I was born on 25th of November in 1982 and became the youngest, and perhaps the wildest, member of our family. I got a name, Minna-Mari, and a home in Asikkala, where I lived a happy childhood with my parents, older brother Jussi-Pekka and sister Riina.
Even though my parents hadn’t competed in sports I was introduced to skis and training shoes right after I had learned to walk. Along with my siblings I got introduced to many kinds of sports. Finally, at the age of eight, we found orienteering. In addition to track and field and cross-country skiing, I played also tennis and did some gymnastics. However, it became clear that I was more of a runner or a skier type.
Untill late teenage, I was almost certain that I would become cross-country skier. The secrets of orienteering seemed to be too hard to solve at that time, and my legs seemed to go too fast for my skills. Around the age of eighteen, I realized that orienteering wasn’t that difficult after all, and as my older siblings had already chosen to become orienteers, it was easy for me as a little sister to follow their footsteps.
The first years of real training started at the same time. I decided that I would get to the next JWOC, and I did. To everyone’s surprise (mine as well) I actually got two bronze medals to come home with. In the coming years, it wasn’t such a surprise anymore that I won several medals from both Hungary and Spain.
In the year 2000 I found also a nice boy to orienteer with. That also made it certain that orienteering was my sports. Pasi, my boyfriend, was interested in coaching and really wanted to help me with my o-skills. I believe he also managed to do something. At least many people have said that it was a big thing for Finnish orienteering that we became a couple;)
School was always easy for me and I finished high school in 2001 with good grades in my backpack. After a few extra stops, I got in to the University of Jyväskylä. My major became Swedish and minor was French. As the years have gone by, I’ve also got many other minors including English. My studies seem to be an ever lasting story, even though I’ve already started to write my Master’s thesis, at least in theory. In fact, studying is at the moment merely an autumn hobby, and orienteering is the one I’m truly concentrating on.
After leaving junior playground, I got easily to the big girls’ national team. The first WOC in Switzerland wasn’t a great success, but already in Sweden 2004 I got my first medal in the relay. I was also fifth in the middle, which gave great hope (and pressures) for the future. The next year I got my first individual gold in middle distance in the NOC, but the rest of the summer went in tears, as my mother died. The competition in Japan gave me my first individual bronze on WOC-level, but otherwise I wasn’t feeling too happy.
In the next year’s EOC I was in the game again, but the WOC didn’t go quite according to the plans even though we won the relay. I had put too much pressure on my self, I quess. For the coming season, I really wanted to change things. I even got two coaches to help me. However, I noticed that coaches wasn’t the answer for me, as I want to do orienteering in My way. I want to enjoy it and not to make it too serious. Of course, the new training ideas were inspiring, but I believe that the biggest reason for me to finally hit the bullseye, to win the individual gold medals first in Ukaine and then in Czech Rebublic, was the change of attitude. I’m not trying too hard anymore, I merely want to enjoy the sports.
As our team won also the Venla-relay in 2007, I feel that I’ve already found the greatest controls. On the other hand, orienteering and sports is more than medals to me; it is a way of living and a hobby that I love. And I will definitely keep on running around, as I believe that there are many big and juicy battles yet to come, and many tricky controls yet to be found. Besides, I would really like to win my favourite distance as well, the middle one. So watch out reindeers and elephants, the crazy girl’s coming and she’s running fast 🙂