Aalto Alum and Sports Director Jyrki Louhi offered financial knowledge to Aalto's competitive athletes

The Urhea meeting attracted 30 students to the network's autumn meeting
Aallon Urhea-opiskelijoiden syystapaaminen, 2023. Kuva: Terhi Ollikainen
Jyrki Louhi talked to the students about athlete's finances and shared a small information package with everyone. The autumn meeting was organised at the School of Business.

Aalto University aims to enable dual careers for its athletes. The dual career of athletes means that combining goal-oriented sports and studies is as smooth and balanced as possible. Aalto University and the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Sports Academy Urhea have had a partnership agreement since 2015.

Timo Korkeamäki, Dean of the School of Business, visited Aalto University's Urhea students at a meeting on 22 November. ‘Sports are important and relevant to and for our society. It's great that there are a lot of you athletes at Aalto, and that all of you are much better athletes than I was in my university years when I did shot-putting.’ 

In the spring audit, the School of Business was found to be a top athlete-friendly higher education institute. ‘This pilot audit was limited to only one school, but now that we have gained experience from it, the aim is to expand the audit to cover other Aalto higher education institutions in the future. Although we received good feedback in the audit, the aim is to continuously develop Urhea activities,’ Timo Korkeamäki said.

Example of growth funding for young Finnish athletes

The main guest of the evening was an alum of the School of Business, a former ice hockey player, and currently a start-up entrepreneur and chair of the board of Hämeenlinnan Pallokerho HPK, Jyrki Louhi. After his career in sports and graduation with a Master’s degree in economics and business administration, Jyrki worked at KPMG on auditing, tax and legal services and, in particular, sports services. Jyrki talked about the Sport Fund capital investment fund that he set up, which will invest in 18 individual athletes over a three-year period.

Jyrki and a few other former top athletes, such as another ‘Runeberginkatu graduate’ Alum of the School of Business, ex-figure skater Laura Lepistö, aim to acquire growth funding for young Finnish athletes through the Sport Fund. The goal is to improve the position of young athletes in society. The fund is the world's first fund investing in limited companies for athletes.

Jyrki and other former top athletes who invested in Sport Fund want to make sport funding professional by bringing an entrepreneurial template also to the sports world. Investors want to provide young competitive athletes with entrepreneurial skills that young athletes will benefit from even after their sports career ends. 

‘There are about thirty investors in the fund, which has been created for athletes and not particularly for the asset management of their investors. Of course, there must be a certain degree of reciprocation in order to receive significant capital,’ Jyrki said.

Athletes’ financial challenges under consideration

Ella Salo, a third-year student of Information and Service Management (ISM) and a TeamGym gymnast, said that Jyrki Louhi's presentation evoked many emotions and that his bold approach to sports finances aroused admiration and questions among the students. 

‘The presentation opened my eyes to the financial challenges of athletes and raised the question of how we can improve the financial position of athletes. Louhi's speech highlighted the need to create better support structures for athletes and raise awareness of these challenges. More generally, a question arose about how we could promote open discussion on finances in the sports world and support athletes on their path both in competitions and financially,’ Ella explains.

Teamgym-voimistelija, Urhea-opiskelija Ella Salo
Ella Salo is a TeamGym gymnast who studies information and service management as her major. Photo: Atte Grönlund

In TeamGym, gymnasts compete as a team in three different disciplines: floor, tumbling and trampette. In the floor discipline, the team performs a symmetrical, rhythmical and refined dance choreography. In trampette and tumbling, the team performs fast, flying and impressive tumbling series. ‘My best achievement so far is a bronze medal from the European championships in 2021. In addition, over the years, we have also had other experiences of major competitions as well as Finnish championships and other placements in the Finnish championships,’ says Ella. 

The clearest help from Urhea is the free membership in the UniSport gym. ‘I use it multiple times per week as there are also various independent exercises in addition to training for my sport. In addition, I have utilised courses offered to Urhea students by Aalto that have promoted my studies.’ 

First-timers also attended the Urhea meeting. Arvi Savolainen, a first-year student in business administration and an athlete in Greco-Roman wrestling, was one of them. Arvi is a many-time Finnish champion in his sport and has also been successful in international arenas. ‘In the 2020 European Championships in Rome, I ranked fifth in the 130 kg weight class. In the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, I made it to the bronze match and eventually also ranked fifth. In the 2022 European championships, I won silver in the 97 kg weight class.’  

Painija, Urhea-opiskelija Arvi Savolainen
Arvi Savolainen is a first-year student in the School of Business. Photo: Jesse Väänänen

Urhea is also a daily part of Arvi's normal life. ‘Most of the training takes place in the Urhea Hall, so I often end up spending time there. What I like about Urhea is that you get to also see athletes from other sports and catch up. Urhea's various expert services have also been very useful, and I have used them several times during my career.’ 

Arvi says that it was great to come to the meeting and see how many athletes Aalto has. At least for him, Aalto's Urhea cooperation was an additional motivator to apply to study at Aalto. ‘It can sometimes be difficult to combine studies and sports as you end up travelling a lot and it is impossible to avoid overlapping. Fortunately, the school has offered help and tools for this, as I believe that studies and sports complement each other,’ Arvi says.

The Urhea working group at Aalto serves as a link between Aalto University, Urhea and students and develops Aalto's practices to enable dual careers for athletes. The Aalto University's Urhea contact persons who attended the meeting were Tiina Kerola, Piia Ylitalo and team leader Elli Hämäläinen as well as Professor of Practice and Aalto’s person in charge of Urhea Sami Itani from the Department of Management Studies at the School of Business. Please do not hesitate to contact them in any matters related to Urhea.

Text and photo: Terhi Ollikainen

More information:

Sami Itani

Professor of Practice

Elli Hämäläinen

Suunnittelija, opintoasiat

Combining an athletic career with studying at Aalto

Aalto University is committed to helping students belonging to the Metropolitan Area Sports Academy Urhea combine studies with sports and to considering the particular needs and challenges of a career in competitive sports. Below you will find additional information on Aalto University’s support for student-athletes. The support is contingent upon the student’s Urhea membership. If you have been a member of Urhea before beginning your studies at Aalto, you must notify Urhea of your change of study place to have Aalto University notified of your membership. Please contact Urhea to change your details or check with the Urhea contact person of your Aalto school whether your name is already on the university’s list of Urhea members. See the bottom of the page for contact details.

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