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Finnish World Championships athletics team could be the smallest ever

Finland's national athletics team may have fewer members at this year's World Championships than ever before due to the absence through injury of several star athletes. Tero Pitkämäki is currently the biggest Finnish name heading to London.

Tero Pitkämäki
Javelin thrower Tero Pitkämäki, currently Finland's only hope in the Athletics World Championships. Image: Tomi Hänninen

Finland's national athletics team may end up attending this year's World Championships with a smaller team than ever before. With a week left until the end of the qualification period, experts are less than optimistic about Finland's chances in the competition.

Currently the team boasts just 10 members, only three of whom have passed the qualification mark this summer season: triple jumper Simo Lipsanen, world champion javelinist Tero Pikämäki and steeplechase runner Camilla Richardsson. The other seven members of the team qualified during the indoor season, after the qualification period opened on 1 October.

If the team's fortunes do not change for the better soon, the group of athletes travelling to London in August will be the smallest Finnish delegation on record. So far the smallest was in 2013, when 11 competitors made the trip.

Athletes have to exceed a defined qualifying time, height or distance (depending on event) within the qualifying period to compete in the World Championships. If not enough people make the cut, 32-56 people from the top of the world rankings can be included in the event.

High jumper Linda Sandblom and hammer thrower David Söderberg are pegged as possible ranking shoo-ins if things continue to go south for the team.

Kaleva trials first

On 20-23 July, athletes will have the chance to prove their mettle at the Finnish Championships in Athletics, known as the "Kaleva games". The eventual size of the team is still open.

"The team may grow to 12 or 13 participants," Yle sports journalist Jarkko Finni says.

Earlier in the summer hopes were high for a team 18-20 athletes strong, but that now looks unlikely.

"There's no way the team will be just 10 people," says Jorma Kemppainen of the Finnish Athletics Federation. "It'll be 15 athletes, I reckon."

Kemppainen says he is not worried yet.

"If there are still only 10 team members later in the autumn, then we can start to sweat," he says.

Even the javelin, historically a Finnish forte, is in a slump. Pitkämäki is the sole javelin thrower on the current team, and will be the first spear-hurler ever to show up solo if no one else qualifies with him.

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