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Snowboard star Pikkujämsä's pride at Finland spot

Finland may not win UEFA Women's EURO 2022, but defender Elli Pikkujämsä is already a European champion, albeit in another walk of life.

Elli Pikkujämsä
Elli Pikkujämsä UEFA

Multi-talented Elli Pikkujämsä made her debut for Finland's women's football team in 2019, but by that point, she had already made her name on the world stage as an international snowboarder.

So gifted was she, that Pikkujämsä took a silver medal at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, and a year later won the European Cup in the same slopestyle event.

Despite her qualities on the piste, it was on the pitch that the 22-year-old eventually decided to focus her talents, playing for Finnish clubs Turun Palloseura and FC Honka Espoo before joining Swedish side KIF Örebro in 2020.

Here, she explains how she made the call to concentrate on football and which elements of snowboarding have helped her career develop.

Pikkujämsä is representing her country once more at Women's EURO 2022
Pikkujämsä is representing her country once more at Women's EURO 2022UEFA via Getty Images

Elli Pikkujämsä on… the benefits of talent in two different sports

I did snowboarding when I was younger, and I participated in the Youth Olympic Games as well as the Junior World Championships, so that is where my experience comes from, but I always say that it has definitely been useful for football too..

Snowboarding is an individual sport, so I have learned how to handle pressure as an individual. Of course, now we are in a team so it is different, but I think it is still somewhat useful to have this previous experience.

Mentally, snowboarding is a different type of sport, but it does build a lot of core strength and leg strength too. And I do feel these are also some of my strengths on the football field.

When you succeed as an individual athlete, you share the victory more with your coach and your family or your parents. But as a team, you celebrate with 20 other people, plus the rest of the crew, so the success does feel slightly bigger.

Elli Pikkujämsä on… her footballing journey

The first time I played for a team was when I was seven years old. My friend asked me if I wanted to join their practice.

I continued with both hobbies for a long time, up until my last Snowboard World Cup competition in 2017. A year after that, I got injured and I switched clubs, so a couple of incidents like this meant that I just started focusing more on football – I have never regretted it and I can play on a professional level now, which has always been a dream of mine.

Play women's football where you are

Elli Pikkujämsä on… strength in testing times

There have been many ups and downs, especially when I quit snowboarding. I guess it was kind of an identity crisis for me, there was a lot going on.

I always try to tell the younger ones to remember to enjoy themselves. Of course, there will always be those moments that you are not going to enjoy, and you are thinking to yourself and questioning whether or not you can do it. Then I just try to remember those days when I was kicking a football in the back garden with my friends. At the end of the day, it’s just about your love of the sport.

When I was younger, I would say I dealt with many issues by myself, but as I’ve got older, I have been receiving more emotional support and it has been really good to have that support, so that I don’t hit rock bottom again.

Elli Pikkujämsä on… being a Finland player at UEFA Women's EURO 20222

Pikkujämsä (L) competes with Denmark's  Sofie Bredgaard
Pikkujämsä (L) competes with Denmark's Sofie Bredgaard AFP via Getty Images

It means the world to me. We have been waiting for this for a long time, never knowing what would happen, but now we are here and I made it as one of the 23 players in the national team. It is truly amazing.

The more experienced players can sometimes support us [younger ones] with certain things. Experience gives you confidence and they have a particularly important role to play, as they have been through it before.

How women's football has grown in Finland