Risto Karasmaa

Name: Risto Karasmaa
Date of birth: 12 Nov 1950
Country: Finland
Weight: 80 kg
Lenght: 183 cm
Best Double Decathlon performance: 9458 (1982)
Number of Double Decathlon’s ever participated: 27
Best Double Decathlon discipline: Hurdles in the past, now I can’t name any
Hobbies: Archaeology, ancient Greek numismatics, athletics
Favorite food: Lasagne and other Italian food

  • The Double Decathlon takes place since 1981 and you are the creator of the IAUM, and  the Double Decathlon. How did you come to the idea to organize such extreme events?

 Since I started athletics in the early 1960’s I’ve always been interested in all the events.  I had already competed in all the 20 events before the first icosathlon and I think I’m the only one who has never made any single event personal best in ultra multievent competition. In summer 1981 I got an idea to combine all the events in one competition. Fortunately my club agreed to organize the event in September 1981.

  • In 1990 the first World Championships were organized in Finland. There were many athletes from Estonia. Who was responsible for this attention in Estonia? Now there are no athletes anymore from Estonia, and more and more of Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.

 In fact the first competition called World Championships was in 1994 and the first official World Championships were in Austria 2003 just after founding the IAUM
(practically all the ultra multievent competitions in Finland 1981-93 were “world championships”).
Estonia was a part of Soviet Union to 1991. At the end of 1980’s increased freedom in Soviet Union, “the Glasnost”, allowed the athletes compete abroad
more freely. Estonians, Lithuanians and Russians searched any possible competitions and contacted also me because I was a well known competition organizer in Finland. I arranged the athletes to many competitions in Finland, Sweden and Norway, mostly single events and I was also a manager of some world top class athletes.  I told their coaches about ultra multievents and some of them were interested if the Finnish organizer would pay the travelling and accommodation costs.

  • In the years after 1981 the Double Decathlon grew more and more and other countries organized the World Championships too. What made that the organization became more and more international?

The good results of the Estonian athletes become known also outside Finland e.g. British magazine Athletics Today wrote an article of ultra multievents. I also advertised in German magazine Leichtathletik. As a results a series of competitions were organized in Germany in the 1990’s.
But thanks to the the final breaktrough concerns to Richard Hunter (United Kingdom). He organized a national competition in 1999 and world championships 2000 and 2001 and has also a remarkable role in founding th IAUM.

  • What is your most beautiful Double Decathlon experience?

I cannot name any single experience there are too many.

  • This year, Joe Detmer (United States) broke the World Record Double Decathlon with an amazing score. Did you ever expect someone was going to break the World Record of Kip Janvrin?

Yes, some day but not yet in 2010. Joe’s WR was really a surprise.

  • The IAUM board consists of Brant Tolsma, Marnix Engels, David Purdon, Minna Pessa,Reidar Zapf-Gilje and you. Does everyone has a particular role in the board?

There is no active board at the moment. A new board must be elected in Lisse.
The board members must have particular roles, eg. Information, finances, competitions.

  • Next year you are going to participate the World Championships Double Decathlon in Lisse. It’s a real honour to have you over in Lisse! What do you expect of the event and the organization?

I’m sure everything will be fine in Lisse. I’ve competed two times in Holland and I’m sure you will do a great competition.

  • You are now 60 years old. Have you participated in all the World Championships since 1990? Do you have a target how many you would want to participate in total?

No. I retired after 1983 and returned in 1995. I think I’ll try to do at least one icosathlon every year (not necessarily world championships) as far I’m able to do it. Esa Paukku has the longest serie of icosathlons, every year from 1990 and now total of 30

  • Do you think the Double Decathlon is more sensitive for getting injuries then other athletic events?
    Have you ever been seriously injured during an event?

I think it’s not. Georg Franschitz, who had very important role in founding the IAUM said once that after five events there is only minor risk of injury because level of performance is after 5000 m only 95 % of maximum. I think he is quite right.

I’ve never injured seriously in ultra multievent competition. In Leiden 2007 I got a pulled muscle in my calf in triple jump but I was still able to complete the 10000 m.  In February 2009 I got a bad injury (broken tendon) in a bounding exercise and It took 1,5 years to recover completely from It.

  • What do you think of the future of the Double Decathlon? Will it grow more and more or will it stay at this level?

I hope it will some day be an official IAAF event, not in Olympic games or IAAF World Championships but similar status than e.g. half marathon has today.

Athletes from 22 countries have participated in ultra multievents. It’s only little more than 10% of the IAAF member countries. I hope the number will be at least doubled in the following 10 years. I think it’s possible.

We’ll need also more competitions. A small competition of 10-15 participants is quite easy to organize though booking the track for two days could be expensive.

  • Can you explain that substantially less women than men participate in the event?

I do not know about other countries but in Finland most coaches do not allow their athletes take part in ultra multievents. They think that the risk of injury is too big.

  • Which aspect of the Double Decathlon is your dream to change?

I hope people stop to think it’s too hard, too difficult or too risky. It is not.

  • What is the last thing you want to tell to all the readers of this interview?

Try the event. You’ll need not to be good in any single event but if you are average in all the 20 or 14 events you’ll be good ultra-multiathlete.

Helsinki 1983, Risto Karasmaa


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