Mika was a rider that showed the world that if you believe in yourself, and can match that belief with a determined work ethic, you can achieve great things. Mika certainly achieved great things. From the rider that seemed destined never to win an Enduro World Championship he went on to become one of the very best. The word legend is banded around a little too easily these days in my opinion, but Mika truly was a legend.
I am fortunate to have many great memories of Mika – of the long-haired guy from Finland I was lucky enough to become friends with. Of time spent with him and his wife Marika in Las Vegas casinos. Of time spent chewing the fat while having lunch with them both the day after he claimed his fifth consecutive EWC title late last year. Of time spent fishing with Mika at his home in Finland a few years back. But most of all I remember the countless times interviews turned into relaxed, hour-long conversations and how hopeless it was trying to grab a ‘quick quote’.
Mika loved to talk openly and honestly about his day, his career, his successes, but more than anything the sport of enduro – both the good the bad, the present and the future. Speaking from the heart, his words were always honest. His comments always considered and genuine.
It wasn’t all that long ago that ‘to do a Mika’ meant to do something stupid within EWC circles – to clock in a minute early, to make a complete hash of changing a tyre, to come within striking distance of winning a world title only to endure some kind of agonising misfortune.
But to become like Mika – the all conquering EWC title winning machine he was – is something most international enduro riders would give their right arm for today.
Mika’s focus, determination and drive to be the best was incredible. Only those that know what it takes to win one world title can truly grasp the commitment and sacrifices needed to claim five in a row.
Mika did things his way. When Finnish riders dominated enduro most set up camp in Spain. Mika opted for Italy. With TM and VOR he became Mr ISDE. With Husqvarna he failed to deliver. Then with Honda, when few believed he’d ever be the rider he once was, he became better than he ever was. Hunting down titles in the E1, E2 and E3 classes, Mika achieved success, earned respect, and then went in search of new challenges, new riders to beat, and new classes in which to prove himself.
Mika is known to most simply as the super-fast five-time Enduro World Champion. But it was his warm natured friendliness that made him a truly great guy to be around.
Goodbye Mika, you will be missed so, so much.