Matti Nykänen

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameMatti Ensio•Nykänen (-Paanala)
Used nameMatti•Nykänen
Nick/petnamesMasa, Nykä, Nykäs-Matti, Masa-hiiri
Born17 July 1963 in Jyväskylä, Keski-Suomi (FIN)
Died4 February 2019 in Joutseno, Lappeenranta, Etelä-Karjala (FIN)
Measurements177 cm / 54 kg
AffiliationsJyväskylän Hiihtoseura, Jyväskylä (FIN)
NOC Finland
Medals OG
Gold 4
Silver 1
Bronze 0
Total 5


Matti Nykänen is the winner of a record four Olympic gold medals for ski jumping, and is still considered one of the greatest ski jumpers ever. At the 1984 Winter Olympics Nykänen won the large hill competition and placed second on the normal hill behind Jens Weißflog, before winning both events in 1988, when he also won a third gold medal in the newly introduced team event. He was also the World Champion on the large hill in 1982 and won four World Championship golds in a row in the team event in 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1989. He also won a silver in 1985 on the normal hill, bronzes on the large hill in 1985 and 1989 and in the team event in 1982 at the World Championships. Nykänen also competed at the World Ski Flying Championships, winning a gold in 1985, silver in 1990, and bronzes in 1983, 1986 and 1988. In all, he won a total of 46 World Cup competitions (more than any other ski jumper through 2009) and he won the overall World Cup title four times between 1983 and 1988. Nykänen also won the Four Hills tournament twice (1982-83 and 1987-88) and won the jumping competition at the Holmenkollen Ski Festival in 1982 and 1987. In 1987 Nykänen was awarded the Holmenkollen Medal (shared with Hermann Weinbuch). Nykänen won 13 Finnish titles in ski jumping and was selected as the Finnish Athlete of the Year in 1985 and 1988.

A controversial and often ill-tempered individual, Nykänen earned considerable respect for his sporting talents but little for his general behavior. In 1991, after his retirement from sports, Nykänen launched a career as a pop singer. His first album Yllätysten yö (The Night of Surprises) was published in 1992 and sold over 25,000 copies. Nykänen became the second Olympic gold medalist after Tapio Rautavaara to sell a golden record in Finland. His next album Samurai (1993), though, was not very successful, mainly because of his heavy use of alcohol, stories of domestic violence as both the perpetrator and victim and multiple engagements, marriages and divorces. In 1996 Nykänen legally changed his name to Paanala, which was his then-current wife’s surname, but he changed it back in 1998 after a divorce.

In 1996 Nykänen tried his hand in politics for a short while, when he was elected to the Uuranen City Council. But at the end of 1990s Nykänen had severe financial difficulty and was even forced to work as a stripper in a casino, before he met sausage millionairess Mervi Tapola in 1999, who he married in 2001. In 2002 Nykänen made a comeback as a singer and released the single Elämä on laiffii (Life is Cool), and a Matti Nykänen cider brand with the same advertisement slogan was produced.

But the stories of his domestic violence remained and in 2001 Nykänen was accused of assaulting Tapola. The charges were later withdrawn when Tapola refused to testify, although a restraining order was imposed upon Nykänen. On 24 August 2004, Nykänen was arrested on suspicion of attempted manslaughter by the stabbing of a family friend after he had lost a finger pulling competition. He was found guilty of aggravated assault and sentenced to a 26-month jail term in October 2004, but since it was his first offense, he was released from jail in September 2005. While on probation, he was re-arrested four days later for again abusing Tapola. Nykänen was convicted again for four months on 16 March 2006, but soon after his release he stabbed a man in a pizza restaurant in Korpilahti. This time he was sentenced to two years in prison, but the term was later shortened to 60 days and 57 hours of community service.

In 2006 Nykänen produced his third album Ehkä otin, ehkä en (Maybe I Took, Maybe Not). After his last prison sentence it seemed that Nykänen had made some effort to stay out of trouble, as he started ski jumping again, winning the 2008 World Senior Championships, and he started his own cooking show on Finnish television in 2009. But on Christmas Day 2009 Nykänen was arrested again, under suspicion of injuring his wife Tapola with a knife and trying to throttle her with a bathrobe belt, only to be released three days later when his wife dropped the charges. It was later revealed that the couple had filed a divorce request on 14 separate occasions during the summer of 2009, but they were always withdrawn a few days later. The saga of Matti Nykänen, possibly the greatest ever ski jumper, ended with his death in 2019.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1984 Winter Olympics Ski Jumping (Skiing) FIN Matti Nykänen
Normal Hill, Individual, Men (Olympic) 2 Silver
Large Hill, Individual, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
1988 Winter Olympics Ski Jumping (Skiing) FIN Matti Nykänen
Normal Hill, Individual, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
Large Hill, Individual, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
Large Hill, Team, Men (Olympic) Finland 1 Gold

Olympic Records

Records may have been broken subsequently during the same competition.
Games Date Sport Event Phase Mark Pos
1984 Winter Olympics 12 February 1984 Ski Jumping (Skiing) Normal Hill, Individual, Men Jump #1 91.0 1
1988 Winter Olympics 23 February 1988 Ski Jumping (Skiing) Large Hill, Individual, Men Jump #1 118.5 1

Special Notes