'Lambs' to the slaughter as Finns go home

Time of article published Aug 30, 2004

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Helsinki - Finnish media slammed the Nordic country's worst-ever Olympic performance on Monday, ridiculing athletes' excuses of bad massages or disorientation due to the size of the Athens stadium.

On a scale where winners are called "lions" and losers "lambs", the tabloid Iltalehti said the Finnish team was "a herd of toothless lambs".

The home of runners Paavo Nurmi and Lasse Viren and an array of top javelin throwers won only two silver medals in Athens, ending the Nordic country's record of winning at least one gold at each of the summer Games since 1908.

"Prepare to relive the golden years of the Finnish Olympic sports. They are now essentially done," regional daily Aamulehti said under a headline "The End".

"(Finns) dominated one event: finding excuses," it said, compiling a list of quotes from Finland's athletes on why they did not do better.

Marko Yli-Hannuksela was silver-medallist in the Greco-Roman 74kg wrestling competition and Marko Kemppainen took silver after a shoot-off in the men's skeet shooting final.

But women's 5 000 metres runner Kirsi Valasti said her performance was spoiled by an unfamiliar masseuse, while javelin thrower Paula Huhtaniemi was quoted as saying: "The big stadium surprised me. I could not direct the javelin right."

Sailor Sari Multala, who was one of Finland's top medal hopes, blamed her slowness on a plastic bag that got caught in the back of her boat.

Tabloid Iltalehti chose to focus on Kimi Raikkonen's win at the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday, saying it was a ray of light in the Finnish sporting darkness.

Finland's largest broadsheet Helsingin Sanomat noted most athletes coud not even perform at their own level, let alone that of the Olympics.

"Finland's success in the games remained extremely modest ... From the very beginning the expectations were not even very high, but the disappointment of sporting fans looks to be deep," it said in an editorial.

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