– My goal was to be able to run both forest distances, middle and long. I’m confident with my shape at the moment and I am aiming high at woc, Saila smiles.


This Tampere-based young lady has good reason for her self-confidence at the moment. Trainings have gone exactly as planned.

– After selection races for woc we had a 10-day training camp in Strömstad. After that some recovery was needed and then I still had nice 2,5 weeks harder training period. I have been really enjoying these basic trainings as there has been enough time before woc to even train hard and be a little tired. For me I find my best shape through harder training periods and now this shape is about to be here!


Finnish Summer has shown its best this year and Saila has been happy to be able to run on shorts and t-shirts and enjoy the sunny days. These little things she calls the little joy of athlete’s life. When Saila is asked whether she has had time to do other summer things than training, the answer surprises not those who know Saila:

– I love to train so much, that most likely even without woc the highlights of the summer would have been long runs on tiny trails or tough orienteering trainings ending to a freshening swim in a lake. But yes, I have as well been playing minigolf, kayaking, staying on a summer cottage, picking berries and mushrooms, swimming and just enjoying the beauty of Finnish summer. To chase Pokemons I let the other to do even though it was fun to follow it, smiles Saila, who instead of Pokemons is going to chase medals in Strömstad.


Anna made her dream come true – and more is to come

Our latest Team VJ member Anna Bachman has been running with VJ shoes for long and really likes them. The great fact that Anna got selected to World Orienteering Championships in Sweden in Strömstad gave the cooperation new boost and now we at VJ can with pleasure follow this talent on her career.

– World Championships in Strömstad have been a dream aim for me for years. I thought that maybe they come few years too early comparing to my improvement, but now I am really happy I made it there, Anna smiles.


Before the selection races Anna herself knew she has good changes to make it to the team and as the races both long and middle went well, waiting for the call from Swedish coach Håkan Carlson was exciting.

– I was a little nervous for few days before Håkan called me. I couldn’t have decided myseld which distance, long or middle, I prefer. I got middle and now I am really happy with it.

Anna has a clear plan before woc. O-Ringen in Sälen was part of her harder training period with a lot of training hours. In August it is time for faster and tougher sessions to find the speed for Strömstad. Last week before the woc she is then going to rest and take it easy.

– Right now, in middle of harder training period, I feel a little tired but at woc in the end of August I will be on my top shape.

Woc 2016 is going to be Anna’s first world championships in adult level. First time brings some extra nervousness and Anna believes in future woc is going to be one way easier to prepare for.

– This year my goal is to do my best and especially technically not to do mistakes. Of course I would as well like to run the relay but so do all the others. In future I want to run more championships and win a World Championship medal one day, Anna tells her future goals.


This Stockholm based young lady is going to start working this autumn, but focus is going to stay in orienteering.

– I graduated this spring and now I got a job with 70 % working hours. I am really happy to find something relevant to my engineer education. Working will help economically but still there is time for training too.