Athletics | Viivi Lehikoinen, who sets records, tells why she needs to be able to “insanely fast”

Already during the winter reign saw that Viivi Lehikoinen runs hard in the summer in the 400 meter hurdles.

Lehikoinen swept the 400-meter flat under the outdoor track record in the SM halls in February with a time of 52.96 seconds. Even then he said that “this is a good place to start building the summer season”.

On Tuesday evening, Lehikoinen improved the Finnish record in the 400-meter hurdles by a tenth of a second in Huelva, Spain. In the semifinals of the European Championships in Munich last August, he ran an SE time of 54.50.

Before Lehikoi Tuija Helander held the Finnish hurdles record (54.62) for no less than 35 years.

“The hall season gave me self-confidence, even though the preparation for it was not so good. Instead, the spring camps were successful. I’m looking forward to more summer competitions. The basic level must now be what was the top level last year, i.e. under 54.5 seconds,” Lehikoinen says to Helsingin Sanomat.

In his first race of the season in Oordegem, Belgium, Lehikoinen ran 55.35.

All therefore suggests that it can only be a matter of time, because Lehikoinen will improve his record of 54.40 seconds from Tuesday.

On Saturday, Lehikoinen will be in Geneva and on Tuesday, Paavo Nurmi will be at the Games in Turku.

“It’s just nice when there are a lot of good races within a week. It depends on many things, how to get half a minute out of the time.”

After Turku, Lehikoinen will compete in Finland for the next time only at the Kaleva Games in Lahti at the beginning of August. Then the program also includes a smooth 400-meter race.

“You don’t go to hurdles anymore because you can’t do it anywhere else. The sport requires a lot of talent from an athlete these days.”

In addition to the summer games, Lehikoinen is waiting for the administrative court’s decision on the correction request made by his supporters regarding the athlete grant.

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Super talent applied for a large grant of 20,000 euros, but received 10,000 euros. The Ministry of Education and Culture awarded the grants for the performance of the top sports unit of the Finnish Olympic Committee.

“You have to ask Inka about money matters”, Lehikoinen refers to his sister, who works as a manager Inka Kärkkäinen.

In winter and during the spring camps, Lehikoinen says that he focused a lot on the details of the hurdles: the start, the fence and the beginning of the run.

“Last year, the rhythm could be a little different in each race. More certainty has been requested. Last year, my potential didn’t come out as much as it could have. Now the focus has been put on making crossing fences go well.”

In the spring, Lehikoinen camped a lot abroad, in South Africa, Tenerife and Turkey. The training takes place in the close company of a Swiss coach Laurent Meuwlyn under.

“We have two training groups in the morning and in the evening. The group has tough goals, and everyone encourages others in a good spirit. You can get written help and other benefits from group training. I’m consistently good at everything there, but I’m at my best when jumping.”

Lehikoinen praises Meuwly’s coaching and his methods.

“It is extraordinary that he has created a training program that is suitable for everyone. It shows strong professionalism and constantly pushes the athletes forward. He is demanding but understanding and can talk even on bad days.”

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The number one target of the coaching group is the Dutch paddler Femke Bol, who is Lehikoinen’s good friend.

Last August, Viivi Lehikoinen placed sixth in the European Championships with a time of 55.58. In the semis, he ran SE 54.50.

Women’s The 400-meter hurdles is one of the fastest developing athletics. American Sydney McLaughlin broke the 51-second mark at the World Championships last summer with a time of 50.68.

More and more fast 400m smooth runners are coming to the fences, which partly explains the record factory.

“You don’t go to hurdles anymore because you can’t do it anywhere else. The sport requires a lot of talent from an athlete these days,” says Lehikoinen.

It is quite possible that the next women will already break 50 seconds, when the shoes and tracks have also improved.

“Women’s 400-meter hurdles is not a terribly old sport in prestigious competitions. That’s why it’s natural that development keeps rising,” says Lehikoinen.

Women’s hurdles entered the program of the World Championships in 1983 in Helsinki. The sport made it to the Olympics the next year in 1984 in Los Angeles. Men’s 400-meter hurdles have been in the Olympic Games since 1900.

“Last year the medal was so close.”

The first women’s 400m hurdles world record has been set by Poland to Krystyna Kacperczyk in 1974. He then ran a time of 56.51. So almost six seconds have come down from that time.

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In August The 23-year-old Lehikoinen is competing for the second time in the World Championships for adults. Last summer in Eugene, he ran the then Finnish record of 54.60 in the semi-finals, which he then improved even more at the European Championships.

“It’s easy this year, when there is only one prestigious competition. Last year was more challenging, and next year there will be two again.”

The World Championships measure an athlete’s ability to achieve results in a different way than the European Championships, where the heats can be taken a little more loosely.

“In the World Championships, the preliminaries are really important. You have to run at an insane speed in them. In the semi-finals of the World Cup, the level is tougher than in the actual final. It takes so much to get to the World Cup final.”

Lehikoinen says that he is aiming for the World Cup final in Budapest in August, but his main goal is the 2024 European Championships.

“Last year the medal was so close. We are only talking about a few meters. It’s a long way to next year’s Olympic final.”

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Viivi Lehikoinen in the spring of 2023 at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium.

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