Winners of Levi FIS World Cup slalom event gifted a reindeer
Mikaela Shiffrin scored second Levi victory this year
Reindeer valuable part of Finnish lifestyle
Sports fans have become used to seeing tournament champions bagging a big check and hoisting an impressive trophy above their heads.
But for the slalom event of the Alpine Skiing World Cup in Levi, northern Finland, things are done a little differently.
Since 2013, the winner of both the men’s and women’s competition has won a reindeer.
This year, the prize animals went to Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States and Marcel Hirscher of Austria. Both had previously won at Levi in 2013, so are now proud owners of two reindeer each.
Rudolph and Sven
The winners are allowed to name their furry friend but must leave them behind after the race meet – even though they are encouraged to follow their movements on social media.
Shiffrin named her first reindeer Rudolph, telling CNN: “because then everybody knows, no matter how old or young you are, that Rudolph the Reindeer exists.”
She added that she plans to call the second Sven after a reindeer in the movie “Frozen.”
For the region of Lapland, in northern Finland, reindeer play an important part in everyday life, and herding them is the oldest livelihood in Lapland.
“Reindeer are used for transportation, for meat markets, and also for clothes,” explains Johanna Hietanen, the reindeer herder who provides the prize animal for the World Cup each year.
“(They) are basically wild animals and are scared of people, but then this is how we get them used to people,” Hietanen added. “They have their own characters are their own personality. Some are easier to train than the others.”
Both Hirscher and Shiffrin currently top the respective male and female overall World Cup standings with 180 points after two events.