Head of Emergency Care Mari Kiuru has a 24-hour working day at Kanta-Häme Rescue Department. Following her shift, she is off duty for three days and has time to concentrate on her dear hobby, family and studies.
However, Kiuru is not your typical mother. In November 2018, she became a lifesaving world champion in Adelaide, Australia. She is the first Finn to break into the top three in the competition.
This was a great achievement, as lifesaving is a very popular sport, especially in the United States and Australia. More than 4,000 competitors participated in the world championships in 2018.
“Lifesaving is a really tough sport. Good swimming technique, endurance and skills in handling the victim are important,” Kiuru explains.
She is a familiar visitor at Kuohu Swimming Hall in Kangasala, as the long lanes and the depth of the pool offer a good place to practise lifesaving. Kiuru is well known there as she carries her practice doll, among other things.
“When filled with water, the doll weights more than 70kg. Practising with it passes for work,” she says.
Kiuru, who is a member of Hämeenlinna Swimming Association, also practises in Hämeenlinna, Forssa and Valkeakoski. Her trainer, Ari Ailio, is based in Hämeenlinna.
Lifesaving competitions take place both in pools and on beaches. Participation at world championship level calls for year-round training. Diving, swimming, and rescue and first aid skills are fundamental. The sport was created when lifeguards working on beaches started to compete with one another.
Kiuru began competing in lifesaving in 2006 when she participated in Finnish national championships. In 2010, Kiuru was selected for the national team.
Lifesaving has similarities with Kiuru’s emergency care work.
“I can use my professional skills in my hobby, which isn’t far from the real world. However, I haven’t needed to rescue anyone from water at work,” she notes.
There are risks in practising lifesaving. Long dives are dangerous and usually somebody has to ensure safety at the side of the pool.
“Swimming pool staff often know to keep an eye on what I am doing,” she says.
In addition to practising lifesaving, Kiuru also needs to work on her strength and endurance. She works out in the morning and evening, depending on her work shifts.
“My days are built around the workouts. Gym exercise and jogging are an important part of the training. Lifesaving requires endurance and a high level of physical fitness,” she explains.
Water has become an important element for the Kiuru family. Kiuru’s two children, who are not yet of school age, have followed their mother to swimming pools and beaches since they were babies.
“My children can already tell what skills lifesaving requires,” she adds.