Sustainability actions

Gymnasts competing at the highest level

Amateur and top-level sports are strongly interlinked in aesthetic group gymnastics. OVO Junior Team from Espoo is supported by the Lumo sponsorship and grant programme.

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A big sports centre is full of life. People come and go in a steady stream to exercise after a day at school or work. The door of the OVO Training Center at the heart of Esport Center opens to a narrow hallway with a long row of sparkling outfits on its walls. The audience is used to seeing them on the gymnasts in exciting competitions.

The outfits are an essential part of a carefully planned performance. The gymnasts sew the rhinestone jewellery onto the outfits themselves. However, before they step onto the floor to compete, they have to go through an enormous amount of work. The members of the Olarin Voimistelijat (OVO) Junior Team train 20–30 hours every week. They have training six times a week and, if possible, even twice a day. Monday is their only day off.

The hobby is also felt in the wallets and purses of their parents. They have to pay about EUR 800 every month for the hobby. This sum would likely be even higher without the support of sponsors. Lumo supports the OVO Junior Team by providing additional funds required for travelling to competitions, for instance.

We have a new team with a really good team spirit. This is visible in our performance. Everybody has the same goal. In team sports, motivating each other is essential.

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The captain and head coach of OVO Junior Team, Janna Kutila and Anneli Laine-Näätänen greatly appreciate the support from Lumo.

“Women’s aesthetic group gymnastics is not a sport that has weekly matches to follow. It’s difficult to get sponsors. The sport costs a lot for the parents, so the support helps tremendously,” says Laine-Näätänen.

“We are grateful for the sponsorship from Lumo; it helps a lot. With it, we can travel abroad,” says Kutila.

The coach and the captain practise the performance for the coming weekend on the evening of the interview. The competition is held in Finland and it is time for squaring away the finishing touches.

“Being captain is a great experience,” says OVO Junior Team gymnast Janna Kutila.

Warmups, gymnastics and strength

Weeknight training begins with warmups in a gymnasium with mirrored walls. The girls do ballet, and they stretch and bend themselves into unbelievable positions. The atmosphere is focused. The ballet coach gives instructions and guidance.

The captain of the team is also warming up in front of the barre. The fifteen-year-old ninth-grader started aesthetic group gymnastics when she was seven. Kutila became interested in the sport through the big sister of her friend who was a gymnast with the Olarin Voimistelijat OVO Team. She ended up in the same club.

“Aesthetic group gymnastics requires determination and teamwork. You have to be able to get along with everyone. You cannot just look after your own interests; you must think about what’s best for the team,” says the recently appointed captain.

Being captain entails lots of responsibilities. You have to remind the team of the schedule and convey messages from the head coach, for instance. Once a month, Kutila arranges a night out with the team to build team spirit.

“We have a new team with a really good team spirit. This is visible in our performance. Everybody has the same goal.”

In team sports, motivating each other is essential. As captain, Kutila tries to befriend everyone and ensure that no one is left out. She also receives support when she feels nervous. She says that she often feels like this when the team takes their starting positions in a competition. Her heart beats rapidly when she counts “three, four” on the carpet and the music builds up.

“I just focus on keeping calm and that I know what I’m doing.”

Kutila’s thoughts reflect the attitude of the entire team. OVO Junior Team is made of winners. Their most recent prize was 3rd place in the world championship in 2021. The championship was the highlight of Kutila’s career so far: she got to perform in front of a home audience in a great atmosphere.

“The coach has to demand a lot in training,” says OVO Junior Team’s head coach Anneli Laine-Näätänen.

Passion for helping others

After the warmups, the team moves to another gymnasium to practise their Queen of Hearts show. The choreographer and coach Anneli Laine-Näätänen gives detailed instructions. “Legs! Use your neck! Eyes to the audience!”

Laine-Näätänen has coached OVO Junior Team since 2016 and younger gymnasts even longer.

“Aesthetic group gymnastics has become more professional with increased demands. More mobility and strength as well as the lifestyle of a professional athlete is required from the gymnasts,” says Laine-Näätänen.

Her mission is to help the athletes further develop. This is her passion and it is imprinted in the team’s working.

“Our goal is to be the best in the world.”

This highly ambitious goal requires determined work, including warmups, gymnastic skills and strength training. The joy of learning new things must not be forgotten.

“I want to help these young people to feel well. They must feel good about coming to the sports centre for training.”

Laine-Näätänen knows the requirements of the sport and the gymnasium through and through. She was a competitive gymnast in individual and team events in her youth. The highlight of her career was in Prague in 2002 when OVO Dynamot, an adult team that she coached, won the world championship. Rhinestones glimmered and her firstborn snoozed in a stroller. A lot of good things were happening simultaneously.

Lumo sponsorship and grant programme celebrates its anniversary

The Lumo sponsorship and grant programme turns 10 this year. The programme supports Finnish top-level sports and the physical activity of young people at the individual and team levels.

Recipients of the Lumo sponsorship are selected once a year. With the sponsorship, Lumo support gifted young athletes with the attitude to get to the top of the world.

The recipients of the Lumo sponsorship in 2022 are Viivi Lehikoinen (400 m hurdles), Henry Manni (wheelchair racing), Niilo Moilanen (cross-country skiing), Oskari Mörö (400 m hurdles), Nooralotta Neziri (100 m hurdles), Emil Soravuo (artistic gymnastics) and OVO Team and Ovo Junior Team (aesthetic group gymnastics). The next sponsorship application period is in late 2022.

Lumo grants are awarded twice a year. The purpose of the grants is to support 12–20-year-olds who show commitment to training and the motivation to succeed. Lumo grants are primarily awarded to the children of Lumo residents. The next Lumo grant application period is arranged for March 2022.

Lumo sponsorship and grant programme

The Lumo sponsorship and grant programme supports Finnish top-level sports and the physical activity of young people at the individual and team levels. The programme, launched in 2012, promotes well-being through sports by sponsoring and awarding grants to gifted young athletes.

Lumo sponsorship and grants
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