Finland's knitting passion is latest Pyeongchang yarn

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - Yarns, stitches, loops and purls, instead of spins, flips and slides... the Finnish team in Pyeongchang are using the soothing effects of knitting when Olympic pressure becomes too great.

“It has become something of a hobby for me,” smiled snowboard coach Antti Koskinen, who has been spotted with his needles out in the snow.

“I mean I do it every four years... it is a nice, Finnish thing... it means no unnecessary chit-chat is needed.”

Grinning as he continued to knit a small, blue woollen square, Koskinen said that around half of the 102-strong team were knitting at these Games.

The Finns started using the unique method of stress relief at the Sochi Games, where they knitted a scarf. Two years later at the Rio Olympics they added to it.

Their efforts this time, though, are for a different project.

“We are knitting a blanket for our president’s child,” Koskinen said. “Everyone is knitting a little square, and then we will join them together... I got a bit carried away, so... a rectangle,” he laughed, holding it up.

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Another to have got carried away was 20-year-old ski jumper Eetu Nousiainen, who worked away at a long strip of scarf.

“Maybe mine can be for the president’s dog,” he chuckled.

President Sauli Niinisto’s wife Jenni Haukio gave birth to the couple’s first child on Feb. 2.

Niinisto, 69, and Haukio, 40, were married in 2009. The child is Haukio’s first and Niinisto’s third. Niinisto lost his first wife in a car accident in 1995.

Editing by John O’Brien and Ed Osmond