Matti Nykanen: Finland ski jumping great dies aged 55

Matti Nykanen
Matti Nykanen won three gold medals at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary

Finland ski jumping great and four-time Olympic gold medallist Matti Nykanen has died at the age of 55.

Nykanen is regarded as one of the best ever ski jumpers after a glittering 10-year career, which included 46 individual World Cup titles.

He won the large hill event at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo in 1984.

He went on to collect three golds at the Calgary Winter Games in 1988, when Britain's Eddie 'the Eagle' Edwards became a household name.

Nykanen sets the bar

While underdog Edwards won the hearts of the British public by finishing last in both the 70m and 90m events in Calgary, Nykanen's status in his homeland was elevated after becoming the first man to win all three gold medals in his event.

Dubbed the 'Flying Finn', Nykanen remains the most successful ski jumper in Olympic history with four golds and one silver medal to his name.

His long-term coach Matti Pulli has previously described him as the best ski jumper ever.

"His structure was excellent, he had very good thrust and he was persistent," Pulli said.

"He was child-like, almost like a cherub, and that charmed people."

Chequered life after sport

After retiring in 1991, when he finished 50th at that year's world championships, Nykanen struggled to transition away from sport.

He tried to forge a new career as a singer and briefly worked as a stripper.

Matti Nykanen
Four-time Olympic gold medallist Matti Nykanen attempted to launch a career as a singer after retiring from sport

His colourful personal life - including several marriages, violent behaviour, and alcohol-related incidents - also made the headlines.

Nykanen twice served prison sentences: a 26-month stint for a drunken stabbing in 2004 and 16 months for attacking his then-wife Mervi Tapola with a knife on Christmas Day 2009.

He was diagnosed with diabetes last year.

Nykanen is also remembered in his homeland for his one-line phrases that have been adopted in everyday use.

"The odds are fifty-sixty," Finns often quote him to describe a situation when things could take a turn either way.

'He was the greatest'

Former British ski jumper Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards on BBC World Service

"I hope that he will be remembered very fondly as the best jumper the sport of ski jumping has ever produced.

"Yes, he had a few problems, he was always drinking and he got banned from the Finnish team a few times because of his drinking, but the fact that he was the best in the world and the fact he dominated the sport, by far outweighs any problems in his personal life."

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