A chat with Finland’s “grand old man”
January 29, 2020 by Ville Mäki in Interview with comments
In a disc golf-crazed country, Janne Hirsimäki is one of the originals.
He’s come up through the sport over the past decade yet probably doesn’t register with fans in the States.
Ultiworld caught up with Hirsimäki before his tenth pro season to learn a little more of what makes him tick.
This interview has been translated from Finnish to English.
Ultiworld Disc Golf: In Finland, you are pretty well known for an average player, a household name. Even Finland’s “grand old man.” Overseas you’re somewhat unknown. Could you tell us how long you have played and how old are you for starters?
Janne Hirsimäki: I started playing in fall 2010, so ten years. I was born in 1978.
UWDG: Did you start playing with friends, or how did you find disc golf?
JH: I wandered to a local course when I was jogging. After that, I tried to get some friends to play with me. I got hooked, the friends didn’t. At the time we were playing with ultimate discs, so I bought some new equipment the very next day.
UWDG: Was it easy to find discs on your local store? Or did you have to go and buy some from Jussi Meresmaa’s trunk?
JH: Yes, there were some in our local Intersport (sporting goods store), mainly because our local club had been active. After that purchase, I soon met the Powergrip.fi guys and made friends with them.
UWDG: So you started competing fairly quickly after starting this new hobby? Did it take you a year, maybe two?
JH: Straight in that same fall, PDGA-Tammisaari was my first competition. The next spring I bought a membership. That’s how it all started. In the very first competitions, I didn’t have to play with a membership.
UWDG: Did you have any earlier experience from sports that you had competed in? What were those?”
JH: I have played Finnish baseball since I was 10. Earlier I also did some orienteering.
UWDG: Oh, Finnish baseball, do you think that, that helped with the transition to disc golf? For example, was forehand a natural way to throw the discs for you right away?
JH: I’m sure it (Finnish baseball) has helped me. It’s been easier to throw with forehand, however I had to learn a more refined technique to throw.
UWDG: Ok, as we now know both ways of throwing, backhand, and forehand, are now equally as good for you. You have been working together with Powergrip for a long time now. They were your first sponsor. Are you still continuing your journey together?
JH: Yes, we are. They are more of a family now than just sponsors.
UWDG: Powergrip doesn’t manufacture discs though…so what discs are in your bag for the upcoming season?
JH: Dynamic Discs, reinforced with a few Latitude 64 discs.
UWDG: Last season was a great success for you. You won the Finnish Nationals Masters (MP40) division and the World Team Disc Golf Championships as the Finnish captain. Was there something you didn’t accomplish in 2019?
JH: Men’s pro open in the Finnish championships didn’t go so well. The course was challenging for me, and my preparation for the competition was difficult. I had some problems with my back.
UWDG: Not so young man..
JH: Yes, age is slowly catching up.
UWDG: However is it possible to raise your goals for season 2020? What is the main target for 2020?
JH: European champion in the MP40 and a few Finnish championships (to take part in them). 2021 I’m going to take part in the world championships in the master’s division (be aware!).
UWDG: Now that you mentioned the problem with your back. Have you been focusing on something specific in your training this winter? All around maintenance of your body, explosiveness, stamina…
JH: Maintenance, definitely. I’m also trying to balance my physique. I have help from physique coaches. They are based in Turku. I buy some coaching from them. Turku has the best coaches.
UWDG: How many times do you practice in a week?
JH: It has varied between 10 to 15 times a week. I count all the practice sessions which may include: stretching, mobility, coordination, and throwing/putting.
UWDG: Have you learned/or found out anything new in this season’s training sessions? After all, you have been training quite a long time now.
JH: In the winter I’m less enthusiastic to go outside to throw. So I try to maximize the quality of my throwing sessions. In the winter I throw even less than in the earlier years.
UWDG: Let’s try this…fill in the blanks: I missed a ___ putt. It was in the _____ and I experienced the biggest disappointment of my disc golf career.
JH: When I missed this 5.5-meter putt. It was the Finnish Nationals pro open 2018 at Tampere. I finished second behind Leo Piironen. The other one was a 12-meter putt on a second sudden death hole in the European MP40 championships, also in 2018. I finished second behind Sylvain Gouge.
UWDG: Some happier stuff then…fill in the spaces: After the last put on ____ it was ____ and I had won _____, after that I ____.
JH: After the last put on Mäetaguse frisbeegolfrata, it was 2019 and I had won the Team World Championship, after that I raised my hands as a world champion!
UWDG: Three quick ones to the end. Disc golf, Olympic sport, yes or no?
UWDG: Ham or turkey?
UWDG: Water or soda?
UWDG: Finally, who has the best calves for disc golf in Finland?
JH: Riki Vink 😉