Children from the Kitee reception centre met their skiing sponsor

Harri Mäenpää
Harri Mäenpää

The children's joy is contagious as they cheer on their idol: "Kaisa is tougher!" On the final day of the Kontiolahti Biathlon World Cup event, enthusiastic little skiers from the Kitee reception centre are waving Finnish flags among the thousands of spectators.

While waiting for the meet-and-greet, the children have time to talk about skiing as a hobby. Some of them have gone skiing for three winters now. Khadija, 9, says she has gone skiing several times this winter. 

"I've already skied 75 kilometres," she says proudly.

Skiing downhill is the best part

Rawnag, 13, smiles as she recounts the story of her first skiing competition. She accidentally took a longer route, and when she finally reached the finish line, she told the others she had found a big hill. In her opinion, skiing downhill is perhaps the greatest part of skiing. Amirali, 8, agrees. 

"The hills and the speed are the best parts. I've fallen down once or twice," Amirali recounts his first skiing practices.

The most enthusiastic young skiers have successfully participated in a few competitions.
"Competing is not that important. Skiing is fun. You don't always need to win. But sometimes it's fun to race at school," Rawnag says. 
In the same breath, Rawnag asks Kimmo Kinnari, the instructor at the Kitee reception centre, if they will go skiing the next day. Kinnari is the one who started the children's skiing hobby. 
"Yes, we'll go skiing tomorrow, right after school," Kinnari promises the children and tells us that skiing only a few times a week seems to be too little for the children.

First pairs of skis were second-hand

Many of the children have even made 14-kilometre skiing trips.

"They're very energetic. And they never complain, even when the temperature is below zero or there are uphill slopes on the route," Kinnari praises the children.

He bought the children's first pairs of skis from flea markets. 

"After that, the International Cross Country Ski School of Finland provided us with skis and equipment."

In the autumn, the Ski School assigned a skiing sponsor for the children: Kaisa Mäkäräinen. Soon, the children will meet their famous sponsor face-to-face.
As Mäkäräinen races past, the group of children cheers the loudest. Abdullah, 12, admires the biathlonist's skiing style. He likes to use the skate skiing style, himself. When the competition is over, it is time for the long-awaited meeting. 
"You're the best!" the children exclaim at their idol.
"Even though I only placed fourth?" Mäkäräinen asks.
"For me, you're the best in the world!" Abdullah assures her.

Mäkäräinen values her role as a sponsor

Kaisa Mäkäräinen is interested in the children's hobby. She listens to their stories of long skiing trips and competitions.
The children thank their sponsor for the gifts she has sent them: all of them are wearing tube scarfs donated by Mäkäräinen.
"When I grow up, I want to be like you," Fatima, 13, tells her idol. 
"You just need to train hard," Mäkäräinen answers.
Mäkäräinen values her role as a sponsor.
"Learning to ski is a part of integrating into a culture where snow is an essential part of winter weather. I'm sure the children are excited to learn new skills and enjoy snow," Mäkäräinen says.
Text: Sirpa Sutinen