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Hannu Manninen, the return of the pilot

Finland’s Hannu Manninen is in Vancouver on a quest for his first Olympic title in the Nordic combined individual event. In skiing, Hannu Manninen is a real legend. He took his first steps at the World Cup and the Olympic Games in 1994 aged only 15. Two years later, he took his first international victory, which made way for 45 others, punctuated by four “Globe de cristal” [French press art and culture] awards, rewarding the winner of the World Cup.

Statistically, Hannu has stepped up to the podium for one race out of two, which is quite simply exceptional in a career of over 13 years. This means that Manninen is cited as the main favourite at each start line. His titles include three Olympic medals, of which one is a team gold from 2002, and six World Championship medals, which include three golds.

Ever higher

It was with relief that his adversaries learnt in May 2008 that the Rovaniemi native was retiring from sport to devote himself to his other passion and take on a new challenge: piloting airliners.

Solo flight for the Grail

When he announced his return to the circuit for the 2010 season, his fans were delighted, his rivals less so. He made a thundering return in the first stage of the season, with a victory in the second race. While the other competitors engaged in a merciless battle in the following stages, Hannu Manninen temporarily hung up his skis for two months to continue his pilot studies.

In Vancouver, the pilot will be back on track to fly down the ski jump and then swoop down the slopes and on any rivals who have gone ahead. Will Olympic gold be at the end of this new quest? In any case, Hannu will be able to count on the unfailing support of his younger sister, Pirjo, who is also competing in the cross country skiing event.

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