On the road to Tokyo: The world’s fastest wheelchair racer, Leo-Pekka Tähti
Will the Paralympic wins continue?
Leo-Pekka Tähti was born in Pori, Finland, in 1983. Despite his congenital spinal cord injury, Leo-Pekka had a normal childhood and began doing sports at a young age, his first sport being wheelchair basketball. Wheelchair basketball has indeed remained his secondary sport alongside wheelchair racing to this day.
Leo-Pekka started wheelchair racing at 14 and it wasn’t long before he completed his first half marathon with the result of 1:26:49. Since then, Leo-Pekka has come far, as his current record for a full marathon is around the same at 1:46:04!
Alongside his own sport training, Leo-Pekka has acquired a vocational qualification in coaching, which may come in useful once he retires from his career as an athlete.
Wheelchair racing is one of the most popular disability sports in the world and it has been a part of the Paralympics since the first Games held in Rome in 1960.
The distances of the individual competitions are the same as in running: 100, 200 and 400 m sprints, middle distances of 800 and 1 500 m, long distances of 5 000 and 10 000 m and the marathon, which is the longest.
Leo-Pekka’s training has been defined by determination and a goal-oriented mindset since the very beginning. After he began wheelchair racing in 1997, it only took Leo-Pekka a few years to reach the top of his sport in Finland. In 2000, he broke the Finnish records in both 200 and 10 000 metre distances, and in the following year he was already representing Finland in the European Championships.
In 2002, his team was joined by coach Juha Flinck, whom Leo-Pekka credits with his amazing development over the following years. In 2004, Leo-Pekka already celebrated his first Paralympic gold medal in Athens, which has been followed by almost 30 other major competition medals.
Since Athens, Leo-Pekka has been unbeatable in the 100-metre distance. This year is special as, according to his own words, the Tokyo Paralympics will be Leo-Pekka’s last. This is why he will be giving his best this season - the goal is to be stronger than ever!