Finland’s Maisa Kuusikko: ‘I can’t tell which medal was more satisfying’

Written by John Crumlish for International Gymnast Online

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Maisa Kuusikko holds the solid bronze statue presented to her when she won the all-around title at the 2021 Finnish Championships. The bear-shaped trophy, which has a nameplate listing previous champions, is over 50 years old. (Photo courtesy of Maisa Kuusikko)

For recent Challenge Cup of Varna double medalist Maisa Kuusikko of Finland, choosing the more meaningful award is perhaps a harder task than winning them.

“My goal was to perform the best routines I could possibly do at the moment,” Kuusikko told International Gymnast Online of her May 26-29 performances in Varna, where she placed second on balance beam, third on vault, seventh on floor exercise and eighth on uneven bars. “I also had this new second tumbling pass on floor (layout front step-out through to double back), which I performed for the first time. I’m super happy for both of the medals and I can’t tell which one was more satisfying to get.”

Kuusikko’s silver medal-winning balance beam routine in the Varna final showed the poise and security that she says were the positive results of diligent repetitions.

“I think the most important thing is to do routines many times in the training, so it will feel more confident while performing it in competitions,” said Kuusikko, a Tampere native who will turn 17 on June 16.

As reflected in her four-apparatus start in Varna, Kuusikko aspires to perform in the all-around and advance beyond qualifications at this summer’s European Championships in Munich and this fall’s Worlds in Liverpool. She finished 39th all-around in qualifications at the 2019 Junior World Championships in Gyor, and 13th all-around at the 2021 Europeans in Basel.

“My plan is to compete all-around at Europeans and Worlds,” said Kuusikko, who finished fifth on vault and fifth on floor exercise at the World Cup of Baku held March 31-April 3, her only prior World Cup or Challenge Cup start. “It would be amazing to be in the all-around finals.”

Maisa Kuusikko (FIN)

Kuusikko competed on only one apparatus – uneven bars – at last fall’s World Championships in Kitakyushu, but she says her limited participation in her first senior worlds was valuable nonetheless.

“I learned to handle pressures in a different way, and it was a new experience for me to do only one apparatus in that big competition,” said Kuusikko, who trains at Tampereen Voimistelijoiden under her head coach, Igor Cherepov, and her other coaches, Ida Laisi and Natalia Villman.

Kuusikko’s successes in Varna demonstrated the strides she and other female gymnasts of her country have been making in the recent past. Two Finnish gymnasts – Ada Hautala and Rosanna Ojala – ranked among the top 33 all-around in qualifications in Kitakyushu. Hautala joined Kuusikko in the all-around final at the 2021 Europeans, where Hautala placed 21st.

Due to the flu Kuusikko did not attempt to defend her 2021 all-around title at the Finnish Championships held June 8 in her hometown, where Sani Mäkelä of HIFK Gymnastics won gold with 49.50 points. Kaia Tanskanen of Jyväskylän Voimistelijat-79 took silver with 48.85, and Hautala, representing Oulun Pyrintö Voimistelujaosto, earned bronze with 48.10.

The recovering Kuusikko said Finland’s collective recent progress results from their mutual enthusiasm.

“In our team we have a good team spirit and we all push each other forward,” Kuusikko told International Gymnast Online. “We all want to develop as an individuals and as a team. I think our team is strong, because we are solid and we’re becoming more confident.”

International Gymnast Online’s other recent coverage of Finnish gymnasts includes:

Finland’s Emil Soravuo: ‘I have to give 100% commitment to challenge the world’s best’

New Club Opening Ushers In Rebirth Of Artistic Gymnastics In Estonia

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