Finnish forward Viivi Vainikka is no stranger to the international stage. The 18-year-old helped Team Finland make history in at the Women’s World Championships in Espoo last year as the Naisleijonat claimed their first silver medal. She plays her club hockey with Team Kuortane in the Naisten Liiga, where she’s amassed 44 points (24 goals, 20 assists) over 23 games this season. She recently took some time out of her busy schedule at the Olympic Training Center where Kuortane is based to talk with The Ice Garden.
The Ice Garden: How did you get interested in hockey? How old were you when you started playing?
Vainikka: I was 5 years old when I [got] interested about hockey. I played outdoor hockey and lot of different games with my friends, and that’s why I wanted to test it, and like that I started [to] play hockey.
TIG: Take me through a day in the life at Kuortane. What’s your schedule like with hockey practice and studies?
VV: I wake up about 6:30 a.m. and then I go morning running. After that I go to eat breakfast and 8, I go to school for an hour. First trainings we have [at] 9 a.m., which could be morning ice or physics trainings, which will end [at] 11:30 a.m. Then I go to school to eat and couple lessons.
3 p.m. we have our next trainings, which ends about 6 p.m. Then I go to eat and back to “Home” to rest or sometimes I take some cold baths for recovery. I eat late snack about 8 p.m. and go to sleep [at] 10 p.m.
TIG: What do you like to do when you’re not on the ice?
VV: I like to hang out with my friends, watch some movies and series, and go bowling.
TIG: Can you explain what Riikka Sallinen means to young Finnish hockey players? Try to put it into words?
VV: Riikka was very exemplary on the ice and off the ice. I will always look up to her. It is very hard to put on words that how big idol Riikka is to me and I will honor her great career. It was a great honour to play with her in the same team.
TIG: How much pressure is there being a young player emerging on Team Finland, especially after the team earned silver at the 2019 Worlds?
VV: I think there is [not] any pressure to play, because on that team we have a good team spirit and everyone there can be herself on and off the ice, and that’s the biggest reason why our team has been so good.
TIG: Have you given any thought to coming to the NCAA? Gotten any offers?
VV: I was thinking on coming to NCAA, but at this time my mind is on going to Sweden. And I have gotten offers from there.
TIG: Do you have any mentors on the senior team? Any of the veterans you’re close to?
VV: I spend lot of time with everyone but I think Ronja Savolainen is kind of a mentor to me. She helps me on everything.