Helena Takalo was one of the best female cross-country skiers of the 1970s. She made her international début at the 1968 Olympics, but with little success. But at her next major meet, the 1970 World Championships, Takalo won her first international championship medal, a bronze in the relay. At the 1972 Olympics, Takalo was again successful in the relay by winning silver and was fifth in the 10 km and ninth in the 5 km. At the 1974 World Championships, Takalo won a bronze in the 10 km and was fourth in the relay. The next two international championships, the 1976 Winter Olympics and 1978 World Championships, were the high peak of Takalo’s career. At the 1976 Winter Olympics, she medaled in every distance at which she competed, winning gold in the 5 km and silvers in the 10 km and relay. At the 1978 World Championships, she won golds in the 5 km and relay and a bronze in the 20 km. In 1976 Takalo also won her only victory at Holmenkollen, in the 5 km, and in 1977 she was awarded the Holmenkollen Medal. Takalo won her last international championship medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics, where she was third in the 10 km and she made her last international appearance at the 1982 World Championships, finishing fourth in the relay. Domestically Takalo won six individual Finnish titles (1971, 1975-76, 1978 in the 5 km and 1975-76 in the 10 km) and two relay titles in 1977 and 1980. She also competed in Finland in track and field athletics, winning the Finnish title in team cross-country running in 1971 and a silver at the 1971 Finnish Championships in the 1,500 metres. In 1978 Takalo was named the Finnish Athlete of the Year, while being chosen as the Finnish Female Athlete of the Year in 1975-76 and 1978. After her sporting career ended, Takalo worked as a sports instructor.