Words by Skye Darden :: Photos by: Petri Kovalainen, Reetta Kurvinen, Anja Hyysalo, Shay Williams
As with most extreme sports today, the levels and accomplishments are being pushed by young athletes every year. Unfortunately, there has come a price along with all this risk in becoming the next superstar. We have lost brothers and sisters along the way, as well as the countless that are now bound to wheelchairs. However, our various communities continue to move through the loss and often tragic stories to a better place.
I have always believed that with each loss comes a new soul that is saved. Not trying to get religious, but I really believe they are our protectors and can guide us through the good times and bad. As in snowboarding and skateboarding, freeskiing has been pushing the boundaries in what a modern athlete is capable of doing.
As a judge at some of the highest level events, I have seen first hand how much these kids are going for it. It is at these same comps or even in their segments from their videos that kids get to witness what these incredibly gifted young men and women are doing. The desire to win and the feel of putting a new trick to your feet is as powerful as any drug. These young skiers are having to challenge themselves, both mentally and physically to achieve their goals and their dreams. Because, it is every young riders dream to compete at X Games.
Pekka at the 2010 Jon Olsson Invitational.
This is the story about one such athlete that was on his way to competing for a spot at the X Games. Pekka Hyysalo was a few months shy from his 20th birthday, when a horrible crash, during a filming session in Yllaes, Lapland, Finland changed the direction of which his life was to become. I have known Pekka since he was competing in the Euro Open, when he was just 17. I had always admired that someone as tall and big as he is (he is 6'4") could pull the kind of tricks that guys half his size were doing. He is a very gifted athlete, but like many his age, had to also mature during a hectic pro skiing career.
Pekka has an amazing sense of humor, but sometimes this could have been mistaken for a brash sort of character. However, since the crash, I have been in contact with Pekka to get his story.
A story that is not only sad, but very inspiring:
windy that the rescue helicopter was not able to fly. From there I was transferred right away to the Oulu University Hospital to the Intensive Care Unit.
In closing, Pekka is an example of how we are pushing the level, but sometimes forget that there is real life behind the efforts. It is not easy to become a skiing superstar, but it is along that path that many are able to become better people.
Pekka had to learn that this life is more than just “becoming a pro” and has taken on a whole new challenge that most of us would never have to. Thank you Pekka for showing what a true heart can do for our sport and most importantly, our lives…
**New Interview: Released April 26, 2011**
For more info about Pekka, friend him on Facebook.
For more info about Petri's photography: petrikovalainen.com.
If you would like to donate to help Pekka's medical bills, click here.