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Finland's Kirmes Eager For New Starts in 2014
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IG Online's annual series of holiday-themed features continues with Icelandic-born Oskar Kirmes, who switched from Swedish to Finnish citizenship this spring. Pictured: Kirmes poses at his gym, Espoon Telinetaiturit, in Finland.

IG Online's annual series of holiday-themed features continues with Icelandic-born Oskar Kirmes, who switched from Swedish to Finnish citizenship this spring and earned the Scandinavian men's top all-around ranking at this fall's world championships.

The son of former gymnasts from Estonia and Sweden, Kirmes told IG he is ready for new competitive challenges while representing his adopted country in the new year.

"My goals are to make it to the European championships and world championships and do great there," Kirmes said. "They are both team competitions so I really hope we can do great. Of course, another goal is to make the all-around final at worlds. But I need to work really hard to get stronger, get higher Difficulty-scores and perform clean routines."

Kirmes at 2013 Worlds (Photo: Milla Vahtila)

After injuring his knee early in the year, Kirmes gained momentum – and Finnish citizenship. He represented Sweden through the European championships in Moscow in April, and secured the right to compete for Finland immediately afterward.

"I didn't do very well," Kirmes said of his performance in Moscow, where he placed 39th all-around in qualifications. "Of course my goal was to make the all-around final, but it did not go as planned. I had too many small mistakes and a very bad pommel horse routine, and I wasn't even close to a final. Even though I did a bad competition, I was happy with my floor routine, where I scored a new personal best."

Kirmes's path to Finnish citizenship began in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik, where he was born on Dec. 19, 1995. His father and coach, Mati Kirmes, was a gymnast in Estonia when it was part of the Soviet Union, and later met his Swedish wife at a competition in Finland. Mati eventually moved to Sweden, and the couple later moved to Reykjavik for work.

When Oskar was 1, the family moved to Älvsbyn, Sweden, where his maternal grandparents and cousins lived. New job offers relocated the family to Espoo, Finland, when Oskar was approximately 12. Adjusting to life in Finland was not easy, he said, but gradually he gained confidence in and out of the gym.

"We didn't know anyone here in Espoo, so it was very difficult at the beginning," said Kirmes, who trains at the club Espoon Telinetaiturit. "It was very difficult to learn the language, too. After a time I started to like it very much and the trainings were going really well. I decided that I wanted to compete for Finland because I live here, they have a stronger team and they go to more international competitions to get better experience. I have been training with the Finnish national team for many years now and I enjoy it very much."

Immediately after Kirmes received Finnish citizenship this spring, he earned success at home and abroad. In May he won the all-around title at the Finnish championships, where he also took two gold and two bronze medals in the apparatus finals. A week later he placed fourth all-around at the Dityatin Cup in St. Petersburg, where he scored a personal best all-around total.

Kirmes said he was pleased to qualify for the Finnish team that competed at this fall's world championships in Antwerp, where his 32nd-place ranking in qualifications was the best by a Scandinavian male gymnast.

"I had a lot more pressure on myself because it much harder to make it to the Finnish team (than the Swedish team)," said Kirmes, whose younger brother Robert is also a gymnast. "So when I heard that I made it to the world championships representing Finland, I was really happy, and I knew that I had to make a good competition there to prove that I can be a part of the Finnish team. I did a good competition at worlds, with just one stupid fall on rings, and I placed 27th on floor. This was good for me at my first big competition for Finland."

Following Christmas at home with his family, and New Year's Eve in Estonia with his paternal grandparents and cousins, Kirmes plans to turn his attention to new gymnastics ambitions.

"I will get back to the gym to get ready for 2014," he told IG. "I need to get a higher D-score on all the events, but still do clean and nice gymnastics. I have a lot of work to do, together with my teammates and coaches, but we will do our best to achieve our goals."

International Gymnast magazine's recent coverage of Scandinavian gymnasts includes:

"Great Danes" - profile on Rasmus Brandtoft and Kasper Fardan (January 2004)

"Hope in Helsinki" – feature on IG's visit to Voimisteluseura VSH men's club (January 2013) Heikki Savolainen/Hall of Fame induction feature (June/July 2004)
"Fearless Finn" – Tomi Tuuha interview/photo gallery (December 2012)
"10 Questions with Jani Tanskanen" – interview with FIG Athletes' Commission president (October 2010)
"Second Youth" – Jani Tanskanen profile (January/February 2007)
"Flight of Faith" – Annamari Maaranen profile (November 2007)

"Icelandic Warm-up" - feature on IG's visit to Icelandic clubs (November 2012)
"She's Keeping Her Cool" - feature on Sigga Bergthorsdottir (October 2012)

"Scouting Scandinavia" - feature on IG's visit to clubs in Sweden and Norway (March 2011)
"Elder Statesman" - Espen Jansen profile (May 2009)

"Swedish History-maker" - Jonna Adlerteg profile (November 2010)
"Scouting Scandinavia" – feature on IG's visit to clubs in Sweden and Norway (March 2011)
"Swedish Upswing" – women's team feature (November 2010)
"Swedish Achiever" - Ida Gustafsson short profile (June 3013)
"Sweden's Standout" - Mans Stenberg profile (March 2010)
William Thoresson profile/Hall of Fame induction feature (August/September 2001)
"Quick Chat: Veronica Wagner" (November 2008)
"Veronica's Date: 2008" – Veronica Wagner profile (February 2005)
"Swedish Sojourn" – Karolina Bohman profile (February 2003)

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