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Sport is considered a national pastime in Finland and many Finns visit different sporting events regularly.[1][2] Pesäpallo is the national sport of Finland, although the most popular forms of sport in terms of television viewers and media coverage are ice hockey and Formula One. In spectator attendance, harness racing comes right after ice hockey in popularity.

Other popular sports include floorball, bandy, football, ringette, and Pesäpallo.

Popular sports in Finland

Ice hockey

Teemu Selänne is the greatest Finnish goal scorer in history in the NHL's regular season. The Finnish discus audience has also voted him the all-time Finnish player.

Main article: Ice hockey in Finland

See also: Finland men's national ice hockey team, Finland women's national ice hockey team, Finland men's national junior ice hockey team, and Finland men's national under-18 ice hockey team

Ice hockey is the most popular sport in Finland. The Finnish main league Liiga has an attendance average of 4,850 people.[3] Ice Hockey World Championships 2016 final Finland-Canada, 69% Finnish people watched that game in TV MTV3-channel.[4] The Finnish national team has won the World Championship four times, in 1995, 2011, 2019 and in 2022 and is considered a member of the so-called "Big Six", the unofficial group of the six strongest men's ice hockey nations, along with Canada, Czechia, Russia, Sweden and the United States.[5] At the 2022 Winter Olympics, the Finnish hockey team won at the Men's tournament Olympic gold for the first time.[6][7][8] Some of the most notable Finnish players are Teemu Selänne, Jari Kurri, Jere Lehtinen, Teppo Numminen, Tuukka Rask and brothers Saku and Mikko Koivu. Finland has hosted Men's Ice Hockey World Championships in 1965, 1974, 1982, 1991, 1997, 2003, 2022 and co-hosted 2012 - 2013 and 2023.

Finnish SM-Liiga game, Tappara vs Ilves.
Year Location Result
1995 Stockholm / Gävle  Sweden Gold
2011 Bratislava / Košice  Slovakia Gold
2019 Bratislava / Košice  Slovakia Gold
2022 Tampere / Helsinki  Finland Gold

Football

Finland football team in 1953

See also: Football in Finland, Finland national football team, Finland women's national football team, and Finland national futsal team

Football in Finland, unlike in most European countries, is not the most popular spectator sport, as it falls behind ice hockey, which enjoys a huge amount of popularity in the country.[9] Football tops ice hockey in the number of registered players (115,000 vs. 60,000[10][11]) and as a popular hobby (160,000 vs. 90,000 in adults and 230,000 vs. 105,000 in youth[12][13]). It is the most popular hobby among 3- to 18-year-olds, whereas ice hockey is 9th.[13] Football's standing is constantly increasing, where the yearly growth rate has lately been over 10 percent.[14] In season 2006–07 19.9 percent of registered players were female.[14] The Football Association of Finland (Palloliitto) has approximately a thousand clubs as its members.[10] According to a Gallup poll, nearly 400,000 people include football in their hobbies.[12][13]

HJK is the most successful Finnish football club and has won 32 Finnish championship. Also it is only Finnish club that has played in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League in group stage.

Floorball

See also: Finland men's national floorball team and Finland women's national floorball team

The Finnish men celebrating having become the 2018 world champions

Floorball is a popular sport and Finland was one of the three founding countries of International Floorball Federation. Finland men's national floorball team has won the World Floorball Championships in 2008, 2010, 2016 and 2018, making floorball the only team sport in which Finland has defended a World Championship title, and placed second in 1996, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2012 and 2014.

Finland has hosted Men's World Floorball Championships in 2002 and 2010 and will host it again in 2020. The game is played similar to floor hockey, with five players and a goal keeper on each team. The game is played indoors for men and woman, using 95 to 115.5 cm. sticks, and a plastic ball. The length of the game is three twenty minute periods.

Motorsport

Jarno Saarinen, famous motorcycle rider born in Turku. The statue is located in Turku's Aurajoki Beach, Barker Park

See also: Formula One drivers from Finland

Motorsport became popular in Finland in the 1950s with the birth of rallying competitions. In the 1960s Finnish rally drivers such as Rauno Aaltonen, Timo Mäkinen and Pauli Toivonen started to dominate international events and have held the post since, making Finland the most successful nation in the World Rally Championship. Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Mäkinen both won the World Championship four times during their respective careers and Marcus Grönholm won the title twice in 2000 and 2002. After 20 years later Kalle Rovanperä won the World Championship in 2022. Finland's WRC event, Neste Oil Rally Finland, gathers 500,000 spectators every year. The city of Jyväskylä in the Central Finland region has often served as the main venue for Finnish rally competitions.[15][16]

Currently the most popular form of motorsport is Formula One. F1 was popularized in Finland in the 1980s by Keke Rosberg, who in 1982 became the first Finnish Formula One World Driver's champion, and reached its peak when Mika Häkkinen won the championship twice in 1998 and 1999. Kimi Räikkönen, the 2007 champion, has retired from the sport at the end of 2021. Since 2013, Valtteri Bottas has competed for the Williams F1, Mercedes and Alfa Romeo teams.

Other forms of motorsport popular in Finland include Grand Prix motorcycle racing, which reached its peak in the early 1970s before the death of Jarno Saarinen. In enduro, 7 and 13-time World Enduro Champions Kari Tiainen and Juha Salminen have ensured media coverage in their home country.

Bandy

See also: Finland national bandy team and Rinkball

Finland national bandy team in the final of the 2016 World Championship against the victorious home team Russia

Bandy is played throughout Finland. It was the first team sport with a national Finnish championship. The Bandyliiga is still popular. In 2004, Finland won the Bandy World Championship. The game consists of two teams whose goal is to put a single ball in opposing team's goal to score. The game is played on ice, with both teams on skates. In terms of licensed athletes, it is the second biggest winter sport in the world.[17] Finland's Bandy Association (Finnish: Suomen Jääpalloliitto, Swedish: FinlandsBandyförbund) is the governing body for the sport of bandy in Finland.

Pesäpallo

See also: Pesäpallo World Cup

Veto against Jymy at the Saarikenttä stadium in Vimpeli on 19 July 2015

Developed by Lauri "Tahko" Pihkala in the 1920s and often considered as a national sport of Finland, pesäpallo has a steady popularity around the country, especially in the Ostrobothnia region. The main national league, Superpesis, has an attendance average of about 1,600 in men's and 500 in the women's league.[18]

Ringette

See also: Ringette, World Ringette Championships, and Finland national ringette team

In 1979, Juhani Wahlsten introduced ringette in Finland.[19] Wahlsten created some teams in Turku. Finland's first ringette club was Ringetteläisiä Turun Siniset, and the country's first ringette tournament took place in December, 1980. In 1979 Juhani Wahlsten invited two coaches, Wendy King and Evelyn Watson, from Dollard-des-Ormeaux, a suburb of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, to teach girls of various ages how to play ringette.[20] The Ringette Association of Turku was established in 1981 and several Canadian coaches went there to initiate the training and help establish the sport. The ski national week then organized an annual tournament to bring together all the ringette teams.

Internationally Canada and Finland have always been the most active ambassadors in the International Ringette Federation. Canada and Finland regularly travel across various countries to demonstrate how ringette is played.

Ice cross downhill

Finns in Red Bull Crashed Ice

See also: Crashed Ice and Ice cross downhill

Racers are typically athletes with a background in ice hockey, however competitors from the sports of bandy and ringette have also competed with great success, such as Salla Kyhälä from Finland's national ringette team, who also played in Canada's National Ringette League and Mirko Lahti has win Finnish downhill skating championship two times 2020 and 2021. Junior World championship 2017-2018 and Men`s World championship 2022-23.

Synchronized Skating

See also: Synchronized skating and ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships

Inline skating originated in Finland in the 1980s and was initially known as group patterning. The first Finnish Synchronized skating team, The Rockets (HTK; now Helsinki Rockettes), was founded in 1984. Today, Finland is one of the top countries in figure skating - the teams have done well in international competitions for years. There are more than 100 Synchronized skating teams in Finland.

Skiing

See also: Finlandia-hiihto

Nykänen on a postage stamp
Juha Mieto in 1976
Janne Ahonen former ski jumper
Iivo Niskanen in 2019

FIS Nordic Wolrd Ski Championships Seefeld 2019 - Men 15 km Interval Start Classic. Picture shows Iivo Niskanen (FIN). Finland has always produced successful competitors in the disciplines of nordic skiing. Championship-winning male cross-country skiers from Finland include Veli Saarinen (winner of an Olympic gold and three World Championship titles in the 1920s and 1930s), Veikko Hakulinen (who won three Olympic and three World Championship golds in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as a World Championship silver medal in biathlon) and Juha Mieto (who won an Olympic gold medal in 1976 and two overall FIS Cross-Country World Cups). Among female athletes, Marjo Matikainen-Kallström won a gold at the 1988 Winter Olympics, three World Championships and three overall World Cups and Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi won three golds at both the Olympics and World Championships and two overall World Cup titles.

Finland has been the most successful nation in Ski jumping at the Winter Olympics, having won ten golds, eight silvers and four bronze medals. Notable names include Matti Nykänen, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, a five time Ski Jumping World Champion, the 1985 winner of the FIS Ski-Flying World Championships, a four-time winner of the overall World Cup title, and a double winner of the prestigious Four Hills Tournament. More recently Janne Ahonen has been one of the top competitors in the sport since the mid-1990s, winning five World Championship golds and two overall World Cups. He is also the record holder for wins in the Four Hills Tournament, having won the competition five times.

As a country strong in both cross-country skiing and ski jumping Finland has also enjoyed success in Nordic combined. Heikki Hasu won golds in Nordic combined in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics, as well as a cross-country gold in the 4 x 10 kilometre relay at the 1952 Olympics. He also won a World Championship gold in 1950. Eero Mäntyranta won 7 Olympic medals (3 golds, 2 silvers, and 2 bronzes) spread over the 1960, 1964, and 1968 Olympics in addition to his five World Championship medals (2 gold, 2 silver and a bronze) spread over the 1962 and 1966 games. Samppa Lajunen won three Olympic golds at the 2002 Olympics and two FIS Nordic Combined World Cups. Hannu Manninen won the World Cup for four consecutive seasons between 2003/4 and 2006/7.

Kaisa Mäkäräinen former biathlete

Although traditionally not as strong as Norway, Sweden, Germany and Russia in biathlon, Finland has had world-class competitors in this discipline. Heikki Ikola and Juhani Suutarinen were both highly successful in the 1970s - Ikola won four World Championship golds and Suutarinen won three. In 2011 Kaisa Mäkäräinen won a World Championship title in the pursuit at the Biathlon World Championships and was Biathlon World Cup champion. She won her second overall Biathlon World Cup in 2014, and a third in 2018.

In recent years Finnish skiers have enjoyed success in the technical disciplines of alpine skiing. Kalle Palander was Slalom World Champion in 1999 and World Cup Slalom champion in the 2003 Alpine Skiing World Cup. Tanja Poutiainen won three discipline World Cup titles in Slalom and Giant Slalom in the 2000s.

Athletics

Paavo Nurmi lights the fire at the Olympics in Helsinki 1952
Jukola relay is the world's largest orienteering competition
Tapio Rautavaara, Kuuno Honkonen, Pentti Siltaloppi and Salomon Könönen at the 1948 Summer Olympics

See also: Finland-Sweden athletics international, Finnish Orienteering Federation, Finnish Championships in Athletics, and Finnish Amateur Athletic Association

The sport of athletics has historically been an important part of both Finnish sports history and national identity. Hannes Kolehmainen has been said to "run Finland onto the world map" at the 1912 Summer Olympics, and from the 1920 Summer Olympics to World War II Finland was the second most successful country in athletics, as only the United States managed to collect more Olympic medals. Javelin throw is the only event in which Finland has enjoyed success all the way from the 1900s to this day. Thus, it is currently the most popular athletics event in Finland. Jukola Relay and Venla's Relay are the largest and the most famous orienteering events in Finland.

Combat sports

Wrestling

Petra Olli

Wrestling was a successful sport for Finns in the early 20th century. The first wrestling club was the Helsingin Atleettiklubi founded in 1891, and the Finnish championship series (SM-kilpailut) were organized for the first time in 1898.[21] Verner Weckman won his series At the 1906 Athens Intermediate Olympics and achieved Finland's first official Olympic victory two years later in London.[22] In total, Finns won 20 Olympic gold medals in wrestling between 1908 and 1936, thirteen of them in Greco-Roman wrestling and seven in freestyle wrestling. From the period after the Second World War, Finland has six wrestling gold medals, five of which are from Greco-Roman wrestling.[23] The last Finnish men's world champion is Marko Yli-Hannuksela from 1997, but the European Finns have won championships even in the 2000s, when women's wrestling became more common, and in 2018 Petra Olli became the first Finnish female wrestler to win the world championship.

Boxing

Amin Asikainen
Eva Wahlström

Finnish boxing championship competitions started in 1923.[24] Finnish Olympic champions are Sten Suvio from 1936 and Pentti Hämäläinen from 1952.[25] However, the most famous Finnish boxer of the 1930s was Gunnar Bärlund, who was the second challenger to world champion Joe Louis in the professional boxing heavyweight rankings.[26] The first Finn to compete in the professional world championship was Olli Mäki, who lost to Davey Moore in the World Championship match at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium in August 1962.[27] Mäki is the only Finn who has won both the amateur and professional European championships.[28] The amateur WC medal has been achieved by Tarmo Uusivirta 1978 and 1982, Jyri Kjäll 1993[29] and Joni Turunen 1995 and 2001. Women's boxing n's biggest star is Eva Wahlström, who in 2015 was the first Finn to win the world championship in professional boxing.[30] Today, Robert Helenius is Finland's most successful boxer.

Mixed martial arts

Tony Halme, former and first Finnish born WWF/WWE wrestler

In judo, Finland's only World Championship medal has been achieved by Juha Salonen, who in 1981 took bronze in the heavyweight category. Jukka-Pekka Väyrynen was the first Finn to win the World Championship in karate in 1982. The most successful Finnish karateka is Sari Laine, who won seven European championships in the years 1987–1996 in addition to her one World Championship in individual series. The first Finn seen in UFC events was Tony Halme, who participated in the UFC 13 event organized on May 30, 1997 in Augusta, Georgia, USA. Halme lost his match in less than a minute to the future star of the sport, Randy Couture, by submission after Couture got a choke hold. Another Finn who fought in the UFC was Anton Kuivanen, who fought two fights in the organization in 2012 and one fight in 2013. The third Finn in the organization was Tom Niinimäki who won one and lost three matches. Today, one Finnish citizen, Kurd Makwan Amirkhani, is a member of the organization.

American Football

Finland national American football team

See also: Finland national American football team and Finland women's national American football team

American football has a long history in Finland. The American Football Association of Finland is the governing body and the Vaahteraliiga founded in 1980, is the highest level in Finland signing import talent from North America and Europe. The Finland national American football team has won five European championships.[31]

Basketball

The Finnish basketball players at the 2017 European Championship before the game against Greece

See also: Basketball Finland, Finland national basketball team, and Finland women's national basketball team

As Finland appeared at the 2014 Basketball World Cup for the first time, the sport received a huge boost and major public attention. More than 8,000 basketball fans travelled to Spain to support their team. Overall, they booked more than 40 airplanes.[32] For the second time, Finland made it in 2023 Basketball World Cup, for the first time through the qualifiers. Finland has hosted Men's EuroBasket in 1967 and co-hosted 2017 and 2025.

As in many countries worldwide, Finland has shown some major improvements in its professionalization of the game of basketball recently. Its Korisliiga sends teams to European competitions and has drawn the interest of an increasing number of talents especially from North America but also from Southeastern Europe.[33]

Fiba Europe Cup in the 2022-23 season, Karhu Basket become the first Finnish club to advance to the final four.

Volleyball

Finland national volleyball team in 2012.

See also: Finland men's national volleyball team and Finland women's national volleyball team

Finland featured a women's national team in beach volleyball that competed at the 2018–2020 CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup.[34]

Disc golf

Main article: Disc golf in Finland

Disc golfers at the now-defunct Yyteri beach course at sunset in Pori

Disc golf is the fastest growing sport in Finland.[35] According to the Finnish Research Institute for Olympic Sports (KIHU), it is more popular among Finns than ball golf, volleyball, basketball and tennis.[36] As of June 2020, there are approximately 700 disc golf courses in Finland.[37]

Pertti Puikkonen driving two-time Ravikuningatar title winner I.P. Vipotiina at Finland's main race track in Vermo.

Harness racing

Main articles: Harness racing in Finland and Kuninkuusravit

Harness racing in Finland is characterised by the use of the coldblood breed Finnhorse along with modern light trotters such as the Standardbred. In lack of gallop racing culture, harness racing is the main equestrian sport in Finland. Horses used for harness racing in Finland are exclusively trotters.

Racing back home from church had been a tradition long before the first organised race was held in 1817. Modern racing started in the 1960s, when light breeds were allowed to enter the sport and Parimutuel betting gained foothold as pastime. Nowadays harness racing remains popular, with the main events gathering tens of thousands of spectators in the country with a population of some 5 million.

Rugby union

Main article: Rugby union in Finland

Rugby union is a minor but growing sport. With both Men's and Women's 15's teams are represented in world rankings and both Women and Men's Sevens teams competing internationally. Finland Men's 15's team is currently ranked 86th out of 105 by World Rugby.[38] Finland Women's 15's team is currently ranked 47th out of 56 by World Rugby.[39]

Sport shooting

The Finnish Shooting Sport Federation is the umbrella organization for sport shooting in Finland.

Tennis

Jarkko Nieminen (left) and Henri Kontinen playing Davis Cup double against Luxemburg in 2008

Tennis came to Finland in 1881. The first club was Wiborgs lawntennisklubb, founded in 1898. The Finnish Tennis Federation was founded in 1911, and it immediately joined the international tennis federation. The first Finnish championship was won in 1912 by Boris Schildt. in 2023 Finnish team advanced to the Davis Cup final tournament for the first time and knocking out 32-time champions USA to reach the quarter-finals for the first time. Henri Kontinen has involved in winning Wimbledon Championships – Mixed doubles and Australian Open – Men's doubles, Harri Heliövaara has involved in winning US Open – Mixed doubles. Jarkko Nieminen is the highest-ranked Finnish tennis player ever in the world and the only Finn to win an ATP singles tournament.

Skittles sports

Kyykkä playing in the winter time

Finnish skittles (Kyykkä), is a centuries-old game of Karelian origin. Mölkky is modern version of Kyykkä.

Cue sports

Kaisa or karoliina is a cue sport mainly played in Finland and its the most traditional form of billiards in Finland and has been practiced in Finland for several decades before the birth of Finnish billiards association. The sport is still popular in Finland, and 20–30 tournaments under the Finnish Billiards Association are organized every year. In addition to the main series, there are different series, Seniors and Juniors.

Ball hockey

See also: Ball hockey and Finland men's national ball hockey team

Finland has participated in the sport's World Championships since the 2009 Games. The first Finnish tournament was organized in 2018. Finnish Ball Hockey Federation was founded in 2017 and its belongs to the ISBHF (International Street & Ball Hockey Federation).

Controversies

Arto Halonen made a documentary about doping in sport in Finnish winter sports in 2012.[40] Janne Immonen, Jari Isometsä and Harri Kirvesniemi were convicted in October 2013 by the Helsinki District Court.[41]

International championships hosted by Finland

Year Championship Venue(es)
1926 Nordic World Ski Championships Lahti
1933 European Wrestling Championships (Greco-Roman style) Helsinki
1938 Nordic World Ski Championships Lahti
1952 Summer Olympics Helsinki
1957 Bandy World Championship Helsinki
1958 Nordic World Ski Championships Lahti
1962 Biathlon World Championships Hämeenlinna
1965 World Ice Hockey Championships Tampere
1967 Bandy World Championship Helsinki, Oulu, Varkaus, Mikkeli, Lappeenranta
1967 FIBA European Championship Helsinki, Tampere
1971 Biathlon World Championships Hämeenlinna
1971 European Athletics Championships Helsinki
1974 Ice Hockey World Championships Helsinki
1975 Bandy World Championship Espoo, Imatra, Kemi, Lappeenranta, Mikkeli, Oulu, Tornio, Varkaus
1976 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships Tampere, Turku, Pori, Rauma
1977 Women's European Volleyball Championship Tampere, Turku, Lahti, Kotka
1977 European Volleyball Championship Helsinki, Tampere, Turku, Oulu
1978 Nordic World Ski Championships Lahti
1980 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships Helsinki, Vantaa
1981 Biathlon World Championships Lahti
1982 World Ice Hockey Championships Helsinki, Tampere
1982 UEFA European Under-18 Championship Helsinki
1982 FIBA U16 Women's European Championship Forssa, Uusikaupunki
1983 Bandy World Championship Helsinki, Porvoo
1984 Nordic World Ski Championships Rovaniemi (co-host)
1985 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships Helsinki, Turku, Vantaa
1987 Biathlon World Championships Lahti (co-host)
1987 European U18 Ice Hockey Championships Tampere, Kouvola, Hämeenlinna
1989 Nordic World Ski Championships Lahti
1990 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships Helsinki, Turku, Kauniainen, Kerava
1990 Biathlon World Championships Kontiolahti (co-host)
1991 Biathlon World Championships Lahti
1991 Ice Hockey World Championships Turku, Tampere, Helsinki
1992 Women's Ice Hockey World Championship Tampere
1993 European Volleyball Championship Oulu, Turku
1994 European Athletics Championships Helsinki
1997 World Ice Hockey Championships Helsinki, Tampere, Turku
1997 European Wrestling Championships (Greco-Roman style) Kouvola
1998 Ice Hockey World Junior Championship Helsinki, Hämeenlinna
1999 Women's Ice Hockey World Championship Espoo, Vantaa
1999 Biathlon World Championships Kontiolahti
2000 European Aquatics Championships Helsinki
2001 Ice Hockey World U18 Championship Helsinki, Heinola, Lahti
2001 Nordic World Ski Championships Lahti
2001 European Youth Olympic Winter Festival Vuokatti
2001 UEFA European Under-18 Championship Helsinki
2003 Ice Hockey World Championship Helsinki, Tampere, Turku
2004 Ice Hockey World Junior Championship Hämeenlinna, Helsinki
2005 World Athletics Championships Helsinki
2007 Ice Hockey World U18 Championship Tampere, Rauma
2009 UEFA Women's European Championship Helsinki, Lahti, Tampere, Turku
2009 European Youth Olympic Summer Festival Tampere
2010 World Ringette Championships Tampere
2012 Ice Hockey World Championship Helsinki (co-host)
2012 European Athletics Championships Helsinki
2013 Ice Hockey World Championship Helsinki (co-host)
2014 European Wrestling Championships Vantaa
2014 Ice Hockey World U18 Championship Lappeenranta, Imatra
2015 Biathlon World Championships Kontiolahti
2016 Ice Hockey World Junior Championship Helsinki
2016 FIBA U20 European Championship Helsinki
2016 World Ringette Championships Helsinki
2017 Nordic World Ski Championships Lahti
2017 FIBA European Championship Helsinki (co-host)
2018 UEFA European Under-19 Championship Seinäjoki, Vaasa
2018 European Championship of American football Vantaa
2019 Women's Ice Hockey World Championship Espoo
2021 European Volleyball Championship Tampere (co-host)
2022 European Youth Olympic Winter Festival Vuokatti
2022 Ice Hockey World Championship Tampere, Helsinki
2023 Ice Hockey World Championship Tampere (co-host)
2024 Ice Hockey World U18 Championship Espoo, Vantaa
2024 FIBA U18 European Championship Tampere
2025 FIBA European Championship Tampere (co-host)
2027 Women's FIBA European Championship Espoo (co-host)
2028 Ice Hockey World Junior Championship TBD

See also

References

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  31. ^ All you need to know About American Football in Europe - Franchise Sports
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  41. ^ ski stars convicted of perjury in decades old doping scandal 18 October 2013