Finnish ski-jumping legend Matti Nykänen dies ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Matti Nykänen.
Matti Nykänen. Source: AFP/SCANPIX

Legendary Finnish ski-jumper Matti Nykänen has died. He was 55. A native of Jyväskylä in central Finland, Nykänen is widely considered to be the greatest male ski jumper of all time.

Matti Nykänen was a frequent visitor to Estonia, and appeared on ETV broadcast Ringvaade several times.

He achieved international fame at the 1984 Winter Olympics, in Sarajevo, then in Yugoslavia, where he clinched a gold medal. At the next olympics in Calgary, Canada, Nykänen became  first ever to win gold medals on both hills, as well as winning a gold in the team event.

Nykänen appeared several times on ETV's Ringvaade, including this interview from May 2013, in Finnish, with Estonian subtitles (starts at 14'50'').

Matti Nykänen's other achievements included a total of nine World Championship medals, five of which were golds. He also took part in a total of 46 World Cup competitions and won the overall title four times, as well as winning 14 national golds in his native Finland.

His life after ski jumping saw him become a singer, recording several albums and touring, but it was dogged by personal issues. This included a long-term battle with alcohol abuse, and two prison sentences after a 2004 stabbing incident and an assault on then-wife Mervi Tapola in 2009.

He was married a total of five times (twice to Mervi Tapola – the pair divorced in 2003, remarrying the following year).

Nykänen in action at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. Source: AFP/SCANPIX

Nykänen was diagnosed with diabetes in 2018, though had continued to be active touring, reportedly performing in Helsinki last Friday.

Nykänen was portrayed on screen at least twice, by Finnish actor Jasper Pääkkönen in a biopic from 2006 entitled simply Matti, and by Swedish actor Edvin Endre in the 2016 movie Eddie the Eagle. The latter film focussed on a fellow ski jumper, Briton Eddie Edwards, one who was not likely to threaten Nykänen's domination, finishing as he did at the opposite end of the field at the Calgary olympics.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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