Thrilling Finland vs Sweden Nordic Skiing World Record Attempt?

Finnish TV personality, avid sportsman and long-distance skier Teemu Virtanen is looking to break the Guinness World Record of ‘Greatest distance in 24 hours of Nordic skiing’ – i.e. 433.459 km (269.34 miles) – held by himself. Virtanen has also thrown out an open challenge about the 24-hour-skiing and is hoping it will attract at least some Swedish skiers to join him in the world record attempt. Are we in for an exciting Finland vs Sweden battle? 

This weekend, Teemu Virtanen raced in the 42-kilometer Axa Ski Marathon in Orsa, Sweden. Before leaving for Sweden, Virtanen announced on his Facebook page that he will be attempting to score a new 24-hour world record at Ylläs-Levi, a Visma Ski Classics event organized in Levi, Finland, this coming spring. He traveled to Sweden to find out if there are any skiers ready and willing to meet the challenge.

Virtanen is already the official 24-hour world record holder, a record he achieved in Kuortane, Finland, in 2010, but is now looking to beat his record and at the same time challenge other long-distance skiers to join him in the attempt.

In 2016, Wickström clinched the Nordic skiing 24-hour world record in Åre, Sweden, but due to insufficient videotaping, his result was eventually not accepted by the Guinness World Records. The Swedish athlete managed to ski around the 412-metre track for a total distance of 438.575 kilometers. Teemu Virtanen’s record from Kuortane is 433.459 kilometers, which remained as the official world record. Erik Wickström was granted an unofficial world record.

– Axa Ski Marathon was a great platform for me to come and announce the challenge to any interested Swedish skier. And the race itself was really nice and a perfect preparation for 24 h. Naturally, races like this are too short for me, but I do them just to get hard workouts and to tune my body for fast paced skiing. I’m not that young anymore and races like this gives me an extra boost towards the 24 H event, says Teemu Virtanen after finishing Axa Ski Marathon.

Now, Virtanen hopes to raise the interest in Sweden and get a worthy opponent so that the real Finland vs. Sweden (“Finnkampen”) battle can take shape in Levi.

– Of course, it would be nice to ski against Erik like we did in Åre, but I know that he has a new family member taking all his time, which means that he doesn’t have that much time to train. It remains to be seen if he will accept the challenge, but nevertheless I’m convinced that someone from Sweden will be brave enough to step up and say yes to this.

To ski around the clock is no walk in the park as anything can happen and skiers need to be prepared for many obstacles that can occur, particularly during the long hours of the night. But that challenge also makes this ultra-long undertaking very unique and appealing.

– The biggest appeal of a 24-hour ski marathon is that you get to challenge yourself. Also, the physical and mental state brought about by such a lengthy endeavor appeals to me. You live in your own world for 24 hours and everything is focused on one single thing, Virtanen says enthusiastically.

– You learn so much about yourself and the human ability to endure pain. A wise man once said that when you feel like dying, you are only halfway there. And that’s exactly what I have been feeling when doing these 24-hour events.

In the past, Virtanen has always skied solo, but the experience that he had in Åre when racing against Erik Wickström and Denis Kabanen, from Russia, inspired him to invite other skiers to join the fun – or torture as it may turn out to be.

– I achieved my world record by skiing alone, which suits me, but of course skiing together with Erik and Denis in 2016 was a more efficient way of doing it. We were able to take advantage of each other’s help, and drafting or trailing is always easier than leading. This time, my target is to try to surpass the ‘magic limit’ distance of 450 kilometers – given that all the conditions are fit for record-breaking, both track and weather-wise. Of course, I have to stay sharp and be fit for fight too, and Axa Ski Marathon was the first step towards that. Now, all we need is a skier from Sweden who is brave enough to come to Levi and face me, Virtanen says with anticipation.

If such a skier can be found in Sweden, Virtanen promises that the organizers will assist in the event related matters such as ski waxing, feeding during the race and accommodation while in Levi. And everything will be done according to the rules of the Guinness World Records so that if the record gets broken, it will be accepted as the official one in that prestigious book of records.

Now it remains to be seen if anyone will accept Teemu Virtanen’s 24-hour challenge. Will there be a new 24-hour world record achieved in Levi, and first and foremost, do we get to see a thrilling Finland vs. Sweden battle on skis? And of course, Finland and Sweden don’t have exclusivity to this wonderful event – any skier from any nation can accept the challenge. Anyone from Norway perhaps – is there a warrior from the land of the Vikings eager to fight? Virtanen says that he is ready for any opponent regardless of the age or nationality – the only requirement is that they need to be fit to do something this crazy.