CERN firefighters win medals in New York

This year CERN's firefighters have taken part for the first time in the World Police and Fire Games,held in New York at the end of August. After an intensive training programme and some glorious achievements, the members of the CERN Fire Brigade taking part in the event enthusiastically share their experience with us.


Tomi Salmi (left) and Toni Rasanen (next to him) with their medals.

Everybody has heard of the Olympic Games, but did you know that every two years firefighters and police officers from around the world hold their own version, which is second in size only to the Olympics? Since the mid-1980s, the World Police and Fire Games have taken place on three different continents, making waves in the cities that have hosted them. This year, the CERN Fire Brigade was part of a 10-day sports extravaganza in the city that never sleeps.

Five CERN firefighters, two from Britain and three from Finland, participated in the Games in their chosen disciplines of triple jump, open water swim, bench press and dead lift, as well as an event called “Toughest Competitor Alive”, a kind of cross between decathlon and army boot camp, with eight events over four days, including long and short distance running, swimming, shot putt, rope climbing and an obstacle course. “We expect to come back with some medals,” said Craig Stevenson, one of the competitors, before the event (see their score!). “As the events go by age/weight categories, I think we have a good chance. The Finns are lifting weights of up to 200kg.” They would be lifting more, he explained, but they were already using all the weights the CERN gym had to offer.

Over 15,000 athletes from more than 70 different countries descended on New York between 26 August and 5 September. Staying in an athletes' Village or in hotels nearby, they were living, competing and partying together for 10 days. “It’s going to be such a massive event and we’re all going to come back if not with medals, then at least with the memories of such a huge event on such an occasion (9/11),” Craig said before setting off.

Craig Stevenson with his bronze medal in the triple jump category (11.37 m).

The poignancy of firefighters and police officers congregating in New York almost exactly 10 years after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, where the members of the emergency services showed incredible bravery and lost many colleagues, is not lost on Craig. He and his fellow CERN competitors see the Games as a memorial to the 343 firefighters who died, and of course attended the official remembrance service. “We all accept that it could have been us walking up the stairs of the tower whilst everyone else was coming the other way.  There's a kind of camaraderie with all firefighters from all over the world,” Craig said.

A glorious score

Craig Stevenson got a bronze medal in the triple jump category with a personal record of 11.37 metres;  Toni Salmi won a gold medal in the push and pull (weights); Tomi Rasanen won a silver medal in the same event but a different weight category. Martin Sancaster came 12th of 42 swimmers in the open water swim of 3.2 km, in a time of 61 minutes (at Coney island). Janne Kauppinen was in a weight group of 'monsters', so although he didn't get a medal he did have a personal best dead lift!

Congratulations to all of them!

The Games

The 65 different disciplines included in the Games range from traditional sporting events, such as golf and soccer, to more profession-specific challenges. For example, firefighters can compete in the “Ultimate Firefighter” event, which involves speed hosepipe rolling, an obstacle course and negotiating a high-rise building at speed in full firefighting gear. For those with less physical stamina, there is also a horse-shoe throwing event, a wrist wrestling competition and a variety of shooting events.

You can follow the training and participation of the CERN firefighters in the World Police and Fire Games on YouTube.

by Joannah Caborn Wengler