Leo Koivunen, from Tampere, founded the company that specializes in manufacturing weightlifting and powerlifting equipment in 1976.
Leo in the development department at Valmet.
Leoko’s story started already in the 1950s and 1960s when major championship medalist Juhani Vellamo worked in the development department at Valmet with Leo Koivunen. Juhani asked Leo whether discs could be casted in his Leo’s father’s foundry for weightlifters.
Leo working in the foundry
Test discs made of cement
First test discs were made of cement into which medal powder was added. Word got around and weightlifters started asking Leo also for bars.
The foundry was sold in the 1970s and Leo concentrated on developing lifting equipment with the people from sports club Tampereen Pyrintö. Champion lifters Eino Mäkinen and Jaakko Kailajärvi were actively involved in development, and lifters at the gym in Ratina tested the bars and discs. Leo used to joke that it was his job to develop equipment that the customers were trying to break.
Leoko brand became quickly famous in Finnish weightlifting, but the company has also been a global pioneer especially in developing large, more than 5 kg or 10 kg discs, and women’s bars. The first women’s bar was 17.5 kg and the locks 1.25 kg each.
Leo Koivunen’s daughter Helena Lehtinen took charge of the family business in 1995 after working in the company since 1984, at first part time when her children were little. Leo Koivunen handed over the managing directorship to her daughter but worked in the background till his death in 2013.
CEO Helena Lehtinen says that the business focuses mainly in Finland but also Russia is an important marketing area. Since the very beginning Leoko has valued quality and Finnish work. Manufacturing lifting equipment is handwork that requires a lot of precision and patience.