Finnish ski jump legend Matti Nykänen will not be getting a state funeral, but he will be getting his funeral funded by the state.
“Minister Terho thinks that Nykänen has deserved it for his achievements in sports”, Special Adviser Toni Ahva told Helsingin Sanomat newspaper.
In the days following Nykänen’s death, Terho had floated the idea of an official state funeral, but Nykänen’s family said they would prefer just a small private ceremony.
However, ice hockey charity organisation Pietarinkadun Oilers offered to pay for the cost of the funeral, before saying they were happy for the state to pick up the tab instead.
“Our goal is that Matti gets the funeral he deserves and now it is happening” says Oilers chairman Mato Valtonen on the charity’s Facebook page.
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Finnish sports royalty
Nykänen is widely considered one of the finest ski jump athletes of all time, winning five Winter Olympic medals – one gold and a silver at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics; and three more golds four years later in Calgary.
He won nine World Championship medals including five golds during his career from 1981 to 1989; and notched up 46 World Cup competition wins, including the overall title four times. He also claimed 22 Finnish championship medals on his way to becoming the only ski jumper to win all five of the sport’s biggest events.
Troubled life after sporting success
Nykänen’s life away from the ski jump was far from golden however.
Troubled by alcoholism, and plagued with legal run-ins that saw him serve prison time for spousal abuse and for violent assaults, Nykänen had trouble coping with fame and life after sports.
He spent more than two years behind bars after stabbing a friend in 2004; and another 16 months for assaulting his wife in 2009.
Nykänen’s alcoholism, lurid private life and years of criminality became constant fodder for Finnish tabloids as the former golden boy of the ski jumping world was repeatedly arrested on accusations of assault, abusing his partner by strangling her, and manslaughter – although the latter charge was dropped due to insufficient evidence.
The former ski jump star found moderate success as a pop singer and released three albums, and performed as recently as two days before his death to an enthusiastic small crowd at a Helsinki restaurant.