"During my senior seasons, I have experienced everything you can get"


Teemu Hintikka has spent the last four years with the ISU senior team Lumineers in Espoo, Finland. (Credits: Matti Sten)

Teemu Hintikka has been thinking about the end of his career for several years. After one year of pandemic, this skater from the senior ISU team Lumineers in Finland quits the competition level but already has new projects in the synchro world. Interview

Who is Teemu?
Teemu Hintikka is a 23-year-old skater from Helsinki, Finland. "I’ve been living here for five years now, but I’m originally from Jyväskylä in Central Finland," said this man currently studying at the University of Helsinki to become a teacher (M.A in education).

He has skated for 19 years, and he has spent the last four years skating with the ISU senior team Lumineers in Espoo. "Synchronized skating has not been very popular among men in Finland, and during the last season, I was the only male synchronized skater in the ISU teams in Finland," he continued.

What did he do before skating with Lumineers?
Teemu started skating when he was about six years old by attending a skating school in Jyväskylä. "I also had several other hobbies like swimming and Finnish baseball. As perhaps for many others, the spark for skating was ignited by the encouragement from my parents, especially from my mom. The speed, glide, and joy of performing took me with them even though I wasn’t very skilled."

The young athlete skated in Jyväskylä for more than ten years, and it soon became a pastime activity for the whole family as his younger sister started synchronized skating, his mum was their team manager, and his dad was on the club board. "During the years in Jyväskylä, the skaters remained almost the same as we moved up the competition series from Juveniles and Advanced Novices to ISU Juniors and Mixed Age."

Lumineers Senior ISU team. (Credits: Matti Sten)

When he reached the age limit of an ISU junior, the idea of applying to an ISU senior team took off from a joke. "There hadn’t been any men in the Finnish senior teams for many years, and it seemed very unlikely for me to continue my career. It was clear for me from the beginning that I didn’t want a so-called shortcut to happiness, but the journey, the goals, and finding my way to the top were the things I wanted from my senior career. That’s why Espoo’s new and innovative ISU senior team Lumineers was a clear goal for me," Teemu explained.

In Lumineers, Teemu learned many physical and technical skills about synchronized skating elements and skating itself. "I also learned a lot about the meaning of team spirit and working hard together towards our goals. In the ISU senior category in Finland, there are three world champion teams, and despite that, we in Lumineers were more certain after every competition that our hard work will pay off someday!"

Why did he decide to end his career?
"Ending my skating career was a long-term decision. I originally thought that for years would be an appropriate time to skate in the ISU senior category so I could prepare myself during my last season. You shouldn't quit skating until you’re absolutely sure it is the right time. If you’re not sure, you shouldn’t quit because you may regret it. During my 19-year-old career and especially during my senior seasons, I have experienced everything you can get. Of course, I didn’t get to skate at the World Championships, but I got all the other amazing experiences and memories for a lifetime."

His decision was also affected by the current rules, which emphasize flexibility. "For example, the spiral position in the senior short program has been quite difficult for me, but you need to be flexible enough if you want to compete in both the short and the free programs. I also felt like I will be able to develop the sport better in the future in other roles than as a skater."

Teemu on the ice with Lumineers. (Credits: Teijo Kurkinen)

"The challenging season was both a difficult and an easy way to end my career," Teemu said. Indeed, his team was in quarantine when the first national qualifications were held at the end of 2020. The competition remained the only one for the season, except the special ISU Senior teams' event organized by the Finnish Skating Association at the end of February.

"Most of all, I missed all the international competitions during the last season, which I like a lot! It’s nice to travel with your friends and show your skills to an international panel of judges and audience, as well as to compare your skills with other international teams." Teemu especially appreciated competing at the Finlandia Trophy competition in Espoo. "However, I’m already looking forward to competitions in my new role as a coach!"

Which synchro team(s) will he coach?
Teemu started coaching already during his skating career. He coached a few years in Jyväskylä, and when he moved to Espoo, he coached skating schools and adults besides skating in Lumineers. "Now, when I ended my career, my role as a coach will grow a bit, and I work for one of the owner clubs of Lumineers, Espoon Jäätaiturit. This season I coach many different groups, especially Beginners, Novice B, Junior B, Adults, and other teams when needed as well."

"Synchronized skating has offered me knowledge of learning physical skills, growing physically and psychologically into an athlete, setting goals, perseverance, collaborative skills, and thousands of other aspects I think are the most central in succeeding in sports. I would like to share my expertise with the future skater generations and offer them as unique experiences as I have from my career."

Teemu Hintikka (Credits: Janne Koistinen)

For him, the best thing about skating itself is the speed and flow and performing and learning new things every day. The best moments as a skater have, of course, been all the competitions and events he has been participating in. For example, the first Challenger series competition, California Cup in Irvine (USA), was for Teemu an unforgettable experience. "Also, the everyday life in skating and all the fun coincidences and inside jokes with my teammates will be something I will remember for the rest of my life."

From his point of view, the best learning outcomes and a safe learning atmosphere come "as a result of collaboration between pedagogically skilled coaches and independent and eager athletes. At the same time, it's awesome to get to raise skilled future Lumineers skaters!"

Does he have other plans? Sure!
Alumni activity

First of all, Teemu and some teammates are developing alumni activity between former Lumineers skaters. "Our goal is to support the team as much as possible in different ways. Plus, I cheer as much as possible for my girlfriend, who is still skating in Lumineers," he said.

Growing as a coach and learning to become a competition director

"Beyond that, I want to grow into as good a coach as possible and share my expertise with the new generation of skaters. I also want to learn as much as possible about the sport from another perspective. Besides coaching, I also train to be a competition director for our club’s competitions, and I will gain experience by joining the organization team in international competitions organized by the Finnish Skating Federation."

(Credits: Teemu Hintikka)

The "Kindergarten" project

"During my years in Lumineers, we founded a social media phenomenon called Kindergarten which included four Lumineers skaters, me, Noora Solaranta, Isa Saarniala, and Fanny Mansikka. The idea started as an inside joke during the first senior season. We made an Instagram account where we shared funny moments. But the account unexpectedly aroused interest outside of the team, and we gained a lot of followers, especially from younger skating teams and grown-up skating fans. Social media also often gives a very polished and unrealistic picture of senior skating life, and we wanted to bring the followers closer to everything that skating in ISU senior contains."

The "Kindergarten" tour

A year ago, before the Covid situation got bad in Finland, Teemu did a tour around the country with Fanny, Isa, and Noora. "Our goal was to make senior skating more familiar to skaters from other cities than the metropolitan area." They visited four cities and hosted practice sessions and conversations where the younger skaters got to ask them questions about skating and overall life.

"We met almost 300 excited young skaters. The skaters often see senior skaters at competitions only for a few minutes on the ice. Now they got to skate with us, and we got to know possible future senior skaters and maybe made it easier for them to have the courage to apply to a senior team one day. In a small country like Finland, it is important to use all the potential available, also in the smaller cities, to make sure we stay on top of the world in synchronized skating. I think it would be good to organize similar tours in the future to develop the cooperation between skating clubs and the sport in Finland."

Future plans

Later on, he would also like to become a judge or technical specialist. As a whole, he would like to develop synchronized skating in different roles, both in Finland and internationally.