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Skier Iivo Niskanen is great, but here’s what the 24-year-old pole vaulter Wilma Murto had to say after winning many prizes.

Pole vaulter Wilma Murto grabs the prize for the Most Touching Sports Moments of the Year among other awards at the Finnish Sports Gala in the Helsinki Ice Hall on January 12, 2023: Photograph: TONY ÖHBERG/FINLAND TODAY

Someone could say that it’s that Niskanen guy again,” the smiling Finnish skier Iivo Niskanen, 31, joked in his speech while accepting the Athlete of the Year award at the Finnish Sports Gala on Thursday evening for winning and placing in the top three in several categories in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

It’s the fourth time Niskanen grabbed the prize — in 2015 this journalist witnessed the then 23-year-old win the title for the first time. Since then, Niskanen has claimed the prestigious award in 2017 and 2018. Niskanen is a three-time Olympic champion and typically likes to win gold.

Skier Iivo Niskanen joked that people are probably thinking that ‘it’s that guy again’ after winning the Athlete of the Year award for the fourth time. Photograph: TONY ÖHBERG/FINLAND TODAY

But in 2021, in the Tokyo Olympic Games, this nation, and the world for that matter, got a real taste of the talent, determination and skill of then 23-year-old pole vaulter Wilma Murto who became the best Finn to compete in athletics by jumping 450 centimeters with a close call of clearing the bar at 470.


Then, last year in the European Athletics Championships in Munich, Murto won the gold medal by jumping 485 centimeters and setting a new Finnish national record at the same time! For this, she received the award for the Most Touching Sports Moment of the Year at the gala.

“It was a powerful experience of flow,” Murto said when asked how she felt about her gold-winning jump.

“When I was in my flow state of mind, it felt surprisingly easy,” she said. “I felt prepared.”

Murto also received the Role Model of the Year award, which “has a special meaning” to her.

Wilma Murto was a close second to winning the Athlete of the Year award. Photograph: TONY ÖHBERG/FINLAND TODAY

At the gala, Murto, with her brown hair in a bun, was dressed in a black evening dress, which revealed her arms. Her forearms appeared stronger than looking at an Olympic boxer, and they featured two small tattoos of single flowers that seemed to be ox-eye daisies.

Pearly white sneakers were shining on her feet. She was about one head taller than your average journalist.

“Stormy action!” she said after a reporter in a dark suit asked a few quick questions, turned around on his heels and squirted away to finish the story.

“I got it!” the reporter screamed later in the press room and another journalist in a dark suit stood up and gave two taps on his shoulder.

While speaking to the media, Murto shared an experience that warmed her heart.

“A man approached me at a metro stop,” she said. “He said that my victory in the European Championships was the best day of his year.”

Murto was deeply moved by the comments the man expressed. “How could something that I did be such a big thing to another person?” Murto pondered with moist blue eyes.

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