Hello Jesus and Suvi, first I want to congratulate you on our behalf because we understand that this is a big accomplishment on a personal scale and also for the country.
Thank you Claudio, yes it is a huge accomplishment for us, for the Finnish Taekwondo Federation who has made a big effort economically and for the Finnish Olympic Committee to achieve a representation for the country in the Olympic Games.
To begin with, could you tell me a Little about how is Taekwondo in Finland, if they´ve already participated in the Olympic Games, if they have history in Taekwondo at a competition level etc…
The Finnish Taekwondo Federation is a small federation with little economical resources, in this Olympic cycle they have worked hard to get taekwondo to be an interesting sport for the Olympic Committee, with this result they are all very happy and excited, they already had 2 classifications for the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and one for the Athens Olympics in 2004, but in Beijing there was no representation and that is why the Project 2012 was created which I have been directing for the past year and a half. The best results of Finland are a Silver medal in the European Championships, several Bronze medals in the European Championships and a couple of Bronze medals in the World Championships many years ago, the most outstanding athlete until today is the heavy weight competitor Teemu Heino who is also the captain of our team.
JR: Jesus, how would you describe the whole process of your work with Suvi during these years?
It´s been a very long process filled with obstacles that we have had to overcome little by little, about 6 years ago we started to organize Suvi´s planification and sports career, and we started to work with the sole objective as to classify for the Olympics, during this whole process, as every trainer and athlete knows, you have to overcome many difficulties that appear in your path. Nevertheless, it´s been fun and very enriching for the both of us. We still have a long way to go and a lot to learn. This of course fills us with energy and motivation and assures us that we are in the correct path and going in the right direction.
JR: Suvi competed very well in the World Preolympics in Baku, when did you think it was possible to classify for London?
Yes, she performed very well in Baku, we lost in the 3rd round against an extraordinary opponent, Ana Zaninovic from Croatia, but Suvi was very concentrated during the match. I´ve always believed in Suvi´s possibilities because I see her every day in the trainings, I see her potential, her attitude and the margin of improvement she still has.
JR-. In 2009 we published: The Spaniard, Jesus Ramal, was named the new trainer of the Finnish Taekwondo Federation, where the principle objective will be the classification for that you set 3 years ago has now been achieved?
First I want to clarify that the news was in approximately September 2010, I´ve only been working with the Finnish Team for about a year and a half, and with Suvi yes I´ve worked for quite a few years, seriously with Olympic goals since the year 2006, which now has come true. My arrival to the team was well accepted, because it was a due to a petition on behalf of the athletes, so I had their support to direct this project. As to my feelings, I don’t know how to describe it, it’s a huge personal satisfaction and still to this day I think I´m in a dream.
SM: How did you begin in Taekwondo?
I started practicing when I was 4 years old in a small karate school founded by Chuck Norris in the USA, in Florida. I have 2 older brothers and my parents wanted them to learn how to defend themselves, and since I always wanted to do the same thing as they did, I also started karate. About 2 years later my parents changed us to a Taekwondo gym and I´ve been practicing ever since. My biggest achievement from when I lived in the USA was a gold medal in sparring in the Junior Olympics when I was 8 years old. Because of my family, we moved around a lot to different countries and I didn’t really settle down in any gym until we moved to Spain and I found the Hankuk International School when I was 15 years old.
SM: Since when have you dreamed of being in the Olympics?
I´ve always known that I was going to dedicate my life to sports. Since I was little, the only thing I ever wanted to do was play sports, any sport, and I was happy. I was very lucky to have parents that supported me in everything; they would take me to trainings every day, some days even 2 different trainings in different places because I played more than one sport. They would pay for my trips if I had to go to competitions, they even went to talk to the principle of my school to let me out of class 2 hours early every day so that I had enough time for training and rest. My whole childhood has led up to this moment, I´ve always dreamed of going to the Olympics. I participated in the 2008 Preolympics in Istanbul, and since then my only goal has been to prepare for the 2012 Preolympics. And now that we achieved the goal, I can´t even begin to describe how happy I am.
SM: How did you end up in Spain? And how is your work between Finland and Spain?
Well I moved to Spain about 10 years ago when I was 13 years old. Unfortunately my dad got sick when I was 18 and my family had to move back to Finland, and I had to decide what to do and I decided to stay here in Spain to continue with my sports career. Now I train here in Madrid in my club on a daily bases and I only travel to Finland for the National Championships and training camps, I try to use those trips to Finland whenever I can to see my family, but the work is done here in Spain.
JR: You´ve worked with many athletes, what balance do you make of your career now that you have achieved such an important goal?
Yes, during the 20 years I´ve worked as a trainer and coach, I´ve had the chance to train great athletes such as Belen Asensio (2 times World Champion), Sara Barbero (European Champion), Manuel Beloqui (Bronze Junior World Championships), Lara Sanchez (Bronze Junior World Championships), Lucia Sanchez (European Cadet Champion), Alberto Llorente (Spanish Champion), Raquel Hernandez (Silver Junior World Championships) and a long list of Spanish National Champions, I continue to have a great relationship with the athletes that have finished their careers and all of them have been very attentive with the development of the preolympics. In this particular project with Suvi, it’s a very attractive project because we develop the whole process together, from the daily trainings up until the day of the competition where we work together I try to help her in everything I can and then we round up the conclusions of the matches and keep working to progress in the daily trainings. You learn a lot as a coach in the big events, which we can then transfer to the trainings. To sum up: I am very happy to have helped an athlete achieve the OLYMPIC DREAM, I feel like this is the beginning to a new stage in my life as a trainer and coach.
JR: How is the process of work between Spain and Finland?
It´s a complicated process, a lot of traveling between Spain and Finland, plus all the competitions we go to, training camps etc. We had to create a model of a structure, organization, financial matters, personalized trainings etc. based on our needs.
JR: What do you think about the changes Taekwondo has overcome in the last years?
I personally like the changes that are being made, the separation of the top athletes in the draws, the PSS, video replay, more points for difficulty of the techniques etc. I think the scoring system is now fairer for everyone and the matches are more dynamic.
SM: You´ve been competing at a high level for 10 years now since the Junior World Championships in 2002, do you think this is your best moment? Why?
Yes, without a doubt this is the best moment of my sports career. Every athlete prepares for this moment, especially minority sports, it´s the way for your country to know you, and if you´re lucky and you win a medal then the whole world knows of you. It’s a reward for all those hours spent in the gym, all the injuries you´ve had to overcome, for every time you´ve fallen down and had to pick yourself back up. When you achieve that place for the Olympics, you forget everything else. How many people can say that they´ve participated in the Olympics? Not very many, my country has a lot of history in the Olympics, but ever since sport was professionalized they´ve had a very hard time classifying for the Olympics in every sport. So I am very happy to have achieved the classification for the Olympics because one more member on the Finnish Olympic Team means much more for Finland than for most countries.
JR and SM How did you experience the Preolympics from the chair? And Suvi how did you experience it inside the area?
Jesus: I experienced it the same way as every coach, with a lot of tension, but the truth is that the tension was something exciting, and nice because I could see Suvi working constantly, there were many difficulties in each match, but I could always see her concentrated and doing the work that we had practiced, even with her mistakes, I wasn´t worried, it was something natural, we were always very calm, searching for the correct solutions in the different situations. Above all, I had a lot of fun, I really enjoyed the competition.
Suvi: I was actually much more relaxed than in any other competition, I knew that I had trained well, I knew that my opponents were the best competitors in Europe and I knew that to be able to beat them, I had to be relaxed and work hard in each match. The first fight was one of the hardest for me since I was losing be 5-1 in the 3rd round with only one minute left to tie up the score. The truth is that even though I had many difficulties in the matches, I was able to maintain a calm state of mind which is always the hardest thing for me. I didn´t feel the tension in my body the day of the competition, but the next day when I woke up in the morning, every single muscle in my body ached! Haha I couldn´t even lift up my arms!
SM: Do you feel that you have adapted to the PSS, was it difficult to adapt?
I feel like I have adapted well, obviously I am very short for the -57kg category and its hard to fight against the taller opponents yop chagi (side kick), and I think that the tall competitors have a bigger advantage with the PSS system, but apart from that, I think the electronic protectors are good and fair for everyone.
JR and SM: What do you think you will find in London?
JR: I hope to see all the athletes and Olympic trainers, and I hope to enjoy every second of the Olympic Games.
SM: I really just want to enjoy the biggest sports event of the planet! To be in the Olympic Village with the best athletes of the whole world, it’s a dream come true.
JR and SM: Do you dream with the Olympic Podium?
Jesus: I think everything is possible, now it depends on different factors such as; not having any injury that prevents us from preparing to our maximum, that the decisions made during the matches be the correct ones, and on the capability of the competitor to be as close as possible to her normal “self” on the day of the competition. After that it will depend on how the competition develops. Above all, I hope to enjoy all of this.
Suvi: I am going to do everything that I can to achieve it, the important thing is to get there in the best shape possible, once you´re there, anything is possible.
JR and SM: Thank you very much, here you can write what you want, give thanks or Greetings or anything that we didn´t ask you before.
As you know, behind a sports success there are a lot of people and institutions that are working, I want to thank the Finnish Taekwondo Federation and the Finnish Olympic Committee for believing in our Project, I want to thank the technical team that Works with Suvi, her sports doctor: Dr. Juan Carlos Hernandez Yañez, her physiotherapist: Pedro Chueca, physical trainer: Carlos Fernandez, injury prevention trainer: Carlos, massage therapist: Luis Iturriaga, 2nd trainer: Jose Luis Lara and assistant: Alvaro Rios, who study the opponents, and a special thanks to all the members of the HANKUK International School, who are constantly motivating Suvi and creating a great training atmosphere. Also to the Finnish taekwondo club Budokwai who supports Suvi in Finlnd, Coaching Saul Rios and Manuel Hidalgo. To everyone I´ve mentioned, thank you so much, none of this would have been possible without you.
Also I want to thank masTaekwondo for giving us the chance to express ourselves and for the great work you are doing to broadcast taekwondo news around the world.
Translation: Silvana Ramírez Cuevas
Original Note (Spanish): Jesús Ramal, Suvi Mikkonen y un gran logro para Finlandia
Claudio Aranda, Exclusive masTaekwondo.com