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Matti Nykänen: "Elämä on laiffii"

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February 14, 1988. Ski jumping from the normal hill is on the programme at the Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, Canada, and all eyes are on one competitor. Matti Nykänen is the superstar of the scene: already Olympic champion, world and ski flying champion, two-time winner of the Four Hills Tournament, four-time winner of the overall World Cup (by the end of his career), five-time ski flying world record holder. Who could beat him?

Between 1981 and 1989, Nykänen won the previously unimaginable number of 46 World Cup competitions. No other athlete had dominated the discipline more up to this point than the freaky man from Jyväskylä - because, yes: Nykänen was that too. Someone whose character got in the way during his career and whose life got in the way after his sporting career ended. Comes straight from the party, wins anyway. Gets drunk with others, wins anyway. And when he weakens in training for the first Olympic competition in Canada and the competitors start to get their hopes up,, he lets the in-run shortened by three gates and jumps away from everyone.

Of course, Matti Nykänen won from the normal hill in Calgary, and days later from the large hill with the team. In those days he also made friends with the last man in the ranking, Eddy "The Eagle" Edwards.

"Elämä on laiffi" is a song with which singer, bon vivant, celebrity, and jailbird Nykänen toured Finland and abroad after his career: "life is live", and it is one of those catchy phrases for which he was famous throughout his life. "The odds are fifty-sixty," he once said. "I have that bon voyage feeling every time I jump," another time.

The man who lived for ski jumping was only 55 years old when he passed away in 2019: too short a life, but what an eventful one.