Present Olympic Athletes >> Virpi Kuitunen
- Date of birth
- Sprint: 5th (2006)
- 10 km classical: 9th (2006)
World Championships (8 medals - GOLD : 6 - SILVER - 1- BRONZE : 1)
- Sprint: 3rd (2007)
- Team sprint: 1st (2007, 2009)
- 30 km classical: 1st (2007)
- 30 km (mass start): 2nd (2005)
- Pursuit (10 km): 1st (2001)
- Relay (4x5km): 1st (2007, 2009)
Ski Tour (1 victory counts for the World Cup but not for the overall rankings)
- 1st (2007, 2009), 2nd (2008)
- 8 stage wins (3 in 2007, 3 in 2008, 2 in 2009)
- Overall ranking: 1st (2007, 2008), 3rd (2005)
- Sprint: 1st (2007), 2nd (2005), 3rd (2008)
- Long distance: 1st (2007, 2008)
- 23 individual victories (up to 04/01/2009)
Nightmare ends sweetly for Kuitunen
After brushing with the danger of having her career ruined because of doping, Virpi Kuitunen has overcome her shame and in particular a two-year ban to return to the highest echelons of cross-country skiing by winning two world titles at Liberec in 2009.
At 33-years-old, the Finnish racer will now be a hot gold medal contender alongside compatriot Aino-Kaisa Saarinen and the great Polish talent Justyna Kowalczyk, not to mention a host of other hopefuls.
It cannot be denied that Kuitunen already has an impressive resume despite the stain of her ban and counts six world titles and two World Cup overall crowns to her name.
In 2001 at the age of 22, she became a national hero by winning the pursuit gold medal at the world championships in front her home crowd at Lahti.
However her joy was short-lived. On the eve of the end of the championships, two Finns were reported to have tested positive and the anti-doping world agency immediately tested the entire team which revealed four others were guilty of taking the same banned substances.
As the story unfolded, it was revealed that there had been organised doping throughout the Finnish team, a revelation that permanently damaged the team's reputation.
Kuitunen admitted her guilt and shame while vowying to return as a clean athlete following her ban.
In 2005, she finished third overall in the World Cup standings and took her first world championship medal by finishing silver in the 30km mass start at Oberstdorf, Germany. It was the beginning of a new life.
In 2006 at the Turin Games, she took her first and so far only Olympic medal helping the Finnish team to third in the team sprint with Saarinen. On an individual note her best performance was fifth in the sprint.
The best was yet to come. Kuituen turned on the style at the 2007 world championships at Sapporo by taking three world gold medals (team sprint, 30km classical and relay) as well as a bronze in the individual sprint.
Following that she capped off a hugely successful campaign by winning the World Cup overall title as well as the sprint and long distance titles as well.
The same year she won the first ever Ski Tour.
The next season, her domination continued with a second overall World Cup globe while she again took the long distance title too before heading to the 2009 world championships and a shot at more gold at Liberec.
Underlying her great form, she teamed up with Saarinen to again take the team sprint while she picked up world title number six in the team relay.
Thirteen years after her first World Cup race (at Lahti) and ten years after her first podium (3rd in the sprint at Brusson, Italy), Kuitunen's career has a much shinier gloss and with her black years behind her, an Olympic gold might just be her crowning reward at Vancouver in 2010.
Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.