Matti Nykänen

Summary

Matti Ensio Nykänen (born July 17, 1963 in Jyväskylä, died February 4, 2019 in Lappeenranta) is a Finnish ski jumper, representative of Jyväskylän Hiihtoseura, multiple medalist at the Olympic Games, World Championships and World Ski Flying Championships, ski coach. He is considered to be the best ski jumper in history and by skiing experts also the greatest talent in the history of this discipline. In 1996-1998 his name was Paanala.

He won the Olympic championship four times (three individual and one team championship), vice-championship – once. At the Nordic Ski World Championships he won nine medals – one individual and four team golds, one individual silver and two individual bronze and one team bronze. He also won five medals at the World Ski Flying Championships (one gold and silver each and three bronze). He won the overall World Cup four times, in which he won 46 competitions and stood on the podium 76 times. He won the 4-Hills-Tournament twice; he won the KOP-Cup just as many times. He won the Swiss and Czech Tournaments. In these highest-ranked winter sports competitions he won 86 podium places (50 first, 24 second and 12 third).

He won the world junior championships, twice triumphed in the veterans” world championships, thirteen times Finnish champion (twenty-two medals in total). Five times he set or equaled the world record in ski jumping. Twice voted Finnish Athlete of the Year. Awarded with the Hollmenkollen Medal.

Matti Pulli, Nykänen”s trainer, described Nykänen”s qualities as “an athlete who never gives up, a special ability to fly, passionate training and nerves of steel”. Pulli paid more attention to Nykänen”s strength training than other coaches, where he used lead weights. During his training he could do 60 jumps per day. During his career he weighed 60 kg and was 174 cm tall. He jumped on skis made by Elan and Kneissl. During the flight he turned his skis slightly to the right side, which increased the plane of the flight. He was often arrogant towards his rivals and did not get on well with them.

He remains the only ski jumper in history to win the World Cup individually at least once, gold medals at Olympic Games, World Championships, Ski Flying World Championships and the 4-Hills-Tournament.

After his sports career ended, he became a singer, his first album achieving gold status. He also became a celebrity and the hero of many high-profile scandals involving alcohol abuse and aggressive behavior.

Nykänen made his first jump at age seven. On March 19, 1974 he took part in his first ever competition and came in first place in a children”s competition on an 8 meter hill.

19801981

He started his international career in January 1981 with competitions in Harrachov and Liberec, which belong to the World Cup. In these competitions he was twice classified outside of the top 15 in the general classification.

In February, head coach Hannu Lepistö called Nykänen up for the junior world championships in Schonach im Schwarzwald, western Germany, despite outside criticism of the move. On the Langenwald-hill he jumped on 92 m and 89 m and won the gold medal with 264.7 points, 12.7 points ahead of second-placed Austrian Ernst Vettori.

One month later he took part in the World Cup on his home hill Salpausselkä in Lahti. In the first competition he came in sixth, in the next one he came in second, losing to Jari Puikkonen and stood on the podium for the first time in his career. He also took part in competitions in Falun and Oslo, where he finished among the third ten athletes. He also jumped in a festival competition at the Holmenkollen and finished 28th. In the overall World Cup ranking for the season 19801981 with 30 points he was classified on 26th place, together with Vettori and Italian Lida Tomasi.

19811982

Nykänen started the season with a participation in the 4-Hills-Tournament. In Oberstdorf he took his first win at a World Cup competition. Jumps on 109 m and 104.5 m earned him a total of 241.4 points. In the next competition in Garmisch-Partenkirchen he came in fifth and dropped to second place in the overall ranking of the TCS ahead of Manfred Deckert. He was not as good in the Austrian part of the Tournament: He finished 32nd in Innsbruck and 37th in Bischofshofen. He finished 11th in the overall ranking of the Tournament and was fifth in the World Cup.

At the end of February the Nordic World Ski Championships, part of the World Cup, were held in Oslo. In the first competition on the normal hill Midtstubakken Nykänen finished fourth, 1.4 points behind the Bronze medal. In the team competition on the large hill Finland finished third with a total of 670.8 points. Nykänen landed on 92.5 m and 101.5 m. In the second individual competition under difficult weather conditions he jumped on 108.5 m and 102.5 m and reached a total of 257.9 points.

The next two World Cup competitions were held in Lahti. There Nykänen finished fourth and second. The last World Cup competition he took place on the mammoth hill of Kulm in Tauplitz. In three competitions he came in first, second and fifth. In the overall World Cup ranking for the season 19811982 he was fourth with 138 points. In 1982 the Finn started to have alcohol problems and he was taking some medications to help him fight his addiction.

19821983

In September”s competition in Kandersteg, Switzerland, the Finn lost only to Olav Hansson and finished second.

In December”s European Cup competition in Raufoss he was ninth and in Lillehammer second. The first World Cup competition was held in Cortina d”Ampezzo. With his jump on 87 m Nykänen won the competition in one round and became overall leader.

In the opening competition of the 31st 4-Hills-Tournament in Oberstdorf he came in second with jumps on 113 m and 114 m. The winner was Canadian Horst Bulau. In the New Year”s competition in Ga-Pa he came in fourth, together with his compatriot Puikkonen. In the Tournament”s ranking he moved 1.1 points behind Bulau, who finished sixth in Garmisch. In Innsbruck he won with jumps on 105 m and 104 m and became the new TCS leader. In the final competition of the German-Austrian event in Bischofshofen Nykänen finished seventh. This allowed him to win the Tournament with a lead of 17.6 points ahead of second-placed Jens Weißflog from East Germany.

The next two World Cup competitions were held in Czechoslovakia. In Harrachov he was ninth on the large hill and fourth in Liberec. One week later he won both competitions on the hill in Lake Placid, USA. In the first one, that ended after one round of jumps, he only had 124.5 m to win. On the following day he jumped on 120.5 m and 108 m. The competition then moved to Canada, where he finished seventh and first on the hills in Thunder Bay. In the second round of the second competition he jumped on 125.5 m. He was still in the lead in the overall ranking (157 points, 46 points ahead of second-placed Armin Kogler). In February he took part in the pre-Olympic test in Sarajevo and finished third and first in two competitions.

Once again he competed in the World Cup at the mammoth Vikersundbakken, where he won three competitions during one weekend. This feat was only repeated in 2007 in Planica by Adam Malysz. He finished second and first in the Swedish World Cup competitions in Falun. In Friday”s competition he lost to Bulau with a big loss, on Sunday he was only slightly ahead of Austrian Kogler. In Lahti he finished ninth and third. In Bærum and Oslo he failed to score any points for the World Cup ranking as 31st and 17th respectively.

Nykänen made his debut at the ski flying World Championships. On the Harrachov-hill he won the bronze medal with jumps on 176.0 m, 168.0 m, 176.0 m, 159.0 m, 155.0 m, 151.0 m, 174.0 m, 163.0 m and 171.0 m. He scored a total of 1043.5 points, 7.5 points behind Gold medalist Klaus Ostwald.

In the last cup competitions of the season 19821983 on the normal and on the large hill in Planica he won and came in fifth. With this win he secured his place in the overall World Cup. He accumulated a total of 277 points, 17 points more than second-placed Bulau.

19831984

In the World Cup competitions held on the American continent in December Nykänen finished on the second step of the podium three times and came in fifth once. After the first competition in Lake Placid he became the independent leader of the FIS ranking.

He started the competition of the 4-Hills-Tournament with the fourth place in Oberstdorf. He lost 21.3 points to the winner Klaus Ostwald. In Garmisch he came in fifth, but in the overall ranking of the 4-Hills-Tournament came in third. The new leader is Jens Weißflog. In Innsbruck, with jumps on 96 m and 102.5 m the Finn came in second, behind Weißflog. The places on the TCS podium remained unchanged. In the competition in Bischofshofen he came in sixth, which was third at the end of the German-Austrian event. However, he defended his lead in the World Cup ahead of the German winner on Paul Ausserleitner”s hill.

The Finn did not show up at the start of the next five World Cup competitions, so Weißflog became the new leader of the World Cup ranking after the competitions in Cortina d”Ampezzo and increased his lead.

Before the Olympic Games in Sarajevo Nykänen was mentioned as one of the main candidates for the medals. In the first competition on the normal hill he jumped on 91 m and was 3.6 points ahead of Jens Weißflog. In the final round he jumped on 84 m (fourteenth in the final round) and with three meters better effort of the German he came in second, losing by 1.2 points. During his second jump his ski slipped off the icy track, he got unstable and missed his jump. After the competition he explained his poor performance also by food poisoning. Six days later on a larger hill Nykänen landed at 116 m in the first round (setting a hill record) and was in the lead with 13.1 points ahead of Weißflog. In the final round he reached 111 m and became Olympic champion with 231.2 points. With 17.5 points ahead of second-placed Weißflog he reached the biggest point difference between Olympic Gold and Silver medalist in ski jumping history.

One week after the Games ended, a World Championship team ski jumping competition was held in Engelberg, because the team event was not included in the Yugoslavian Olympics. Finland, with Nykänen, won with 618.3 points and 46.1 points ahead of second-placed East Germany.

In the cup competitions in Lahti in March on the normal and on the large hill he took a double victory. On the 88 meter hill he jumped on 86 m and 84 m and won the competition ahead of his compatriot Puikkonen. One day later he came in second in the non-CSC event and at the end of the competition in Lahti he won on the large hill with jumps on 119.5 m and 109.5 m. He finished fourth at the Lugnet-hill in Falun. In the World Cup ranking he was ahead of Jens Weißflog, who was absent in Finland and Sweden. In Lillehammer he came in second, losing to Czechoslovakian Pavel Ploc. Weißflog returned to the World Cup as sixth in this event. In Oslo Nykänen was 76th, the German finished 22nd and could not earn any points.

On Heini Klopfer”s home hill in Oberstdorf Nykänen won twice with a lead of more than 30 points and also improved his world record in long jump twice (182 m, then on 185 m). He increased his World Cup points and his lead over second-placed Weißflog. He did not take part in the last two competitions of the season in Planica. Weißflog won the competition on the normal hill and overtook Nykänen in the overall World Cup ranking. This victory guaranteed him the overall victory, because in that season the FIS counted the best five results of each athlete up to the competitions in Sapporo and the best five afterwards. In the final competition of the season, on the large hill, the German was eighth and was officially named the World Cup winner. Nykänen was second.

19841985

In the first four World Cup competitions of the 1984-1985 season Nykänen finished in the middle of the top ten. The closest he came to a podium result was in the second competition in Thunder Bay, where he finished fourth, 2.4 points behind Ernst Vettori.

At the opening event of the 4-Hills-Tournament in Oberstdorf he finished second, 11.5 points behind the winner Vettori. In Ga-Pa he came in ninth and dropped to third in the Tournament”s overall ranking. The new leader is Jens Weißflog. Nykänen took the win in Innsbruck with jumps on 105 m and 110 m and moved 11 points behind the German in the Tournament standings. In his last competition in Bischofshofen he finished sixth, together with the fourth place of the German representative this meant a win for Weißflog and the second place for Nykänen in the overall World Cup. In the World Cup ranking, where the five best performances of each jumper are taken into account, he came in fourth with a loss of 36 points to Andreas Felder.

The Finn won two medals at the world championships hosted by Seefeld in Tirol, Austria. The competition on the large hill was held in Innsbruck (Bergisel). Nykänen won the individual bronze medal there with a double jump on 108 m. He lost 2.5 points to Norwegian Per Bergerud for the gold medal. In the team competition the Finnish team won Gold. Nykänen showed jumps on 104 m and 107 m, the longest jumps of the team. The competition on the normal hill was held in Seefeld. There the Finn jumped on 83.5 m and 88 m and finished 11th. The loss to the podium was 8.2 points.

The World Cup competition moved to Sapporo where Nykänen stood on top of the podium twice and was second. In the first competition he won with a lead of 21.4 points ahead of Ladislav Dluhoš of Czechoslovakia. In the second competition he lost to Japanese Masahiro Akimoto. The second place went to Vettori in Sankt Moritz, Switzerland. He did not take part in Engelberg and the ski flying event in Harrachov.

On the hills in Lahti he finished in the Top 3 twice. He won on the smaller hill (jumps on 85.5 m and 84 m) and came in second on the large hill. He finished eighth and sixth on the hills in Sweden, respectively in Örnsköldsvik and Falun. In the World Cup ranking he lost to Felder. But he won the last three competitions of the season, first at the Holmenkollbakken in Oslo (the Austrian was fourth there) and finally in Szczyrbskije. These victories, together with a weaker performance of Felder, guaranteed him first place in the 1984-1985 World Cup with an official total of 224 points.

One week earlier he won the ski flying World Championships at the Mammoth in Planica. He won this title with jumps on 190.0 m, 174.0 m, 136.0 m, 187.0 m and 186.0 m. His lead in the overall ranking was 49.5 points. At this event Nykänen improved the world record twice, first with 187 m and then with 191 m. One year later, in March 1986, Andreas Felder equaled the 191 m mark and from then on the longest jumps were not records, but “world records” by FIS.

At the end of March/April Nykänen also participated in the European Cups and finished third in Ruka and second in Bardufoss. He was also third at the competition in Bardu.

In 1985 he was voted Sportsman of the Year in Finland. He won the title again in 1988.

19851986

This season Nykänen started with a World Cup competition in Thunder Bay. In the first competition he finished on the lowest step of the podium behind Primož Ulaga and Vegard Opaas. A day later he was fourth, again won by Ulaga. In Lake Placid, USA, the Finn did not jump as well and finished seventh and 19th. The athlete had increasing problems with alcohol. He was briefly suspended by the Finnish ski federation and missed several competitions including the 4-Hills-Tournament.

He returned to competition in Harrachov and won his first competition of the season on January 11, 1986. He won with 122 m and 116 m. On the other hand, in the one-series competition in Liberec he was eleventh, with a loss of 15.3 points to the winner Piotr Fijas. Despite that he came in first in the classification of the Bohemia Tournament. Another win for the Finn in Klingenthal, where he landed at 100 m and 103 m. In Oberwiesenthal he could not increase his points total and came in 21st.

Nykänen then flew to Hokkaido, where he took a clear win on the hills in Sapporo twice and was then ranked first in the overall World Cup ranking, 5 points ahead of Ernst Vettori and 10 points ahead of Ulaga. In the next event, which took place in Vikersund in Norway, the Finn finished in the top three twice; in the first competition he gave way to Felder, in the second also to Vettori. In the Swiss Tournament, held at Sankt Motitz, Gstaad and Engelberg, he finished twelfth, third and second respectively. He lost the victory in the final ranking to Rolf Åg Berg by 0.1 points. On his home hill in Lahti he was already the best; on the normal hill he was 10.7 points ahead of his compatriot Puikkonen, on the large hill another Finn, Pekka Suorsa, by 2.7 points.

The ski flying World Championships were held in Bad Mitterndorf on March 8-9. Nykänen finished third in the four round competition, which was awarded with a bronze medal. He showed jumps on 123.0 m, 183.0 m, 131.0 m, 173.0 m, 185.0 m and 176.0 m. The difference between him and the winner Felder was 46.5 points.

At the World Cup competition on the large hill in Oslo he only lost to Vettori. On the K-90 hill in Planica he took the win and the Austrian was outside of the Top 15. Vettori triumphed a day later on the large hill (the Finn was third), but that didn”t matter anymore in the overall World Cup ranking, where Nykänen was 18 points ahead (250 to 232) and became the first ski jumper ever to win for the third time.

In 1986 he heard his first ever sentence. He stole cigarettes and beer from a store, but ended up with a fine.

19861987

At the competitions in Thunder Bay the Finn was on the podium twice, first as second (behind Jens Weißflog) and one day later as the winner. A week later in Lake Placid he was thirteenth and tenth on the American hills.

He did the same in the German part of the 4-Hills-Tournament. He finished only fifteenth in Oberstdorf and ninth in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Before the opening of the Tournament he announced in the press that he would not be taking part in the German-Austrian competition without the agreement of the coaching staff and the national ski association. After long negotiations he was persuaded to change his mind, but his attitude towards the competition remained disrespectful: He forgot to bring skis to Oberstdorf, refused to jump on the Yugoslavian boards provided by the staff and, after finally finding a suitable ski jumping machine, started the competition without making a single training jump. After the New Year”s competition in Ga-Pa Nykänen moved away from the Finnish team with his wife, missing the training in Innsbruck. He only joined the team at the hotel in the evening and was clearly in a weak physical condition. The team management contacted the head of their federation who, after a telephone conversation with the athlete, removed him from the team. At that time Nykänen, who was under the influence of alcohol, caused considerable material damage on the grounds of the hotel where he was staying. In the final table of the unfinished TCS he was ranked 66th.

At that time Austrian ski manufacturer Kneissl stood up for the Finn, because Nykänen was their most important marketing figure. They promised to prepare him for the upcoming World Championships and give him a quiet training session. He ignored this and flew to Sri Lanka with his wife. Then Kneissl threatened to cancel his contract and the association with withdrawal from the championships. After persuasion of his coach Matti Pullie Nykänen returned to Europe and came to an agreement with all parties.

On February 15, 1987 on the K-120 Nykänen finished nineteenth at the World Championships in Oberstdorf. He jumped on 101 m and 112 m. Two days later the Finnish team won the title in the team competition. Nykänen landed at 110 m and 111 m. In the final event, the individual competition on the normal hill, he came in second and won the silver medal. With his 88 m and 87 m he could only beat Jiří Parma, who lost by 11.5 points.

He returned to the World Cup, where he was ranked eleventh, in Lahti. He finished sixteenth on the K-88 hill and took the win a day later with jumps on 90 m and 85.5 m. Another win came in Falun, Sweden, where he landed at 115 m and 103 m. Afterwards he missed the competitions in Planica and only participated in the two season-ending competitions in Norway: In Rælingen he was fourth and in Oslo seventh. In the overall World Cup ranking he came in sixth with 133 points.

19871988

The Finnish athlete won December”s World Cup competitions with a decisive advantage over his rivals – in the first competition in Thunder Bay he defeated Pavel Ploc by 23 points, in the second Jens Weißflog by 23.8 points. And in Sapporo he outscored his opponents by 17.3 points. (the competition was interrupted after the first round) and 39.3 points.

But the first competition of the 4-Hills-Tournament ended with a win of Ploca, who was 4.6 points ahead of the second-placed Finn. In Garmisch-Partenkirchen Nykänen was again the best with 103.5 m and 101 m and moved up to the lead of the TCS. He also won the competitions in Austria with a big lead, first in Innsbruck with jumps on 108 and 105 m and then in the final in Bischofshofen with 112.5 m and 110 m. He finished 99 points ahead of second-placed Weißflog in the overall World Cup standings. He was also the leader in the World Cup. After the last TCS competition he got into a fight with a group of Austrian fans and suffered a black eye.

Afterwards the Finn took part in the Swiss World Cup. He won the competition in Sankt Moritz, was fifth in Gstaad and second in Engelberg. With these results he won the overall ranking of the World Cup.

Nykänen was the leading candidate for the win at the Olympic competition in Calgary. On the normal hill he jumped the longest in the opening round (89.5 m) and was 7.9 points ahead of second-placed Jiří Malec. In the second round he copied the distance he achieved earlier and won decisively, beating second-placed Pavel Ploc by 17 points. On the large hill the Finn was again the best: He jumped on 118.5 m and 107 m and with 224.0 points, 16.1 points ahead of second-placed Erik Johnsen he became the first jumper in history to win two Olympic Gold medals at one Games and also the first triple Olympic champion in ski jumping. One day later the first team competition in Olympic ski jumping history was held. It was won by Finland with Nykänen as the best athlete. He won his third Gold medal with the longest jumps of the event, 115.5 m and 114.5 m. He became the first and so far only ski jumper in history to win three Gold medals at one Olympic Games. After this success he became an idol of Finnish fans and a celebrity.

He then competed in front of his home crowd in Lahti and, just like two and four years before, was the best twice. Twice he was followed by Swede Jan Boklöv.

He won a bronze medal at the World Ski Flying Championships in Oberstdorf. His flights were 168 m, 168 m and 180 m. Due to strong winds, the first day”s flights were cancelled and the results were based on only two rounds held on March 13.

After his absence in Meldal he started the competition in Oslo, but finished outside the Top 15 – seventeenth. He finished the competition in Planica, Yugoslavia, with one top result – fourth on the smaller hill (in the second competition he was 18th). Thus, he won the overall World Cup ranking for the fourth time in his career and took home the Crystal Ball for the first time since 1987. He scored 282 points for the whole season, the most points in his career.

On April 2 he won the international competition held in Ruka with jumps on 118.5 m and 115 m.

19881989

In September Nykänen won the competition in Kandersteg ahead of second-placed Ladislav Dluhoš by 25.7 points.

He opened the winter season with a third place in the World Cup competition on the hill in Thunder Bay. He was second only to Dieter Thoma and Risto Laakkonen. In the second competition held there he finished 51st. In Sapporo he won on K-90 hill (jumps on 88.5 m and 90 m) and came in third on K-115.

He was also third in Oberstdorf in the first competition of the 4-Hills-Tournament. He lost 10.5 points to Thoma. Jumps on 109 m and 102 m gave him the win in Ga-Pa, the last one of his World Cup career. In Innsbruck he came in fifth, remained second in the overall World Cup ranking with a loss of 1.5 points to new leader Weissflog. In Bischofshofen the Finn, who was eighteenth and one and a half points ahead of the nineteenth-placed German, took advantage of Laakkonen”s tenth place in the competition and won the overall ranking by 2.5 points. Nykänen and Weißflog came in second with a total of 838.5 points. After this competition the three-time Olympic champion was fourth in the World Cup. He could not score any more points that season and finished ninth.

At the World Championships in Lahti he finished third on the large hill and fourth on the normal hill. In the first competition he landed at 108 m after two rounds and missed the Gold medalist Jari Puikkonen by 13.5 points. The Finnish team, with Nykänen, took Gold in the team competition. In the second individual competition, that was shortened to one round, he jumped on 85.5 m and missed the third place by 1.4 points.

19891990

The first competitions of the new World Cup edition in Thunder Bay ended with the 10th and 18th place (in the latter event he was ranked ex aequo with Noriaki Kasai of Japan). In Lake Placid he stood on the second step of the podium (his last podium result in his career), losing to Ernst Vettori, whom he defeated almost nine years earlier at the Junior World Championships, achieving his first career international success. A day later, he was eighth.

In the first TCS competition he came in seventh, in the second he finished fourth, half a point behind third-placed František Jež. He finished sixth in the overall ranking of the Tournament. He did not do as well on the Austrian hills, finishing 33rd in Innsbruck and 40th in Bischofshofen. He finished sixteenth in the Tournament. He also participated in the Cup competitions in Czechoslovakia, but his 23rd place in Harrachov and 24th in Liberec did not allow him to continue competing in the World Cup. Due to the lack of training he demanded a change of coach. He blamed everyone around him for his poor results. In the final ranking he came in 19th place with 55 points.

But he showed up at the ski flying World Championships in Vikersund. With jumps on 171 m and 160 m he took the silver medal behind Dieter Thoma by 6.9 points.

19901991

In October, he announced that after the Albertville Games he would change sports and compete in Formula Royal powerboat racing.

Nykänen appeared at the first four World Cup competitions in December 1990 but failed to score points in any of them, the closest he came was in the second competition in Thunder Bay where he finished 16th. Then, instead of the 4-Hills-Tournament he flew to the Canary Islands where he had some alcoholic parties. Since he did not win any World Cup points, he was not included in the final World Cup ranking.

Despite his poor form he was called up for the World Championships in Predazzo, where he finished 50th out of 62 competitors on the large hill. The Finnish team won the runner-up spot in the team competition without him.

After the championships the 27-year-old athlete announced that he is quitting ski jumping. The official reason for the end of his career was back problems. A nodule in his spine was operated on later, but he didn”t have the enthusiasm to train anymore.

Places in the classification of individual tournaments

In December 1992 he went to Sapporo and started to train local jumpers, but resigned after three weeks. He tried to get back to ski jumping, but after some unsuccessful starts (in September 1993 in Hinterzarten he was 29th, in March 1994 in the Continental Cup 61st in Ruka and 53rd in Rovaniemi) he gave up ski jumping completely.

In 1996 he was elected city councillor of Uurainen on the list of the populist and anti-European True Finns party. He was also its candidate in the parliamentary elections of 1995, but did not win a seat. He served on the council until 1998.

A biographical film about Nykänen”s life, Matti, was released in Finnish cinemas on January 13, 2006. The main character was played by Jasper Pääkkönen. The song Lennä Nykäsen Matti was written for the film, with music by Heikki Salo, lyrics by Mato Valtonen and Sakke Järvenpää, and lyrics by Timo Kotipelto.

The Laajavuori ski jump with HS108 at Jyväskyla is named after Nykänen.

In February 2008 he took part in the veterans ski jumping world championships on the hills of Taivalkoski. He finished fifth on K-50 and was the best on K-38. He jumped on 37.5 m and 37 m and finished 13.2 points ahead of second-placed Norwegian Jan Ing Skjerven. He returned to the veterans competition for the world title in January 2010 in Žiri. This time he finished fifth on the K-40 hill and third on K-26 (with jumps on 22.5 m and 24 m). He was last in this competition in March 2011: In Harrachov he was again fifth (on the K-70 hill) and then won (on the K-40 hill) with jumps on 36 m and 34.5 m and 16.4 points ahead of Russian Vladimir Saichik, the runner-up.

In November 2009 his eight-episode internet cooking show Mattihan se sopan keitti (on Sub TV) premiered and the former ski jumper later published a cookbook. In 2011 he received a business award from an international group of experts.

On March 11, 2013 during the qualification for the World Cup competition in Kuopio he gave the starting signal to Austrian ski jumper Gregor Schlierenzauer, who earlier beat his record of wins in World Cup competitions. Also in March he became coach of ski jumper Harri Ollie. At the annual Finnish Sports Gala he received a lifetime achievement award.

In 2016, a biographical film was made about British ski jumper Eddie Edwards Eddie called Eagle. It starred Swedish actor Edvin Endre as Nykänen. The play (monologue) Matti Nykänen – Jump in the Fog, in which Tatu Mönttinen played the title role, has also been staged in many Finnish theaters since 2018.

In 1991 a group of businessmen suggested that Nykänen become a singer. His first album Yllätysten yö (Surprise Night) was released in 1992 and sold 25,000 copies. He became the second Finnish Olympic champion to have an album go Gold (the first being Tapio Rautavaara). His next album (Samurai), released in 1993, was not as successful, mainly due to his alcohol abuse and marital problems. In 2002 he released a single called Elämä on laiffii (Life is life) and launched his own brand of cider, with the title of the song as its advertising slogan.

In 2006, he released his third studio album Ehkä otin, ehkä en (Maybe I took, maybe I didn”t). For most of his musical career, Nykänen worked with professional musician Jussi Niemi. He traveled around the country, giving 2-3 concerts a week with his band Samurai, led by Niemi. Some of Nykänen”s statements, as well as excerpts from his songs, have entered the Finnish vernacular.

Single

A native of Kangaslampi (part of the city of Jyväskylä), Nykänen dropped out of school early in his athletic career to devote himself entirely to skiing. His parents were saleswoman Vieno and Hilmeri driver Ensio (1933-2016). He had two sisters, Päivi and Tuija.

In 1985 his illegitimate daughter Anniina was born, whose mother was Tarja Jokinen Tiina Hassinen. Soon a son, Sami (born 1987), was born to them. After two years of marriage they divorced. In 1989 the skier married Pia Hynninen, with whom he was engaged until 1991. From this union they have a daughter Eveliina (born 1990).

In 1996, he married for the third time, this time to Sari Paanala. During the wedding he took his wife”s name. From then on he was called Matti Paanala for two years. Their relationship lasted until 1998 when the former ski jumper returned to his old name. From 2001 to 2003 and again from 2004 to 2010 he was married to Mervi Tapola, daughter of a Finnish sausage tycoon. Their relationship was a frequent topic covered by tabloids. He was struggling with financial problems, and to get out of them he sold all his medals, which were bought from him by the Sports Museum in Helsinki. At the end of the 1990s he was still working as a waiter, a singer in a karaoke bar and a stripper. In February 2003, he was sentenced to four months” probation after attempting to attack his fourth wife with a knife. A few months later he wrote his autobiography, entitled Greetings from hell.

On October 27, 2004 he received another sentence of 26 months in prison after he stabbed the 59-year-old man with a knife during an argument at his wife”s summer home. The prosecution had accused Nykänen of attempted murder, but considering that the former ski jumper was under the influence of alcohol and not fully aware of his actions at the time of the crime, the court sentenced him only for grievous bodily harm. In the same year he suffered a heart attack. He was released from prison in September 2005. While on parole he was arrested again for attacking his wife. On 16 March 2006 he was sentenced to four months” imprisonment. Soon after his release he injured a customer of a pizzeria in Korpilahti with a knife. He was sentenced to two years imprisonment, but the sentence was reduced to 60 days and 57 hours of community service.

On December 26, 2009, he was arrested for attempting to murder his wife with a bathrobe belt. She was taken to hospital with wounds on her hands and forehead. She had earlier called the police from her neighbors” house, where she had taken refuge from her attacking husband. He was sentenced to 16 months in prison for this crime on August 24, 2010. He also had to pay 5,000 euros in damages to his wife and 3,000 euros in legal costs. Tests showed that he suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which causes aggression and neurological disorders. In August 2010, Mervi Tapola filed for a fifteenth divorce, which finally ended their relationship.

After his release from prison, he got engaged to celebrity Susanna Ruotsalainen. In 2012, he starred in a ten episode show about his daily life. The reality show broke records for popularity. After splitting with Ruotsalainen, he got engaged to Joutseno native Pia Talonpoika in October 2013. They lived in the incorporated city of Lappeenranta Joutseno in 2009 (Nykänen previously lived in Ylöjärvi). The former ski jumper had a difficult relationship with his children, who did not allow him to meet his grandchildren.

In the summer of 2018, Nykänen was diagnosed with diabetes. He began giving concerts again a few months later, performing for the last time on February 1, 2019 at a Helsinki restaurant. In the last period of his life he suffered from dizziness and nausea. He did not follow the recommended diet. He died shortly after midnight on February 4, 2019 at his home at the age of 55. At that time, he developed severe torpor, after which he went to wash himself in the bathroom, from which he did not leave for a long time. When his wife got inside, he was lying dead on the floor in his own vomit. The official cause of death was long-term pancreatitis due to alcohol abuse, compounded by pneumonia. The news of his death was widely covered by Finnish and foreign media. On the request of Culture, Sports and European Affairs Minister Sampa Terha the Finnish government planned to give Nykänen a state funeral in recognition of his “immense merits for the country and the nation”, but his family opposed this intention and instead chose a private and modest ceremony in Jyväskylä, his home town. He was buried in the family tomb next to his father and great-grandmother. Funeral costs were covered by the Finnish state.

M. Nykänen”s Olympic career in detail

M. Nykänen”s career at World Championships – detailed

M. Nykänen”s starts at World Ski Flying Championships – detailed

M. Nykänen”s start at Junior World Championships – detailed

M. Nykänen”s start at the World Veterans Championships – detailed

With a total of 46 World Cup victories, Matti Nykänen is one of the two ski jumpers in history (besides Adam Malysz with 39 wins) who won the overall World Cup four times. He participated 143 times in World Cup competitions.

Places in the general classification

Victories in World Cup competitions

With 46 World Cup victories Nykänen is the second athlete in history with the most wins in World Cup competitions, behind Gregor Schlierenzauer (53 wins). He is the only jumper ever to win eight World Cup competitions in one city (the Salpausselkä-Hills in Lahti).

Podium places in World Cup competitions

Matti Nykänen has been on the podium 76 times in the World Cup competitions (Janne Ahonen has the highest number of podiums with 108), 46 of them on the highest level. Besides he came in second 22 times and finished on the lowest step of the podium 8 times. The highest number of Top 3 finishes was achieved at Lahti (12 times).

Places in individual World Cup competitions

Places in the general classification

Places in the general classification

Places in the general classification

Places in the general classification

Podium places in European Cup competitions

Places in individual European Cup competitions

Places in the general classification

Place in individual Continental Cup competitions

Matti Nykänen has won a total of 22 medals (individually and as a team) at national championships competitions. This number includes 13 Gold, 2 Silver and 7 Bronze medals. He has been the individual champion nine times: four times on the normal hill (1983, 1987, 1988, 1989) and five times on the large hill (1981, 1982, 1983, 1987, 1988).

Sources

  1. Matti Nykänen
  2. Matti Nykänen
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