Death of ski jumping legend Matti Nykänen

The Finn Matti Nykänen, one of the most successful ski jumpers of all times, has died aged 55. The list of his successes in the 1980s is long: Olympic gold, World Championship titles, World Cup overall titles and Four Hills Tournament victories. But after the end of his sports career the athlete's life was overshadowed by alcoholism, violence and spells in jail. The obituaries reflect the varying emotions Nykänen provoked.

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Ilta-Sanomat (FI) /

National idol in sweatpants

Matti Nykänen will remain a legend, Ilta-Sanomat is convinced:

“His special talent and the right qualities brought him a long way. But still more was needed for his gold medals: a brutal training regime. And he followed it every day. ... But the ski jumping legend was anything but a good boy - either in sport or in his private life. He was a sort of child of nature who never adapted to social norms. Women, jail, alcohol. Because of these things the Olympic champion went on making headlines long after his career ended. ... But even if in his sweatpants and leather jacket he didn't exactly look like one of the nation's great men, that's exactly what he was. He will always be one of Finland's greatest athletes.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Finland has a weakness for tragic heroes

In his way Matti Nykänen was a typical Finnish phenomenon, Dagens Nyheter writes:

“He was a tragic hero in a country with a weakness for tragic heroes. For anyone who lived in Finland in recent decades Matti Nykänen's image was ever-present. For decades he lived in an unholy alliance with the yellow press. Often it was due to unfortunate stories about alcohol-drenched holidays, stabbings and concerts that got completely out of control. ... Matti Nykänen was always full of contradictions, someone who did much harm to himself and others. But with his sporting achievements he also brought Finland much pride, and much joy.”

Õhtuleht (EE) /

What's a sinner's Olympic victory worth?

Õhtuleht's sports commentator Siim Kera is torn between praise and condemnation in his obituary:

“In music and art and literature it's easier to separate a person from his creation. The works come alive and emancipate themselves from their maker. Or at least they try to. But Matti, how to view your jumps and your victories? Can they be considered 'works'? Should I separate them from the real Matti? Should I praise you because for several years you jumped further than others? Should I praise you although you attacked someone with a knife and abused your wife several times? I don't know. Yes: you were a damned good athlete. ... But people should above all be good people, and only then Olympic champions.”