21 July 2023



Finland is a northern European nation bordering Sweden, Norway and Russia. It’s capital, Helsinki, occupies a peninsula and surrounding islands in the Baltic Sea. The Northern Lights can be viewed from the country’s Arctic Lapland province, a vast wilderness with national parks and ski resorts. The population counts to 5.541 million (2021) spread across 338,462 km².

The National Judo Federation of Finland was established in 1958. Little over 60 years later, there are 120 active judo clubs and 4500 members practicing the gentle way. Despite having not yet collected an Olympic medal, Finland had several representatives in judo at the mega-event.

Upper row from the left: Jorma KORHONEN, Juha SALONEN, Anne ÅKERBLOM.  
Bottom row from the left Marjo VILHOLA, Jaana RONKAINEN. © National Judo Federation of Finland

To date, the most successful Finnish judoka is Juha SALONEN. He claimed his European title in 1989, prior to that, securing double bronze in 1985 and 1983. Salonen remains the only Finnish judoka to win a senior world championships medal. He claimed bronze in Maastricht 1981. 

Finland is actually one of the few nations to win a European medal in every category, including Kata. The country won more than a handful of senior continental medals, three of which, as established, was taken by Salonen. The year of 1989 forever remains an incredible one for the Finnish judo society as they won three gold medals at the same event. Salonen’s victory was further decorated by Jorma Korhonen and Jaana Ronkainen. Both of them claimed an additional two European medals throughout their career. Korhonen won silver in 1990 and bronze in 1993 whilst Ronkainen finished second place in 1988 and third in 1982. Anne Åkerblom’s double silver success (1985,1989) added to the medal haul too. Last but not least, Seppo MYLLYLA grabbed silver at the 1983 Europeans whilst Marco VILHOLA pinched bronze in 1989.

L-R: Ilse Heylen (BEL), Jaana Sundberg (FIN), Laura Gómez (ESP), Odette Giuffrida (ITA) – Grand Prix Tbilisi (2015, GEO) © IJF

One of Finland’s more recent successful female judoka was Jaana Sundberg who excelled at numerous international tournaments, including IJF World Tour events, and represented Finland in the -52kg category at the London 2012 Olympic Games. At the summer games, she was accompanied by Johanna YLINEN (-63kg) and Valtteri JOKINEN (-60kg). As per Sundberg’s European medal collection, she won bronze at the U23 Europeans in 2005.

Emilia KANERVA won gold at the cadet Europeans in 2015. She remains Finland’s sole cadet European champion to date. © Kostadin Andonov

So far there are two junior European gold medal and one Cadet continental victory in the history books of Finnish judo. The latter was claimed back in 2015 by Emilia KANERVA, who also won cadet world silver medal in the same year. In 2017, she won bronze at the junior Europeans. Speaking of juniors, Pihla SALONEN won gold at the junior Europeans in 2022. Adds to that, countless Veteran European medals, two of which remain golden memory. The latest reminiscence was created by Loredana LARI last month when she won the F3 -57kg category. Veteran World medals are plenty to count too, but victories are currently sum to six. To complete the continental medal collection, Finland won their first ever Kata European medal in 2022 by Marko RYYPPO & Juha ALALUUKAS.

Marko RYYPPO & Juha ALALUUKAS in action at the European Judo Championships Kata 2022.

Historical silver won by the Finnish pair… the first ever Kata European medal for the country.

Loredana LARI won gold in the F3 -57kg category at the European Judo Championships Veterans 2023.

Finland hosted the cadet European Championships in 2016 in Vantaa. Ten years prior to that the senior Europeans were held in Tampere. The city of Vantaa also organised the 2019 junior European Championships. Today, the highest ranked (#17) judoka is Martti PUUMALAINEN, who is regularly placing at the IJF World Tour in the +100kg category. He won bronze at the U23 Europeans in 2019 and picked up his first Grand Prix medal in 2021.

Martti PUUMALAINEN at the Grand Slam Hungary 2022. © IJF

Off the mat… Did you know? 



Author: Szandra Szogedi