Finnish ski jumping legend Matti Nykänen has died at the age of 55
Finnish ski jumping legend Matti Nykänen has died at the age of 55.
Finland's sports minister Sampo Terho confirmed the sad news via Twitter on Monday morning. The cause of death has not been disclosed yet.
The four-time Olympic champion is the only jumper to have clinched all five of his sport's major events. Nykänen claimed Olympic gold in the large hill event at Sarajevo 1984 and took all three titles four years later in Calgary.
In addition to his Olympic triumph, he won five world championships, four overall World Cup trophies, one Ski flying world championship and two Four Hills Tournament titles.
Nykänen, who began his stellar career in 1981, was dubbed the 'Flying Finn' and is considered one of the best jumpers in history.
He is survived by his current wife and three children.
Relive Matti Nykänen winning triple gold at Calgary 1988
Relive Matti Nykänen winning triple gold at Calgary 1988After winning Olympic gold in the large hill event at Sarajevo 1984 the Finnish legend won all three titles four years later in Calgary.
Tributes pouring in
In Nykänen's home town of Jyväskylä, where there is a ski jump bearing his name, city officials announced that a minute of silence will be arranged in his memory.
Tributes were also pouring in on social media.
IOC President Thomas Bach called Nykänen a "legend of his sport".
For Finland's sports minister Sampo Terho, Nykänen was "undoubtedly one of the most prominent Finnish athletes".
Former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb wrote: "He will always have a special place in the hearts of winter sports fans around the world."
"This is shocking, terrible news. we shared so many moments together," said Nykänen's longtime rival, former East German superstar Jens Weissflog. "I saw him two years ago for the last time. He looked very good."
Sven Hannawald, who was the first athlete to win all four competitions at the Four Hills Tournament, called Nykanen his idol:
"I admired him growing up. we have lost an amazing athlete."
Dominating the 80s
Nykänen was eight years old when his father took him to a ski jumping venue for the first time. It quickly became his passion. "The only thing I wanted was to jump. And to jump and to jump," Nykänen says in Matti: The Biography of Matti Nykänen. He took part in his first competition at eleven - and won it.
Standing on top of the podium became a regular experience for him. The Finnish icon won 46 individual World Cup competitions before retiring in 1991.
Several books have since been written about Nykänen, Finnish filmmakers even produced a movie called "Matti" which drew record audiences after its release in 2006.
After his career the superstar often made headlines for personal reasons including alcohol-related incidents and violent behaviour.
Nykänen was twice sentenced to prison, for a stabbing incident in 2004 and an aggravated assault on his then-wife in 2009.
He was diagnosed with diabetes last year.
"Rest in Peace Matti Nykänen, the greatest ski jumper of all time," wrote Finnish actor Jasper Pääkkönen on Twitter. Pääkkönen played the athlete in a 2006 biopic focusing on the Nykänen's life after his retirement.