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Luge sports as part of KontU's activities: The successful sport of Finns is looking for coaches

Despite international success, harness sports needs more coaching expertise. In North Karelia, the sport is looking for additional strength in a new way, when the team athletes joined the traditional skiing and biathlon club Kontiolahti Athletes.

In the years 2011-20, harness athletes brought the third most prestigious competition medals to Finland after shooters and powerlifters. According to the medal monitoring maintained by the information service of the Finnish Sports Museum and the Research Center for Racing and Elite Sports KIHU, Finnish team athletes won medals in prestigious competitions 107 times between 2011 and 2020.

—Finnish harness athletes have been at the top of the world. Despite the great international success, the sport desperately needs coaching expertise to coach both young people and adults, says Riitta Kempe, president of the national umbrella organization of harness sports, the Finnish Federation of Harness Athletes.

First time as part of a ski club

Suomen Valjakkourheilijde liitto ry has more than 40 member associations. Almost all of them are breed associations or special clubs for sledding sports and dog activities.

Harness sports takes a step forward when the North Karelia Sports Association Kontiolahti Urheilijat ry decided at its annual meeting in January to connect harness sports to its operations. Anchoring the sport as part of the activities of a traditional skiing and biathlon club is exceptional.

—This is a very welcome opening and the first time that harness athletes are part of a skiing or biathlon club. We hope this kind of boost for the whole sport, Kempe says.

Dog skiing shifts five times a week

Kontiolahti's athletes have become familiar with sledding in recent years, especially through the sledding races at the Kontiolahti stadium and the championships held at the stadium. According to the chairman, the sport is a natural addition to the club's activities.

—In the first snow season from October to December, the stadium had dog skiing shifts five days a week. The same pace continues until the end of the ski season. The stadium and the route network around it are also very well suited for training and events in team sports, says club president Kimmo Turunen.

There is a little relief in store for the coach shortage in Turuse.

—First of all, the club guarantees opportunities for training and camp conditions, but team athletes are also more than welcome for joint physical and technical training led by our coaches.

Photo: Vesa-Pekka Jurveli at the World Championships in France 2019. Photo Saara Loukkola.

More information: 

Kimmo Turunen, chairman, Kontiolahti Sportsmen's Association 050-5633480
Chairman, Riitta Kempe 050-347 8356,
More about harness racing: Suomen Harness Athletes' Association

INFO: Finnish competition medals 2011-2020 by sport.

Shooting 375 medals
Powerlifting 125 medals
Luge sports 107 medals
Motorsport 105 medals

Source: The Success Tracking service maintained by the Finnish Sports Museum's information service and the Research Center for Competition and Elite Sports KIHU.

INFO: Dog sledding

Summer sports

Canicross: The simplest form of sledding, where one dog and its handler run together while the dog pulls the handler. Competition distances are mostly 5-6 km for adults and 3 km for young people.
Dog cycling (bikejoring): One dog and its bicycle handler travel together while the dog pulls the handler. Most often the competition distances are 4-5 km in national competitions.
Cart driving (rig): 1-8 dogs pull a handler on a scooter/cart. Competition distances are mostly 5-10 km.

Winter sports

Sledding: In competitions, a sled controlled by an instructor is pulled by 4, 6, 8 or an open number of dogs.
Harness skiing: i) Sled or luge skiing: One dog pulls a luge behind him, followed by a skier connected to the luge and guiding the dog. Competition distances are usually 10-15 km. ii) Dog Skiing: One dog pulls a skier. The skier and the dog are connected to each other with a flexible tow rope. Competition distances 5–20 km. iii) Combined: in the competitions, the first round is run with a pole behind (pole skiing) and the second round as dog skiing.