Saarijärvi, FinlandAnnemari SandellHyvärinen, whose last global achievement was the World Cross Country Championships short course bronze in 1999 took her 13th national cross country title - including junior classes - as she dominated women’s 6km race at the Finnish championships in Central Finland, on Sunday (14).
Annemari Sandell-Hyvärinen, now married with a family, has been trying to make a comeback to the top level via the marathon but has put those plans on hold for 2006 after undergoing an Achilles operation in January.
Instead, the 1995 European Cross Country champion, who famously broke into global recognition the same year when winning the World Junior Cross Country title, will attempt the 10,000m at this summer's European track championships.
On Sunday, Sandell-Hyvärinen (PBs 5000m PB 14:56.22 / 10,000m 31:40.42 / Marathon 2:35:12) brought home her 13th national XC title with a 43 second margin ahead of Maija Oravamäki, who beat her last year in a sprint finish.
“10 km yes, but not the Marathon as I was planning last autumn. My Achilles tendon was operated on in January and I do not have enough quality training for the Marathon,” said the 29-year-old.
“I think the entry standrard of 33:20 for Gothenburg will not cause a big problem,” said Sandell who ran a season’s best of 33:04.34 last year, “but of course I want to run much better. And why not already in Reykjavik at the 10,000m Nordic Championships (25 May).”
Second placed Oravamäki who set her Marathon personal best of 2:35:37 in Hamburg last month, will be the only Finnish woman in the marathon at the European Championships.
Keskisalo spoils Utriainen's double plans
The men’s short course race on Sunday offered the most exciting show of all the races. At the beginning of the last kilometre it looked strongly like Jussi Utriainen, 27, was on his way to a long and short race double. Utriainen had won the 12km a couple of hours earlier, but Jukka Keskisalo decided not to let the dream come true.
Keskisalo, 2003 World 3000m Steeplechase finalist (9th), picked off Utriainen on a short hill some 800 metres before the finish and kicked for home taking the victory by a one second margin. Kostantin Kutilainen was third just like last year, but the defending champion Simo Wannas fell back to the 7th place.
Keskisalo (PB 3000m Steeple, 8:17.72) has suffered from foot and hip injuries since his international breakthrough in 2003 and could barely run at the Helsinki World Championships last year (8:25.14). But this spring everything seems to be fine.
“I've been able to follow my training plan for the first time since 2003,” said Keskisalo. “I had a very good, long training camp in Australia in the winter and also my camp in South Africa in April until the beginning May, went well too.”
It was the first national XC title for the 25-year-old – “I’ll open my track season in Ostrava (30 May) and will run the 1500m in my hometown Joensuu (11 June). I can not sleep my nights peacefully before I break 3:40 in the 1500m,” laughed Keskisalo.
The 2003 European Under-23 bronze medallist will target a Steeplechase medal at the European Championships in August in Gothenburg.
Utriainen - a break from the Marathon
Jussi Utriainen, 27, who has a personal best for the Marathon of 2:13:10 (2002) has been trying to reach the international top level in the Marathon for many years but collapsed at the Paris 2003 World Championships, and did not finish at the Athens Olympic Marathon in 2004.
Utriainen had his hamstrings operated on in April 2005 and is focusing on the European 10,000m in Gothenburg this summer, and will try for the standard (28:50) in Reykjavik, Iceland on 25 May.
“I have never really tried the 10,000m seriously despite that I was European Junior bronze medallist in 1997 at that distance. This summer I’ll do it but already late in autumn I’ll go back to the Marathon again,” said Utriainen.
Kenyan-born Francis Kirwa who was second in the 12km, seven seconds behind Utriainen, will be a part of Finnish marathon squad for Gothenburg which will also include defending European champion Janne Holmen.
In the junior classes last weekend, the most convincing champion was Tuomas Jokinen, who won the U20 men’s 6km by a huge 53 seconds margin ahead of Jarkko Anttila. Steeplechaser Janne Ukonmaanaho was the fastest in U23 men’s 6 km and Pekka Toivola in U18 men’s 4 km. The women junior champions were Laura Skyttä in U23, Suvi Miettinen in U20 and Eevi Antila in U18.
Antti-Pekka Sonninen for the IAAF