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Anders Brännkärr, Finland's first medalist at Holmenkollen

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On 11 December 1891 a boy was born in Nedervetil who was named Anders by his father. He never thought that 22 years later his son would become Finland's first medalist at Holmenkollen. That event happened in 1914 when he came in third in the 50 km. He repeated the exploit the following year. In 1913 he had entered Holmenkollen with start Number 6 and he represented Finland, but his first name didn't appear in the statistics.

In 1913 Finland sent an 8-man team to the Swedish ski competition in Östersund. It consisted of all Österbottningar: Hugo Hagström, Knut Tuomisalo-Hägg and Gunnar Andersson from Gamlakarleby; Anders Brännkärr and Justus Gåsjärv from Nedervetil; Julius and Herman Högnabba from Terjärv as well as Lennart Riska from Kronoby. Elis Hagström was included, but he emigrated to the US.

A newspaper clipping from Östersund's newspaper of February 1913 related that the Finns Niska won the 30 km, and Koskenkorva won the 60 km. On the longest stretch, 90 km, Anders Brännkärr fought his way to third place behind the Swede Haldo Hansson and Santeri Tasa from Finland.

The terrain in Östersund was difficult and the Österbottningar skiers broke their poles and skis. As a result of Anders Brännkärr's achievement at Östersund he was the only Finlander chosen to start in Holmenkollen in 1914. There he faced a more difficult terrain.

The Norse press related that Brännkärr sat on his skis on the difficult hills, whirling by at terrifying speed. But when the slide was ripe for an uphill swing, he sprang as a young lion in the chase.

Anders Brännkärr's third place was an unbelievably excellent placing, although he lost to Norwegian Lauritz Bergendahl who had 5 wins in Holmenkollen. Bergendahl also held a place of honor in the ski museum in Holmenkollen.

In 1914 Brännkärr was Number 42 when he represented Finland. To get from Nedervetil to Oslo and Holmenkollen was an achievement for him. Brännkärr's grandson Per-Erik Brännkärr said that his grandfather traveled alone by train and boat. When he came to Holmenkollen circumstances didn't favor smooth skiing. The contest couldn't be held at the appointed time because the snow had melted. Therefore Anders waited a week before the race could begin. The entire trip lasted three weeks. To top it all, he came down with pneumonia because of the cold accommodations. His equipment was not the best. At the Swedish ski contest at Östersund in 1913, he used 11-foot poles that were tarred with genuine Nedervetil tar, thin-soled ski boots and soft bindings completed the imperfect equipment.

At Holmenkollen he put his hopes into felt slippers with straps bound around the slippers. In order to get a rise to the top of the hills he had drawn a strap around his heels. Despite that he was handicapped on the downhill because the Norwegian had feather-light straps.

Friday 27 February 1914, Österbottningen (newspaper) wrote about the competition in Norway where our countrymen had already been for a week. At that time the Holmenkollen competition was moved ahead to 1-2 March. On March 3 Anders Brännkärr from Nedervetil took the bronze in the 50 km at Holmenkollen with a time of 4 hours 27 minutes 57 seconds.

In 1915 Anders Brännkärr was chosen again to represent Finland at Holmenkollen for the 50 km. Among 65 contestants were 3 Swedes and 2 Finlanders. As Number 45 was Matti Koskenkorva and as Number 56 was the durable Anders Brännkärr from the Nedervetil Youth Sports Club.

Again the victory went to Norwegian Lauritz Bergendahl with a time of 4.15.32. Third place Anders B. had a time of 4.37.08. In other words, he was 10 minutes slower than the year before. A. Dahlberg from Sweden was in second place. Matti Koskenkorva came in 9th, beaten by Brännkärr by ten minutes.

It was 1922 before a Finlander stood again at the prize podium. Then Anton Collin won ahead of Tapani Niku, a sport comrade whom Brännkärr esteemed highly. Regretfully Brännkärr was not taken up in Talviurheilun Tähdet. There one recalls that it was Anders Brännkärr from Nedervetil who was the answer to Finland's ski internationally.

Anders Brännkärr was a farmer. He was born 11 December 1891 and died in Nedervetil 30 July 1974. His active ski career stretched from 1908-1937. He won a 30 km. competition in Vasa 1913, but it was through third place in the Nordic the same year and third place in Holmenkollen that he received his international triumph.

From Historisk Nedslag, Österbottningen 125 År

English translation by June Pelo

(I discovered that Anders Brännkärr was related to me through my father - he was my third cousin, twice removed. JP)


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