May 17, 2013
Mikko Salo's 5:21 Jackie

When Salo stepped on the floor in the final men’s heat, the energy in the building increased noticeably. The Finn has been a legend since he almost beat fellow star Chris Spealler in the first event of the 2009 Games, but a recent run of bad luck has kept Salo from the spotlight.

At the 2011 Games he was injured in the first event and withdrew from the competition, and in 2012 he was a spectator with a bad knee.

In 2013, Salo leads the Europe Regional after taking but 5:21 to perform Jackie. But perhaps Salo’s return to form isn’t the real story. Salo might have been victorious, but the level of competition in Europe is increasing: his time was but one second faster than second-place Christer Idland of Norway and two seconds faster than Lacee Kovacs of Hungary. In all, 11 men finished within 16 seconds of Salo, who had three thrusters killed by his judge.

But Salo still finished first, and he actually had no idea Kovacs was gaining on him with butterfly reps as he kipped out his pull-ups one bar over. Salo’s work on the rig is relentless, but he doesn’t use the butterfly technique, and Kovacs was able to make up ground over the 30 reps.

“I didn’t think anything,” Salo said when asked if he knew Kovacs was stalking him. “I just think about my own performance.”

Salo was all smiles after the event—almost giddy—and he showed more excitement than the stoic Finn is known for.

Thinking back to standing outside the barrier last year, Salo said it was “awesome” to be back on the floor.

“That was two years ago the last time I competed,” he said.

He said that the workout went as planned, and while he thinks his time will stand up to competitors in other regions, he believes some will go under 5:20.

In a video released shortly before the event, Salo said he will be happy with his performance if he does his best; placement doesn’t matter.

But after winning Jackie, Salo revealed his true goal: “I’m here to win.”

Read more about Event 1 at the 2013 Europe Regional here