Former Olympic ski jumping champion Matti Nykanen convicted of assaulting wife with knife

By Jari Tanner, AP
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ex-ski jumper Nykanen convicted of assaulting wife

HELSINKI — Former Olympic ski jump champion Matti Nykanen was convicted Tuesday of attacking his wife with a kitchen knife in their home on Christmas Day last year. He was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

The 47-year-old ski jumper was convicted of aggravated assault in district court in Pirkanmaa. Lawyer Tero Lakka told The Associated Press that Nykanen will appeal.

Nykanen denied the charges, saying he was trying to defend himself in their home in southern Finland. He attributed his wife’s numerous knife cuts and scratches to a struggle over possession of the knife. He and his wife, Mervi Tapola, have since divorced.

The court rejected a charge that Nykanen had tried to strangle her with a bathrobe belt, citing lack of evidence. He was ordered to pay Tapola $13,000 in damages and compensation for legal fees.

Nykanen won four gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, was a four-time World Cup champion and winner of numerous international events, but his career has been overshadowed by violence and a turbulent private life.

In 2006, Nykanen was sentenced to four months in prison for another assault on his wife. That attack occurred just three days after he was released from jail. He had served half his 26-month sentence for a stabbing offense in 2004.

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