Finland, a country of just five million, has produced an Olympic men’s javelin champion on seven separate occasions – more than any other nation; 21 Olympics medals in the men’s javelin – more than any other nation; and three different world-leading throwers since 1986 (when a new model of javelin was introduced) – more than any other nation. Is the country’s unique network of indoor training facilities the key to that enviable record? SPIKES puts that very question to Petteri Piironen, the Finnish coach behind Ihab El Sayed and Julius Yego’s mammoth throws.

Petteri Piironen is just getting back from training. Well, not quite. His plans for a full session were cut short after getting overrun by a group of shot putters.

In summer months, with access to conventional outdoor training facilities, this would not be a problem. But it is early January, and Kuortane, Finland, home to the IAAF-accredited High Performance Training Centre (and less than 4,000 locals), is further north than Anchorage in Alaska.

“Half a metre of snow and minus five at the moment means it’s all indoors,” says Piironen, who took up coaching after his career as an athlete came to an end in 2000. Indoor javelin might sound like an insurance claim waiting to happen, but for the Finns, where javelin is as good as a religion, it is a necessity if their passion is to be fed.

SPIKES does not recommend launching a 2-metre long pointed-lance inside. Not without appropriate footwear. Doing so means approaching training sessions with a different mindset (and occasionally having to share the facilities with shot putters).

There are at least five indoor facilities in the country – Pori, Tampere, Vaasa, Joensu and Kuopio – equipped to host full-sized indoor javelin competitions. The indoor javelin record stands at 85.78m, and was set by Finnish 2004 Olympian Matti Narhi in 1996.

Narhi’s record will take some beating. Piironen says that elite men generally cannot throw to full distances indoors because “if you start to throw more than 80m then the roof gets too low”. For that reason it is only really younger age groups that compete inside.

“The juniors have two or three competitions indoors,” Piironen tells us. “For the older throwers, for boys and girls who are 20-21, there is the indoor winter championships.

Being able to compete year-round at development level might be a reason for Finnish success at international competitions. Mikaela Ingberg, who won European junior javelin gold in 1993 and then world champs bronze in 1995, has previously told SPIKES that training indoors “is a huge advantage”, as it helps in studying the flight of the javelin and honing technique.

The facilities give the seniors that Piironen coaches a chance to complete full distance sessions “a couple of times during the winter”. But more often, indoor training sessions are carried out in cages designed to stop the javelin 5-10m after it is released. It means success in training is measured in how good technique is, rather than the distance throws fly. Piironen believes curbing a thrower’s unrefined power is a good thing.

“It’s easier to keep the intensity, because you can’t see the results,” he says. “You don’t start to put too much power in to your throw; you can just keep the focus on your technique because you are just throwing at the wall.

“When you go outside, after every throw you can see your result. You can lose the focus on the technique and start to put in too much power and try to throw further and further.”

Because of its IAAF-accreditation, Kuortane sees some of the most promising athletes in the world visit on scholarships to be trained by Piironen. Some of that Finnish magic appears to be rubbing off.

Ihab El Sayed, the Egyptian whose 89.21m at the 2014 Shanghai Diamond League was the furthest throw of 2014, is currently based in Kuortane and working under Piironen’s stewardship.

As well as the indoor sessions that El Sayed has embraced over the winter, there is still warm weather training, first in South Africa, and later in southern Europe; generally Spain or Portugal. This is where philosophy can go physical.

Piironen says returning to the outdoors “takes a couple of throwing sessions to get used to the fact you have lots of space around you”, but generally the transition is pretty straightforward.

Kenyan javelin thrower Julius Yego (Getty Images)

Julius Yego admitted that before training in Kuortane his technique was pathetic

Although Kuortane has had success stories for international athletes in recent years – as well as El Sayed, last year's Kenyan Commonwealth champion Julius Yego has trained at Kuortane – there is no secret formula for young, promising athletes to follow.

“If they are like 60m throwers, they think they can just come to Kuortane and they are here for like a few weeks and after that they think that they can throw 80m,” Piironen says.

“The main challenge is to change that idea, to make them understand that how much work is needed to be an 80m thrower.”

Piironen also falls short of saying indoor facilities are the reason Finnish throwers punch above their weight on the world stage. Explaining a cultural phenomenon ­– like Kenya and distance running, and Jamaica and sprinting – clearly cannot be attributed to a single factor.

Yet the extent to which indoor training allows the focus to fall on improving technique, and the way in which the raw talents of Yego and El Sayed can be cultivated into world class performances, suggests that, as well as the hard work, there is something to the indoors that makes greatness.

This year’s world champs in Beijing will provide a chance for both African men to announce their talent to the world on one of the biggest stages of all. However loud a noise they make, at least a small part of it will have emanated from a sports hall on the outskirts of a small town in Finland.