The Daily Gamecock

Feeling at home, Kanervo leads Gamecocks on the track

Thousands upon thousands of miles away from his native Finland, South Carolina track star Jussi Kanervo feels at home.

“I do not want to go back,” he said, and why would he?

Since arriving in the U.S., Kanervo has only bettered himself in the classroom and socially, and he's even improved his english, too.

But most importantly, Kanervo has honed his skills on the track.

His ability to outrace the competition was his ticket to this country and he’s only improved since arriving to South Carolina.

Now in his sophomore year, Kanervo has established himself as one of the best in the world at the 400-meter hurdles, his specialty event.

Despite dealing with a back injury his last season, Kanervo was still named an Honorable Mention All-American due to his great showings in the 400-meter hurdles.

Kanervo’s success has now carried over into 2015. A second-year business student, he currently finds himself ranked 14th in the world in the 400-meter hurdles thanks to his 49.78 mark in the event less than two weeks ago at the Bill Carson Invite.

Kanervo also earned second team All-American honors for the job he did in the 60-meter hurdles in the past indoor season.

Kanervo was second team All-American in the 60 meter hurdles this past indoor season.

Described as a “workhorse” by one of his teammates, Kanervo’s success isn’t a surprise to those who see him prepare everyday.

“He’s just one of those guys where his hard work really does pay off,” South Carolina sophomore Ryan Bermudez said. “No one questions his work ethic, nobody ever wonders whether he completed a workout of if he’s going to practice today. It’s just know that he’s going to do what he has to do.”

The journey to South Carolina

Even at a young age, Kanervo always knew he wanted to run track. Although he grew up in Espoo, Finland, a place where snow dominates the weather forecast, he was able to make a name for himself in Europe.

Kanervo began competing in the hurdles at age 12, but his big break came a few years ago.

That’s when he was noticed by South Carolina coaches at an event in Germany in which he finished third overall.

At the time, Kanervo knew little to nothing about South Carolina or what going to school there would be like.

But after doing a google search on the school and some reading on Gamecock head coach Curtis Frye, Kanervo was instantly interested in South Carolina.

Ultimately, it would be the idea of running under Frye, a well-established coach who has developed a plethora of talent, and South Carolina’s warm weather that drew Kanervo to Columbia.

So far, his decision has proved to be a good one.

“There’s no place that has a perfect atmosphere, but I wouldn’t change anything that is here,” Kanervo said of his experience at South Carolina. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

A lot of that has to do with his relationship with Frye. Frye, who is now in his 19th season at South Carolina, has developed runners like Jason Richardson and Allen Johnson, both of whom went on to compete in the Olympics.

Before coming to South Carolina, Kanervo didn’t even run the 400-meter hurdles, an event he now considers his forte, until Frye forced him to.

“I trust him 100 percent,” Kanervo said. “He knows what he’s doing.”

Why the hurdles?

Growing up, Kanervo knew he wanted to run track. But he also knew he needed to find a niche for himself; a specific event in which he could excel.

So why the hurdles?

“I think it’s a white guy mindset,” Kanervo said. “In Europe, if you look at the 100-meter line, or the 200-meter line or the 400-meter line in the Olympic Games, it’s pretty much black guys. Hurdles, there are still some white guys in it, so I kind of thought that might be a chance for me.”

Still, there’s more to it than just that.

Kanervo believes that hurdlers have to possess a fair amount of mental toughness, something he believes he has.

“I don’t get afraid,” Kanervo said.

He also believes that the bigger the meet, the better he performs.

His teammates and coaches hope that remains the case as South Carolina is now preparing for the Penn Relays, the biggest annual track and field contest in the U.S.

“I’m excited,” Kanervo said. “Coach Frye told me there’s going to be like 45,000 people there.”