Jim Spier’s Blog: Project Javelin Gold in Finland, Part 2 (Aug. 7-8 FINAL UPDATE)

by Jim Spier

Jim Spier's Blog: Project Javelin Gold in Finland, Part 1

Thu.-Fri., August 7-8: Days 8-9, Final workout, farewell to Kuortane, trip home

Photos by Joy Kamani (and others; top to bottom, left to right): 1) Kimmo and the eight Project kids as we say goodbye; 2) Cell phone photo frenzy; 3) Kimmo and Barry; 4) Kimmo and some of the kids do "The Penguin"; 5) Jim, Joy and Kristi capture the fun; 6) dancing in the Tampere mall; 7) Jim, Grayson, Kristi and Barry at an ice cream shop in the mall; 8-13) scenes from central Tampere; 14-15) Yes, reindeer is consumed here with passion; 16) the door that wouldn't open at the Frankfurt airport.

This would be our final day in Kuortane: Training session in the morning, off to Helsinki after lunch, then home on Friday.

10.00 Training session on main track/ Kimmo& Barry

  • Javelin throwing session
  • “the enjoyment of throwing”
  • mid-body strength / a couple of stretching / swimming

We had a bit of a change in that we went to the indoor facility and not to the outdoor track (and no swimming).

It was one final day of floor ball, then javelin throwing against a ceiling to floor mat.  The javelins had a blunt accessory added to the tip so it would not rip the mat.  In one case, a standard javelin was used, cutting the mat’s material, and sticking to the mat about 30 feet high.  Kimmo, standing about 40 feet away, aimed a javelin at the hanging javelin’s tip, and it landed within 3 inches of the point, dislodging it!  We finished the session with some medicine ball throws against the wall, and a lap or two around the track.

We had lunch, packed the vans and were headed to the outdoor track to watch world champion Tero Pitkamaki practice.  Kimmo told us that his schedule changed at the last minute and Pitkamaki would not be there.  Disappointed, we said our goodbyes, took a lot of photos and headed out.



We stopped in Tampere, Finland’s third-largest city, about halfway between Kuortane and Helsinki.  We happened upon a large mall, much like would be found in any American city.  In an open space on the first floor, we watched ballroom dancers.  Apparently, each afternoon music is played and people come to dance.  The tango, for example, is “huge” in Finland.  I suppose dancing is a good indoor activity during the long winters there.


The adults wandered the city for an hour and a half, and the kids wandered around the mall.



 We found a food court on the upper level of the mall.  We ate in a chain called “Manhattan Steak.”  Fortunately, it had more than steak.  We ordered a variety of meals: spaghetti, chicken cutlets, steak, omelets, hamburgers.  It was about as close an American meal as we’ve had all week.

We got to Helsinki at about 8:30pm and checked into the hotel.  Kristi and I returned the vans after “gassing up” right at the airport (“Pump first, then come in and pay,” said the clerk).

Joy and I would leave at 7:30am the next day.  There would be the two others groups, leaving at 2:10pm (New York) and 2:30pm (Chicago).

We arranged to go to a breakfast buffet at the airport, opting for the 8.80 Euros per person instead of the 27 Euros per person at the hotel!  The long return would begin, with some delays along the way.

Joy and I flew from Helsinki to Frankfurt.  The Frankfurt flight for Detroit was to leave at 10:35am, so boarding would begin at 10:05.  Boarding actually began at 10:10am, with the announcement that “adults with small children may board now.” 

 I have never seen so many children boarding an airplane; there were literally 80 of them, counting the adults.  I checked my watch and 15 minutes had gone by.  Finally, we can board!  Just then an alarm went off and the doors at the gate automatically closed.

No one knew what to do.  Telephones, paging devices, walkie-talkies were all used to get someone to remedy the problem.  Technicians came over the next 30 minutes and no one could figure it out.  Then a female Lufthansa employee came by with a set of keys, and “1-2-3” it was fixed.  Joy muttered, “It figures.  It took a woman to solve the problem.”

Off we went.  After a short stay in Detroit, Joy continued on to Houston and I went to Raleigh-Durham by way of Philadelphia.  I got to Raleigh-Durham, but my luggage did not.  It is supposed to be delivered some time on Saturday.

I monitored the other flights.  The New York flight arrived early and the Chicago one a bit late.  As far as I could tell, everyone made their connection.

 We’ll miss the three seniors:  Kristen Clark (headed to Texas A+M), Trevor Danielson (Stanford) and Todd Ogden (Montana State).  They will be successful in college and in life.  They are really special young adults.

We have five “returnees,” all entering their junior year in high school in a few weeks:  Katelyn Gochenour, Emma Fitzgerald, Tairyn Montgomery, Sophia Rivera and Grayson Hill.  All had enormously successful sophomore years, and we expect big things from them in 2015. 

Emma’s season is not over as she will represent the U.S. in the Youth Olympic Games in China next week.  It has been a long season for all, but especially for Emma.  We’re sure she will do well in Nanjing.

We will be adding three more athletes to the program in the next few months.  One that has already been accepted is Madison Wiltrout (Connellsville, PA), the state javelin champion as a freshman at 151 feet!  She will fit right in with our group. 

There will be an online application process for the other two.  They must have just finished their freshman or sophomore years and show promise.

So this completes year three of Project Javelin Gold.  It has been a pleasure watching the progress of all of the athletes and being involved with the world’s best javelin coaches: Jeff Gorski, Bill Schmidt, Tom Pukstys, Kimmo Kinnunen and Barry Krammes.

This program appears to be working.  We can’t wait to see what 2015 brings.


Wednesday, August 6: Day 7, Back to working hard, playing hard

Photos (mostly) by Joy Kamani (top to bottom, left to right): 1) Most of the gang during bowling (Kimmo photo); 2-3) Visting the studio of Soile Yli-Mayrin with Jim, Joy and Kristi; 4) Emma, Kristen, Katelyn and Sophia enjoying the cookout; 5) Jami, Grayson, Trevor and Todd emerge from the lake, post-sauna; 6) Sophia tends to the fire while Gabby and Emma check their phones; 7) Jim, Gabby, Kristen and SteveU; 8) Emma; 9-10) The moon and darkening sky on one side of the lake, and the ever-remaining twilight on the other.

We had our usual breakfast (the kids are now talking about their dream breakfast when they get home – it probably won’t include lettuce or cucumbers or hard-boiled eggs).  We ate breakfast again with Kimmo, who is very entertaining and informative.

We know that Finns love to throw things -- like cell phones and match sticks, for which there are world records kept.  This time he mentioned the record for the longest raw egg toss (that is, an uncooked egg still in its shell).  The record is apparently just under 100 meters, or well over 300 feet.  Apparently there was a bit of a controversy in which the chicken who laid the egg was fed a diet containing a high percentage of calcium, making the egg shell a bit thicker.  Nonetheless, the record stands with no asterisk.

As promised, the morning session would be, let’s say, challenging.  From Kimmo:

10.00 Training session in Kuortane- hall/Kimmo & Barry

  • warm up with so nice and happiness floorball
  • circle gym training with easy weights
  • hurddle walking/ a couple of stretching + swimming

After about an hour of floor ball, it began:  “10 sit ups, run 2 laps, walk over hurdles.  20 crunches, five 50 meter sprints, running fast, walk over hurdles.  10 leg lifts, right leg, 10 leg lifts, left leg, five 50 meter sprints, walk over one hurdle, walk under the next hurdle, and on and on.” 

So it went for an hour.   Kimmo managed to do all the exercises himself, too, except for the hurdles and the running.  It lasted for over an hour and all of the kids pushed themselves and completed everything.

Now it was lunch time and post meet relaxation, the afternoon session not planned until 4:30pm … except there was bowling, too.  In fact, Kimmo had made a reservation at our hotel’s basement bowling alley for 1:00pm, but when our workout ran long and lunch got squeezed, he changed it to 1:15pm.  So the kids showered, ate, and then went downstairs.  There were four or five lanes, and our group took all but one.  Jami, as it turned out, got the highest score over three games, with a 144 – but Gabby was more consistent with two games over 120.  Many of the kids had at least one game over 100.

Meanwhile, Kimmo mentioned a famous artist who is from Kuortane and who has a local studio.  Her name is Soile Yli-Mayrin.  We are not exactly connected to the art world, but Kristi, Joy and I thought it would be interesting to visit the studio.

We drove the three miles and there it was.  A converted barn turned into a studio, along with several farm out buildings on the property.  We were “blown away” by it all.  Soile is indeed a world class artist (https://artsy.net/artist/soile-yli-mayry) and currently has exhibits in 30 cities around the world.


She happened to be in town this day and we met and spoke with her.

Knowing that one of our project athletes, Emma Fitzgerald, is an aspiring artist, we thought it would be a good idea to fetch her and bring her to the studio.  We did and she enjoyed the exhibition, spoke with Soile and got her autograph.

Soile will be doing an exhibition in New York next March, the same time we will all be there for the 2015 New Balance Nationals Indoor.  She said she would invite us to her opening.  We can’t wait.

Back to work!  Everyone went to the outdoor track for the evening session.

16.30-18.30 Training session on main track/ Kimmo & Barry

  • easy Javelin tecnic with walking/standing/good throwing position/small thinks reminder
  • technical drills for Javelin, running, crossover drills
  • mid- body strength + a couple of stretching + swimming

Barry supervised a strenuous warmup.  Then, everyone threw and Kimmo critiqued.  The athletes soaked it all in.  After the throwing session, it was 200 “crunches” and a lap or two around the track.  Done!


The night would be a special one.  It was sauna night and most went to the sauna.  They went in separate groups over an hour and a half period beginning at 9:00pm:  men, women, male athletes, female athletes.  Sauna for 20 minutes, then into the cool lake.

Kimmo had prepared some sausages, drinks and snacks and everyone partook, beginning at about 10:15pm.


Sophia organized a fire on the beach to roast marshmallows and make “s’mores.”

The sun had just set, the moon was rising, it was 72 degrees, no wind, the lake was completely still, and we’re sitting on the beach taking it all in.  Most of us stayed until 1:30am, not wanting the night to end.  This would be the last night in Kuortane for this year’s session … and the last night in Kuortane that Kristen, Todd and Trevor would be with the group in this special place.  They will all be off to college in a few weeks.  We’ll miss them all.

Tomorrow morning there will be the final session.  Then we will have lunch, watch IAAF World champion and Olympian Tero Pitkamaki work out at the track, then depart for Helsinki.  It has been a great week and a most memorable time.





Tuesday, August 5: Day 6, Competition in Vaasa

Joy Kamani Photos (top to bottom, left to right): 1) The Project Jav Gold girls - Sophia, Tairyn, Kristen, Katelyn and Emma - showing their NSAF logos; 2) Katelyn throwing; 3) Todd throwing; 4) Trevor throwing; 5) Grayson working with Coach Kimmo during the meet; 6) Katelyn on the award stand; 7) Barry gets his award from Kimmo; 8-9) Barry shows the fruits of his labors; 10) the stadium in Vaasa; 11) Paul and Jim - analyze and record.

Today is competition day, so pre-meet preparation will be light.

From Kimmo:

  • 09.30 Awakening training for evening Vaasa competition … With you own style, relaxing & aggressive, Happiness!
  • 11.30-12.30 packaging everything ready for competition and Vaasa

Just prior to training, we met Tapio Korjus, the head of the facility (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapio_Korjus).  He also happens to be the 1988 Olympic javelin champion (in that event, Kimmo Kinnunen, as a 20 year old, was 10th).   He welcomed the group and also encouraged them to do well today.

As noted above, each athlete warmed up for about an hour (jogging, badminton, stretching, etc.).

We had lunch and left the facility at 1:30pm.  We arrived at the stadium in Vaasa about 2 hours later.  It is a fairly modern facility, built in the 70’s.

Joy, SteveU, Paul, Kristi and I went to downtown, about 3 miles away.  We had been there for lunch last year and were somewhat familiar with the city (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaasa).  The main square is usually a farmer’s market, and it was this time as well.  But the salmon truck was not there; that’s where we purchased some incredibly good smoked salmon last year.

We stopped at a coffee shop and did some shopping in some sporting goods stores (where, of course, they also sold javelins), and returned to the stadium.


The athletes performed fairly well, given the on-going jet lag.  They would have needed another 3-4 days to perform at their normal level.  We thought the distances were worth another 10 feet, so all had throws near their yearly PR. 


Here are the girls’ results:

  • 1. Katelyn  47.73m or 156-7
  • 2. Tairyn  44.81m or 147-0
  • 3. Sophia  44.00m or 144-4
  • 4. Emma  42.73m or 140-2
  • 6. Kristen  39.78m or 130-6

And those for the boys (and men!)

  • 2. Barry  73.55m or 241-3
  • 7. Todd  62.83m or 206-1
  • 9. Trevor  58.15m or 190-9
  • 11. Grayson  51.47m or 168-10


The awards were pretty special.   The winner (Katelyn) received a bathroom soap set.   Second (Tairyn and Barry) received a tomato/cucumber gift set (7 large tomatoes, 1 container of cherry tomatoes, and a large cucumber).  Third (Sophia) received a meet backpack.



At about 9:00pm we headed for the restaurant, Dallas Pizza Palazzo (http://www.dallaspizzapalazzo.com/?page=KOTI).  As would be expected, everyone had pizza.  We sat on the patio with perfect weather (75 degrees, no humidity).  Of course, it was still light out.

We left at 11:00pm (well past my Finnish bed time) and got to Kuortane at 12:30am.  The boys (in my van) were sleeping or meditating.  Apparently the girls in the van Kristi was driving sang the entire way. 

I received an e-mail from Kimmo early in the morning with constructive criticism for each of the throwers, then a final admonition. Apparently the session on Wednesday will be challenging, and the afternoon session will be, well, a killer. 

From Kimmo, “tomorrow morning going to be hard and not so long, but evening session is gona be hard, there is no mercy, sisu perkele.” 

Sisu is a Finnish word generally meaning determination, bravery, and resilience. However, the word is widely considered to lack a proper translation into any other language. Sisuis about taking action against the odds and displaying courage and resoluteness in the face of adversity. Deciding on a course of action and then sticking to that decision against repeated failures is Sisu. It is similar to equanimity, except the forbearance of Sisu has a grimmer quality of stress management than the latter. The noun Sisu is related to the adjective sisukas, one having the quality of Sisu

Perkele,  noun, Finnish. Most likely the most powerful curseword ever created by mankind. Cannot be translated without loss. Versatile word that can be used alone or repeated indefinitely.

It will be the final training session except for Thursday morning, the day we leave for Helsinki.



Monday, August 4: Day 5, pre-meet recovery and side trip for everyone

Photos by Kimmo Kinnunen (top to bottom): 1) The whole group at the maze entrance; 2) the kids making their way through the winding paths; 3) Katelyn Gochenour with Coach Kinnunen's younger children, Jirko and Jasmi, and Jami Kinnunen. 


For me, bed at 9:45am, up at 5:00am … almost back to normal.

We had the usual breakfast – always included on the buffet are lettuce, cucumbers, pickles, tomatoes, cheese, some kind of meat, hard-boiled eggs, oatmeal, bread and margarine.  We had purchased butter and jam a few days ago because there is none at breakfast – only margarine and no jam.  The Finnish word for butter is “voi,” so that’s the way we now refer to it, as in, “Pass the voi, please.”

Since tomorrow is competition day, today will have virtually nothing strenuous between now and then.

We left at 9:00am for Tuuri, about a 25 minute drive from Kuortane, where a major shopping center is located.  Adjacent to the center is a maze, supposedly the largest one in Europe.

I did not go in, but the kids attacked it aggressively.  There are towers in each of the four corners and the object is to get to each one before exiting.  It was certainly challenging.  Trevor Danielson and Todd Ogden were the first ones done.  They made it in about a half hour.  The rest ranged from 35 minutes to 1:10.  But it was a good problem-solving exercise.

We then drove the three minutes to the shopping center and stayed there until about 1:00pm. 

Then there was nothing scheduled until 5:30pm.  At that time, Kimmo planned a session of pre-meet exercises – each athlete to prepare for the next day as they would at home:

17.00- 18.15 My own the best stuff, for competition

  • what you are usually doing before the competition day
  • something with speed, something pressure for body, relaxation, stretching, easy running opening, running marks with spikes, walking with javelin and throwing, very light throws etc….
  • this moment is specially for competitors, coaches are only watching and support
  • relaxing & aggressive doing all the time, but not too long , Happiness!

It was a short session.  Some threw, some did run-ups, some stretched, some jogged lightly, and most did a combination of all of these and more.  What was especially nice was being at the track on a perfect day -- not a cloud in the sky, low humidity, and the temperature at 75 degrees.  It doesn’t get much better.

Then back to the “camp” for dinner and off to bed.  The dinner this night was fairly good: salad, with marinated mushrooms as well as salmon soup, among other things.

At night, we got some best wishes from some of the world’s leading javelin coaches:

From Kimmo:
starding time for competions:
woman 6 pm
men 7.10 pm
ready for rockken roll
regards, kimmo


From Jeff Gorski:
Keep them relaxed and moving fast: plant right now!!! Hand
come tomorrow morning....  ;)
Ready to rock and roll, indeed!!


From Bill Schmidt:
Best of luck
Relax but be aggressive.
Bill Schmidt

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