By Shukin Mark Moderski on 8/4/2013 Back to Articles
“If you have a good idea and you believe it yourself make it happen” an interview with Ilka Kinnunen
I am very grateful to have had the oppertunity to interview Ilkka Kinnunen, the founder of the Strongman Champions League, one of the fastest growing strongman circuts in Europe.
I would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions for us at strength crew.com. You are currently in the middle of the SCL season and just weeks away from worlds strongest man competition in China.
Let me first correct the title about the China. The correct name is SCL China Team Worlds. The WSM is operating by IMG and starting middle of Aug also in China, but more south than where we were.
How long have you been involved in strength sports?
I have been involved with strength sport since I was 16 years. Starting with Power Lifting. My first Strongman competition was -89. Immediate with the big boys like Jon Pall Sigmarsson and Jamie Reeves.
At what point did you decide you wanted to become a promoter?
I got injured in competition, which was held in Iceland -96. That injury actually stopped my strongman career as athlete. I did one -97 in Australia but the injury was too bad and could not continue as an athlete. I wanted to continue in sport so I organized the first big event -96 Europe Strongest Man in Helsinki, which was sold out over 6.000 people in ice hall arena.
Do you still compete yourself?
Oh no. I don’t have time for compete myself. However I train of course every week 5-6 times. So it is now more like keeping myself fit and of course want to lift once in a while big weights.
We all love to watch the competitions but I think very few of us understand what goes on behind-the-scenes, how much work is actually involved in promoting events like these? You must have a large team working under you, please share with us some of your experiences.
We have excellent partners in different countries who we co-operate with. Without their effort the job would be almost impossible. I and my college Mr. Mostert run SCL itself and the most job is done by us two. So you can imagine how busy we are all year round. It is a full time job and never ends, or maybe for the Christmas
In 2008 You launched the strongman champions league, Tell us how it's grown over the years and the lessons you learned along the way.
Yes indeed SCL started 2008. First year we did 8 competition series, year after 10, and a year after 12. 2011 we had 13, 2012 14 and this year 16. So each year we are growing bigger. Of course in a beginning it was very hard job and us two put actually everything in it and took high risk, but like in any business sometimes it pays off. The most lesson I have learned is that if you have a good idea and you believe it yourself make it happen.
I noticed there are very few Americans on the circuit, why do you suppose that is?
That is true. We have Canadians now J.F.Caron one of the biggest star. Matt Wanat (USA) has been each year at least in one event, Travis Ortmayer, now we sent invitation to Mike Burke to compete in SCL Russia. Mike Jenkins will for sure gets invitations. We have sent in past also invitations to Derek Poundstone and Brian Shaw but they could not come on those events invited, In USA the level is high everybody knows that and hopefully in future we have more Americans competing also in SCL series.
What are your thoughts about strongman in America? Europe has a much longer history of feats of strength, do you think it's more a part of the culture there?
You have NFL, NHL, NBA, UFC, etc...all these sports have big guys also. And they are popular. My opinion is that Strongman sport fits well in. The sport needs lots of positive media coverage good characters and unbelievable results what human being can do and lift. Dione Wessels has done excellent job there creating the biggest amateur circle in world and also doing pro circle. Europe has long history about the strength and in some parts like in Scandinavia, East Europe, Russia, Middle Europe there are lot of characters who has been strong and powerful and left their name in history books. Here people truly glorify big and strong men.
Do strength athletes in Europe have rock star status?
Maybe not that big but lets take my home country Finland. Next week we are doing first time ever. Truck Pull World Championships in very small town middle part of Finland. On Friday 9th we are expecting over 10.000 people to arrive there. That tells how popular they are
Are there any plans to do SCL America?
We are all the time open for new locations, so you never know. Hopefully soon.
We recently had the Reebok Cross fit games here in America with a grand prize $275,000. It seems many people love to hate CrossFit for whatever reason; it has incorporated many Olympic style lifts with strongman activities. What are your feelings on the rapid growth of this sport?
Reebok has created the sport I believe. They have all what it takes make what ever big. Anyway personally I like Cross Fit and sometimes I train myself that. It is great sport. I recommend to everyone to try it out.
What are your short-term and long-term goals for SCL?
Our goal is to grow each year bigger. Get more prize money for the athletes, more events, new locations, and a bigger TV platform, finding new stars in to sport. Actually that covers short and long term goals.
What do you think is holding back the growth of strongman and woman in our country?
That is difficult question for me I don’t know the actual situation in USA now so hard to say.
What advice would you give to us in America who wishes to help increase the popularity of strongman?
Media comes first. Like here Strongman are lot on TV, Radio, Charity happenings, Expo´s, etc. so not only trying to get known thru the competition results, but also working hard outside. Creating positive images of the athletes is what makes popularity grow. This means that athletes, organizers have to work together so everyone benefits out of it at the end and of course it makes sport stronger and more well known.
We thank you very much for your time and wish you the best of luck with this year's circuit, please keep us posted of any photos or videos or anything you have. We hope to catch up with you again in the near future.
Thank you Mark for the opportunity to give this interview. I will send you first story from Truck Pull WC.