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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 will be competing in the 42-kilometre ski-marathon in Orsa, Sweden. Yesterday, Friday 5 January 2018, Virtanen announced on his Facebook page that he will be attempting to score a new 24-hour world record at a Visma Ski Classics event organised in Levi, Finland, this coming spring.
Virtanen already is 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, Erik Wickström of Sweden clinched the Nordic skiing 24-hour world record in Åre, Sweden, but due to the fact the entire 24 hours of skiing was not filmed, 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 kilometres. Teemu Virtanen's record from Kuortane is 433.459 kilometres, which remained as the official world record. Erik Wickström was granted an unofficial world record.
- Of course, I was somewhat annoyed about losing the record, and after that latest attempt in the spring of 2016 I decided straightaway to try one more time. However, it wasn't until this winter that I felt mentally ready for all the required training and for putting myself through the demanding preparation process. Also, my enthusiasm was partly dampened by the fact that Guinness didn't accept Erik Wickström's record in the end and I remained the official world record holder, Teemu Virtanen says.
- That was the starting point from which this idea about 'setting the record straight' started to form in my head - to set a permanent record, once and for all, that nobody could dispute. I came here to Sweden to race and to challenge the Swedish skiers, Teemu Virtanen continues.
Should nobody else rise to the challenge, Virtanen is planning to go for it solo.
- 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 endeavour appeals to me. You live in your own world for 24 hours and everything is focused on one single thing. I achieved my world record by skiing alone, which suits me, but of course skiing together with Erik and Russia's Denis Kabanen 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 kilometres - 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, Virtanen says.
The Finnish round of the international and world's biggest long-distance ski championship, Visma Ski Classics Ylläs-Levi, is organised on 14 April 2018, and Teemu Virtanen is hoping the 24-hour challenge race would take place sometime during the race week.
- It is fantastic to hear that the skiers wish to come and attempt to break the world record in connection with the Visma Ski Classics Ylläs-Levi. I believe we have good capabilities to organise the 24-hour world record ski marathon in connection with the Ylläs-Levi race. This brings nice additional content into the great long-distance ski competition, says Otto Lintunen, the Head of Events at Levi Events Ltd.
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?
Photo: Magnus Östh