Living Legend Karoliina Rantamaki Pursuing Golden Dream with Finland

Mark StaffieriContributor IIApril 4, 2013

Rantamaki (Donning number 29) during player introductions (Photo by Mark Staffieri)
Rantamaki (Donning number 29) during player introductions (Photo by Mark Staffieri)

As the only member of the Finnish national team to have competed in four Winter Games, Karoliina Rantamaki is the team’s resident living legend. Having logged 233 points in 294 international appearances, Rantamaki is to women’s hockey in Finland what Hayley Wickenheiser means to hockey in Canada.

Having recently celebrated her 35th birthday, Rantamaki debuted with the Finnish national team at the 1997 IIHF Women’s Worlds, hosted in Kitchener, Ontario. Her return to Canada in 2013 marks the 12th Women’s Worlds that she will be competing in. When asked if she sees herself as a leader, she replied, “Of course. I have much experience over many years. I think I can help the team.”

When discussing the topic of being one of the all-time greats in women’s hockey, Rantamaki approaches it with humility, “I don’t know. I just play hockey and I love to play. I just want to win and help my team anyway I can.” Of note, the Finnish League MVP award is named in her honour.

A great point of pride for Rantamaki is seeing fellow teammates Noora Raty and Mira Jalosuo lead the Minnesota Golden Gophers to an undefeated season during the 2012-13 NCAA season. “I am proud. That year, they won every game and played really well. It shows that there are many good players all over the world.”

One of the memorable moments for Rantamaki was participating at the first women’s ice hockey tournament at the Winter Games; held in Nagano in 1998. The experience would bring Rantamaki the first of two Winter Games bronze medals over a distinguished career.

“That was unbelievable. A great first time! I was quite young during that moment. I had a great time (in Nagano) and it was great to win a bronze medal.”

While Rantamaki is a hero to an entire generation of young Finnish hockey players, she had an opportunity to play on a line with one of her hockey heroes. “When I was young, Riikka Nieminen was an influence. Many years later, we would get to play together on the same line. It was a great thrill.”

For Rantamaki, the great highlight of her career was the opportunity to win another bronze medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. “We beat Sweden in overtime. We won the bronze medal for the first time in 12 years. It is always great when we can beat Sweden.” Heading into the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, a gold medal would be treasured for Rantamaki. “That was my dream since I was a young girl. I am working for that.”

"All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated"