02/06/2016 15:41
Europe’s Beach Volleyball elite heartily invited to Kisakallio to help better the game
2016 CEV Beach Volleyball European Championship - Final

Biel / Bienne, Switzerland, June 2, 2016. As fans and media may have already understood, Beach Volleyball is kind of booming in Finland, and later this summer this country will be hosting a first CEV tournament, a women-only Satellite which is due to take place at the premises of Kisakallio Sports Institute from August 25 to 28. The Principal and Sports Director of Kisakallio, Asko Härkönen, travelled down from Finland to Biel / Bienne to follow the 2016 CEV Beach Volleyball European Championship Final, root for the ‘Suomi’ teams and invite as many elite teams as possible to the tournament which is set to follow in late August.

Riikka Lehtonen/Taru Lahti (pictured) and Essi Hasu/Anniina Parkkinen are carrying Finland’s dreams of glory on the shores of Lake Biel. And their fans back home already look forward to seeing the country’s top teams performing on home soil for the first international event of this calibre to take place in Finland in many years.

Kisakallio is a first-class sports institute which is run by a foundation, employs some 85 staff members and is financially supported also by Finland’s Ministry of Education, which provides about 35% of their annual budget. Last year Kisakallio hosted a first Beach Volleyball event when a double-gender NEVZA zonal tournament was organised there but this year the organisers have raised the bar even higher.

A CEV Satellite tournament will be taking place in late August but there are plans for a steady, long-term development of Beach Volleyball. “We take it step by step and of course this year we are aiming for something bigger and more challenging than what we did last year with the NEVZA event. There are also plans for the construction of a Beach Volleyball stadium right by the lakeside,” Härkönen who is a former decathlon coach and played Volleyball himself revealed, “but we want to make sure that everything we do is affordable and we do not go beyond what we can realistically manage and sustain at this stage.”

Kisakallio has established a strategic partnership with five sports – gymnastics, basketball, handball, orienteering and … Beach Volleyball. Finland’s national teams train there for the summertime before they move to a state-of-the-art indoor facility in Helsinki for the winter season. “The cooperation with the Finnish Volleyball Association is extremely important and Beach Volleyball is now part of our core business,” Härkönen continued. “We want to grow together and provide our teams with the best possible conditions to train and continue with their development.”

In many people’s mind, Finland is not a Beach Volleyball country, but after the Nyström twins acted as some kind of pioneers and won a European Championship bronze medal in 2010, the sport has been on the rise for quite some time, especially thanks to Volleyball queen Riikka Lehtonen and her young partner Taru Lahti. “They are very good ambassadors to the sport and the best marketing asset the Federation could ask for,” Härkönen continued. “They are very genuine and spontaneous in what they do and the way they talk to the media. On top of this, Riikka is a patriot and is very proud of playing for Finland on the international stage – as much as Taru is.”

Beach Volleyball has many strengths which make it a sport likely to further grow in Finland: “It has a very young, fresh image, it is trendy, nice to play and to watch and on top of this, the venues where tournaments take place are all very iconic,” Härkönen continued. “At the same time, it has evolved into a fully professional sport, people understand that it is much more than just a fun game and the Finnish Volleyball Association is doing a great job in marketing it.”

The representative of Kisakallio is hoping that many of the teams competing on the shores of Lake Biel will be travelling to Finland later this summer, thereby helping grow their tournament and Beach Volleyball in his home country as well: “We have been hosting international conferences and even Jörg Ahmann, who works with the German national team, came to lecture at our institute. Beside any prize money and ranking points at stake, I hope many members of Europe’s Beach Volleyball elite will be inspired to come to Finland in late August and will experience our hospitality as well as the passion and dedication of our staff and volunteers. This way, when they go back home, they will share their positive impressions with others and our tournament – and by consequence – also Beach Volleyball – will continue to grow in the future.”

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