Paavo Nurmi

Paavo Nurmi

Paavo Johannes Nurmi (Audio|Fi-Paavo_Nurmi.ogg|pronunciation) (13 June 1897 – 2 October 1973) was a Finnish runner. Born in Turku, he was known as one of the "Flying Finns"; a term given to him, Hannes Kolehmainen, Ville Ritola and others for their distinction in running. During the 1920s, Nurmi was the best middle and long distance runner in the world, setting world records at distances between 1500 m and 20 km.

Nurmi won a total of nine gold and three silver medals in the 12 events in which he competed at the Olympic Games from 1920 to 1928. In 1932, Nurmi was unable to compete at the Olympics, as he had received money for his running and was thus considered a professional.


Olympic career

Nurmi debuted at the 1920 Summer Olympics by competing in four events. He won three gold medals: the 10,000 m, the cross country event and the cross country team event, and finished second in the 5000 m.

In 1924, he won five gold medals in five events, including the 1500 m, 5000 m (with only 26 minutes between the final races; he broke the world record for both of them), the 3000 m team race, and again both cross country events. It was the last time these cross country events were held, as the great heat caused more than half of the competitors to abandon the race, and many more had to be taken to hospital. Finnish officials, fearing for his health, refused to enter Nurmi in the 10,000 m event. Thus, he was unable to defend his title. An angry Nurmi protested after returning to Finland by setting a 10,000 m world record that would last for almost 13 years.

Nurmi ended his Olympic career at the 1928 Summer Olympics, winning the 10,000 m and two silver medals (5000 m and 3000 m steeplechase).

Nurmi has won the most Olympic medals in Track & Field, 12 total. He ties Larissa Latynina, Mark Spitz, and Carl Lewis [] with nine Olympic gold medals, second only to Michael Phelps with fourteen. [cite book |title= The Complete Book of the Olympics: 2008 Edition |last= Wallechinsky |first= David |coauthors= Jaime Loucky |year= 2008 |publisher= Aurum Press |isbn= 978-1-84513-330-6 |pages= page 1178 ] Due to this fact, he is often considered the greatest Track & Field athlete of all time.

A "professional"

Nurmi continued to run after the Olympics in Amsterdam with every intent to compete in the 10,000 m and marathon events at the 1932 Summer Olympics, but he was branded a professional and barred from running in Los Angeles. The main conductors of the ban were the Swedish officials, especially Sigfrid Edström, the president of the IAAF and vice-president of the IOC. Edström claimed that Nurmi had received too much money for his travel expenses to a meet in Germany. This was seen as jealousy by many in Finland and in part led to Finland refusing to participate in the traditional Finland-Sweden international athletics event Suomi-Ruotsi-maaottelu or Finnkampen until 1939.

However, Nurmi did travel to Los Angeles and kept training at the Olympic Village. Despite pleas from all the entrants of the marathon, Nurmi was not allowed to compete at the Games. Although he had suffered from injuries, he claimed he would have won the marathon by five minutes after the event was over. He had set his heart on ending his career with a marathon gold medal, as his fellow countryman Hannes Kolehmainen had done shortly after the First World War.

A Finnish national hero, Paavo Nurmi was the lighter of the Olympic Flame at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. In retirement he ran a haberdashery store in Helsinki. Nurmi died in 1973 in Helsinki and was given a state funeral.


* Nurmi toured the United States in 1925 and competed in 55 events (45 indoors and 10 outdoors) during a five-month period. He broke 39 world records (most of them unofficial world records) and won 53 of the events. He abandoned one race and lost only an 880-yard sprint to the home country's star half-miler Alan Helffrich. The tour made Nurmi immensely popular in the USA.
* In his career Nurmi broke 22 official world records, ranging from the 1,500 to 20,000 meters.
* Personal Bests included 3:52.6 (1,500 meters, 1924), 4:10.4 (mile, 1923), 14:28.2 (5,000 meters, 1924), and 30:06.2 (10,000 meters, 1924). These were all world record performances.
* Finnish astronomer Yrjö Väisälä named an asteroid after Nurmi in 1939; "1740 Paavo Nurmi".
* Nurmi was a vegetarian since the age of 12. [cite web
title=HS etsii Suomen merkittävintä urheilusaavutusta
accessmonthday= |accessdaymonth= |accessyear=
author= |last=Seiro |first=Arno
authorlink= |coauthors=Jari Väliverronen
date=2007-06-22 |year= |month= |format=
work=Helsingin Sanomat
pages= |language=Finnish |doi= |archiveurl= |archivedate=
* An annual Paavo Nurmi Marathon has been held in Northern Wisconsin, USA since 1969. An event with the same name has also been held in Turku, Nurmi's home town, since 1991.
* Nurmi was mentioned in the 1974 novel "Marathon Man", as the idol of the protagonist. In the movie adaptation he was replaced with Abebe Bikila. However in the film Nurmi's runner picture can be seen on the main character's wall.
* A widely publicized practical joke by students at the Helsinki University of Technology took place in 1961, when a team of students smuggled a statue of Nurmi onto the 300-year-old wreck of the Swedish Regalskeppet Vasa just days before its lifting from the bottom of the seaIlta-Sanomat 5 July 1961 "Vasan veijarit", scan available at [ dump of] .]
* A Hollywood star, Maila Nurmi, who created the well-remembered 1950s character of Vampira, claims to be Paavo Nurmi's niece. Her portrayal of this character as a television horror host and in films was influential over decades that followed. Their consanguinity, however, has not been verified.
* Nurmi never raced without a stopwatch in his hand, although he occasionally tossed it aside after building up a sufficient space cushion between himself and rival runners.
* There is a "Paavo Nurmi Gymnasium" at Finlandia University, Hancock, Michigan, USA.
* On the unveiling of a statue of him in Turku, which featured him running but without clothing in typical olympics statue fashion, Nurmi's only comment was "I don't run naked."
*There is also a training system named after him. It is also tied to the Paavo Running Camps held across the US each summer.


External links

* [ Paavo Nurmi 100 years]

###@@@KEY@@@###succession box
title=Final Summer Olympic Torchbearer
Paavo Nurmi
before=John Mark "London 1948"
after=Ron Clarke and Hans Wikne "Melbourne / Stockholm 1956"
years=Helsinki 1952

NAME= Nurmi, Paavo Johannes
DATE OF BIRTH=June 13, 1897
PLACE OF BIRTH=Turku, Finland
DATE OF DEATH=October 2, 1973
PLACE OF DEATH=Helsinki, Finland

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