While such team sports have been commonly held in the past at various student events around Rovaniemi, deep snow judo is a seldom held competitive event, this year being its second time in Rovaniemi (the first at last year’s Mad About Snow). In fact, according to our sources and the internet, Rovaniemi seems to be the ONLY place in the world where deep snow judo is practiced competitively.

This year’s competition saw 10 participants compete in the elite division (9 from Finland and 1 from Spain), and around 20 or so participants, mainly international and local university students, competing in the open amateur division. The elite division attracted some of Finland’s top judo competitors, including Tuomo Seikkula who placed first in this year’s event. It is not a surprise the event attracted some of judo’s best as the sport enjoys a large support base in Finland. According to Jani Suokanerva, International Faculty Coordinator for Law and Education at the University of Lapland, there are presently around 10,000 officially registered competitors in the Finnish Judo Association, around 100 of which live in/around the Rovaniemi area. Suokanerva, who competed in this year’s competition, placing 5th and the only competitor to win a round from Seikkula, has been a practitioner of judo for over 20 years and recently was awarded “Judo Trainer of the Year” by the Finnish Judo Association. When asked, “What is the difference between traditional judo and deep snow judo?” he explained, “Deep snow judo is simply judo with modified rules, particularly in regards to scoring points. In snow judo, points are awarded if a competitor steps outside the designated competition area or if any body part besides the feet touches the ground. In traditional competition, points are usually only gained by throwing your opponent to their back and keeping them there. You could say that deep snow judo is like a mix between traditional judo and sumo wrestling”. Commenting on the atmosphere of this year’s competition, Suokanerva remarked, “The event was a lot of fun and we had a really good turnout – the number of participants and spectators grew from last year. We expect it will be even bigger next year”.

Already known worldwide as the home of Santa Claus and Lordi, it now appears Rovaniemi can add “home of deep snow judo” to its unique resume, as well as add yet another sport to the seemingly endless list of cool outdoor activities the city has to offer. If you are interested to learn more about next year’s deep snow judo event, have a look at the Mad About Snow website http://www.madaboutsnow.fi. If you are interested to learn more about judo in Finland, you can visit the Finnish Judo Association website http://www.judoliitto.fi (in Finnish only).

by Chris Brennan