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Pets bring balance to a top athlete’s everyday life

Pets bring balance to a top athlete’s everyday life

For a top athlete, sport is the number one thing in life – everything else is on its terms. Annimari Korte's days consist almost entirely of training, eating, and resting. Her two Siberian Huskies named Tokyo and Cairo and mixed-breed dog friend Raad provide a counterbalance to her sports-filled everyday life.

– Competitive sport is an everyday mental stress and rush for an athlete, Annimari surprises when asked if sport is a good counterbalance to the mental stress and rush of everyday life.

– Sport is often very stressful; every single training session and training day is meaningful to an athlete and can affect the whole year. Of course, it also brings the most joy to an athlete’s life, and that's why you do it, she explains.

Annimari knows what she is talking about. She is the fastest Finnish 100m hurdler of all time holding a national record of 12.72. She has run the qualifying standard to the Tokyo Olympics eight times, more than any other Finnish athlete, and represented Finland several times in world championships.

However, she has not had an easy career. Success has required determination and a positive attitude – a major dose of Finnish sisu as well when a bout of illness forced her to take a five-year break from competing in 2012.

Health comes first

– For a top athlete, sport is often the biggest content in life, but it's good to have other counterbalances, such as family and friends. Family is also a big help to me hen my dogs need someone to look after them during races and training camps.

Annimari now trains six days a week. She used to train 12 times a week, but since the autumn – after she started making her own training schedule – she has switched to a new training routine. Less is sometimes more.

– We usually start at 9.30 a.m. and finish between 12 and 1 p.m. I started planning my own training programme in August, and I have a coach who supervises all my training, says Korte.

Korte admits that although sacrifices are required in elite sport, it's up to you to decide what you consider to be sacrifices.

– There are many things an athlete can't do because they would take away from recovery or risk injury. When you succeed or achieve the results you've always dreamed of, it's worth all the sacrifices, pain, and stress, however.

Annimari's career has been marred by numerous health problems, the most challenging being eosinophilic esophagitis, an allergic inflammation of the esophagus, and Tietze syndrome, which causes chest pain.

– Allergies have had a huge impact on my daily life. Because of them, there is always a low-grade inflammation in my body. Because of the eosinophilic esophagitis, I also had to take a break from sports.

Because of the health challenges, Annimari must be particularly careful with her diet. Adequate rest is also essential to stay fit for training and competitions.

– I eat a lot of meat, cooked vegetables, and gluten-free carbohydrates. The importance of rest as an athlete increases with age. Now, I've been resting up to three days on my “light trainings weeks” since this fall, whereas before a light week meant two days of rest.

Oral health supports an athlete’s performance

Top-level sport creates special demands on oral health. Not only the body but also the teeth are often put to the test, because high levels of training require sufficient energy to pass through the mouth. This in turn can be reflected in the number of times you eat.

In addition, heavy breathing during hard training reduces oral saliva secretion and dries out the athlete's mouth. Saliva naturally provides good protection for the teeth. When this is no longer present, bacteria can enter the mouth to form caries.

Annimari brushes her teeth with an electric brush twice a day, as recommended by professionals. She also flosses regularly. Even with a good oral hygiene routine, Annimari's teeth have still been a problem for her – frequent gum problems and a few years ago two of her teeth chipped completely.

This is where Lumoral, a treatment developed by Finns, comes in handy as it improves dental self-care and oral health even when traditional methods fail. Lumoral is a new oral hygiene method developed by Finnish researchers that can remove 99.99% of plaque bacteria from the surface of teeth. Lumoral is a targeted treatment, which means that the normal, important bacterial flora of the mouth is preserved. At the same time, gingivitis is treated.

– I've been using Lumoral for a while now and have noticed how my gums no longer bleed when I clean the spaces between my teeth. It's great that a device has been invented to help keep the mouth healthy.

– Many people don't realise how much oral health affects health in general and sporting performance especially. I think sports organisations should do more to make sure that everyone from top athletes to children are aware of the importance of oral health! she stresses.

A positive attitude to life is the way forward

Annimari returned to competing in 2017 and since her return she has achieved almost all of her dreams she thought were impossible. In addition to the Finnish record, she has broken the Kalevala record and was undefeated in Finland in 2020 and 2021.

– I broke the Tokyo Olympic barrier eight times, more than any other Finnish athlete, she says.

Annimari was named the Most Positive Finn of the Year 2020.

– Positivity helps when times are difficult. My goal is to see my limits as a hurdler and inspire others not to give up and to believe in their dreams. I want to show that nothing is impossible. Positivity has certainly helped me to reach the top after all the difficulties!

Last Autum, Annimari told her Instagram followers that she recently graduated as a dog trainer.

– In the summer, when I couldn't compete, I thought what better thing to do than study. Everyone probably knows that dogs are the most important thing to me besides hurdling. I could start running various dog training courses, but they'll have to wait for a couple of years, Korte posted on her website.