Interview with Figure Competitor Noora Kuusivuori
Considering the extent of her already splendid resume, it’s not surprising that Noora Kuusivuori’s latest athletic endeavor has the makings of something special.
The 31-year-old figure newbie, a Colorado resident originally from Finland, qualified for NPC Nationals in her first campaign after taking the tall class at the 2010 Colorado State Figure Championships. The win secured yet another trophy for the strapping 5-foot-10, 145-pound flaxen-haired star, who has performed at a high level in several sports since her early teens.
However, figure wasn’t on Noora’s radar until she attended a show to see a friend compete. Ultimately, that experience — along with a chance to shape her physique and challenge her body once again — led to her own designs on pursuing quarter turns in a shimmery, sequined two-piece. The compelling next chapter in her continuing competitive journey was underway.
Catching up while spending the holidays in wintry Finland, Noora shares a training update and reveals contest plans for next season plus more — including notes on some impressive lifts in the gym and thoughtful insights on what the fitness lifestyle means to her — during a recent interview. This tireless and passionate athlete is a highly promising addition to the stage and an endearing new role model for the sport.
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Dean: Did you first begin training in the gym to get stronger for athletics or did working out for you start sooner? Were you involved in any other sports growing up?
Noora: “I started training at the gym to become a better, stronger, faster athlete alongside other sport specific training. I played baseball and swam on the National team growing up in Finland. Competing on the World Championship level got me started on weights at the age of 14 and I haven’t stopped since. I also played basketball, volleyball, did jazz ballet and track and field growing up.”
Dean: Now you’re living in Colorado. When did you move to the United States and do you still travel to Finland to visit? What kinds of things do you like about each place?
Noora: “I came to the US for the first time in 1997 and have moved around the States a lot. I go back to Finland once or twice a year and am in very cold and snowy Scandinavia right now. I love both places! Finland is always home and I miss the people living so far away. Besides my family and friends here, I love Finnish nature and how clean and calm it is. I love Finnish food (especially chocolate, yummm) and all the beautiful seasons.
“In the States, I love that I truly feel like I can accomplish anything and I can take my career as far as I choose. I love the fact that there are so many people from so many different places in the States. It’s such a richness to learn about all the different cultures, traditions and backgrounds of people. I love how there are so many completely different places in the country. It’s a beautiful country and Colorado is one of the most beautiful states with its majestic Mountains.”
Dean: Congratulations on winning the tall class at the Colorado State show earlier this year. Could you describe your emotions after the win and as someone who has had great success at other sports, how did this achievement compare?
Noora: “Thank you! I had so much fun at that show and it felt great to know that the hard work that I put in paid off. It felt rewarding to win for sure. I was very happy to walk away with several first places. It was the same happy and satisfied feeling that every win in other sports has given me.”
Dean: It seems like many top female athletes get into physique shows as a way to try something else challenging and stay competitive. Is that how your figure journey began?
Noora: “I guess the challenge was a reason for me as well. I went to support a friend who competed in a show, and watching a show made me curious to see how far I could push my own body in something completely different than what I knew as sports up until then. I was going to just try it for one show but ended up loving how much I learned about my body during the prep, and I am continuing having a ton of fun learning and pushing myself. It is amazing to learn how the diet affects your body and how you can learn to manipulate your shape by working the muscles in different ways. And then being competitive by nature, I now want to see how far I can go so yeah, you got it right.”
Dean: You have a great look and promising future on the national level and likely beyond. Now that your debut at NPC Nationals is in the books, what kinds of things are you looking to improve on with your physique and presentation heading into next season?
Noora: “Thank you! I’m working on a more dramatic V-shape with wider shoulders and lats. I’m also working on getting my lower body to even out in leanness with my upper body. And I will always strive to improve my favorite body part, the butt. For me, it can never be high and tight enough!” [laughs]
Dean: Have you made any plans yet for 2011 as far as shows or other competitions? Are you also involved in personal training or working on anything else relating to the fitness industry that you’d like to promote?
Noora: “I will compete in Figure at The Arnold in March and probably at Jr. Nationals in the summer. I couldn’t be more excited about 2011! Unfortunately I don’t have enough time to do personal training but I have two new sponsors that I’ll be helping with promotions: I am now a Twinlab sponsored athlete and super excited to work with such an amazing line of products. The other one is a company called Show Off Tan and they have an amazing, new competition color and a line of spray tan colors that are super popular in Europe and they are expanding in the States in 2011.”
Dean: Just a couple more questions. I know members and fans of our site are going to love getting to know more about you and especially appreciate seeing you in action during your photoshoot. Did you have a good time and feel empowered flexing and showing off your amazing physique and muscles for the camera?
Noora: “Yes, I love showing off. [laughs] In all seriousness, Lou was such a pleasure to work with and I had a lot of fun flexing and posing in the streets of Atlanta!”
Dean: Can you also share some of your strength stats with us, such as how much weight you use for bicep curls or leg press? Could you share any stories of a time when you surprised a friend or someone else with your strength?
Noora: “I can get a few reps with 85lbs on barbell bicep curls. I’ve squatted sets of 10 with 225lbs during my swimming years but I don’t get to lift that heavy anymore as I bulk up too much for figure pretty easy. At one swimming camp in Texas, I used the whole stack for my regular sets on leg extensions while the male swimmers were using half that weight. That moment obviously stuck with me since I still remember how mad the boys got when they realized that they can’t get even close to lifting the same weight.” [laughs]
Dean: Finally, what would you say are some of the most satisfying and rewarding things about your health and fitness lifestyle?
Noora: “Feeling physically capable of doing almost anything is an amazingly empowering feeling that flows over to other areas of life. I am always full of energy and feel great when I take care of myself. It is also very rewarding to hear that I’ve motivated someone to get healthier, push themselves further or completely change their lifestyle. There is no better reward than to know that you can make a positive change in someone else’s life by living by example.”
Dean: Noora, thanks so much for your time in doing this interview. Best of luck in your figure career and I hope we can catch up again later!
Noora: “Thank you! And we’ll definitely catch up later!”