Winning a silver medal on vault at the last month’s Challenge Cup of Szombathely, Hungary, has inspired Tomi Tuuha of Finland.
Winning a silver medal on vault at the last month’s Challenge Cup of Szombathely, Hungary, has inspired Tomi Tuuha of Finland, whose mixed fortunes over the last year included an illness that prevented him from trying for this summer’s Rio Olympic Games, a broken wrist and his happy engagement to Icelandic gymnast Agnes Suto.
Tuuha, who will turn 27 on November 28, now looks ahead to the 2020 Tokyo Games as a new goal in his long career. He placed first on vault at the 2010 European Championships in Birmingham, which helped him win "Breakthrough of the Year" honors at the 2010 Sports Awards in his country. He placed first on vault at the 2014 Challenge Cup of Cottbus, and third on vault at the 2015 Challenge Cup of Osijek. Tuuha has finished in the top 15 on vault at three world championships.
In this IG Online interview, Tuuha reflects on his latest success and details the latest developments in his life.
IG: How did Szombathely motivate you for competitions to come in the remainder of 2016 and heading into 2017?
TT: Szombathely was a great competition for me. It was a very tight vault final, and I managed to fight myself to the podium. I got my first-ever silver medal from World Cups (Challenge Cups), too, so I was very happy with the results. 2016 has been overall a bit unlucky for me. In the end of February we had a national training camp in Stanford, USA, where I broke my wrist during vault training. I had to skip some World Cups because of that, so I kind of missed the ranking also this year. The European Championships in Bern (in May) were a bit too early, too, considering the wrist was still not fully healed, and I didn't quite get into the shape where I wanted to be. So yes, the result in Szombathely gave me a really good motivational kick for the rest of the year and also for next year. There is still one competition left for me this year in Cottbus, so I'm hoping to get as good results there as in Hungary.
IG: Leading into 2016 many people would consider you a favorite to compete for Finland in Rio. What happened to you at last’s years world championships in Glasgow?
Tuuha and his fiancée, Agnes Suto, of Iceland, in October
TT: Glasgow was a big disappointment for me. I had been working on upgraded vault difficulty for a year to higher my chances for a spot in the final. Unfortunately I got quite sick a couple of days before qualifications and the fever was not letting go on the competition day. I tried warming up and competing on rings but I was feeling so nauseous after the routine that I decided to withdraw. Walking out of the arena was a really hard decision to make, as I knew the vault final would have been my only way to Rio, but at the same time, I didn't want to take the risk of injury, while not being at my full health.
IG: How have you managed to reconcile with the fact that you did not qualify for Rio, especially seeing a teammate (Oskar Kirmes) perform well there?
TT: I knew a long time before that it would be a hard way for me to qualify to Rio. I've focused a long time already on only three apparatuses, and I consider myself as a vault specialist. However, only the top three gymnast from each apparatus final in Glasgow got straight tickets to Rio. I tried to increase my chances by training and competing all-around again, but with the base on my weaker apparatuses and the short time that I had, it was nearly impossible to make a good enough all-around score. Yet the time training all six was pretty educational and I managed to get couple of national all-around titles, too.
I am still very happy for my teammate Oskar for making it to Rio and competing in the all-around there. Seeing him working so hard and improving so much in the past years, it was no question he was the one who deserved the spot to compete for Finland.
IG: What now motivates you to compete in the future? And what do you think of trying for Tokyo?
TT: Now that all the Rio hype is behind, I would like to set my focus on the next cycle. The rules will change with the new Code of Points, and also there is a new Olympic qualifying system for apparatus specialists through World Cups. This will definitely keep me motivated for the next four years and keep my Olympic dream alive. I mean, Tokyo sounds pretty awesome, right? Thinking about it always gives me a great feeling, as that's where I met Agnes for the first time in 2011 (World Championships in Tokyo). So who knows, maybe it's destiny.
IG: You and Agnes are experienced gymnasts and both of you have had some challenges. So how has Agnes helped you stay focused and positive in this last difficult year?
TT: We’ve been together for five years. We are both gymnasts, and are still training and competing, so we understand each other pretty well. The past year has been pretty difficult for me with injuries and Olympics going by. Having Agnes by my side, helping me clear my mind and get back up again, has been a real blessing.
IG: What is your relationship with Agnes like, in terms of logistics?
TT: Agnes moved to Finland for couple of years to train and coach, and basically so that we could be more together. This summer we took a step forward and got engaged. I was able to keep the proposal a secret from everyone, so there was a lot of surprise and excitement about it for everyone, especially for Agnes. We haven't planned the wedding yet, as we have friends and relatives in three different countries (Suto's parents are from Hungary). But I'm sure it will be sometime soon. Agnes is back in Iceland to finish her studies and coach. And since there aren't any big competitions this fall, I decided to follow her and come train with the Icelandic team in Reykjavik. I've spent around two months here now, being coached by Robert Kristmannsson, the men's head coach. I think it has been a very refreshing experience for me and for the gymnasts here, as well.
International Gymnast Magazine Related Features:
"Fearless Finn" – Tuuha interview/photo gallery (December 2012)
"Hope in Helsinki" – feature on IG's visit to Voimisteluseura VSH men's club
"Icelandic Warm-up" - feature on IG's visit to Icelandic clubs (November 2012)
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