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Paavo Nurmi

Paavo Johannes Nurmi forms the nucleus of a group of athletes from Finland who were dubbed as the ‘Flying Finns’. He quickly gained worldwide fame when he competed at the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games. He dominated over his rivals to capture gold medals in the 10,000 meters run, the cross-country individual and the team events. He also won a silver medal in the 5,000 meters.

Nurmi established 22 official world marks at distances that ranged from 1500 meters and 20 kilometers. He pocketed a total of 12 medals (nine gold and three silver medals) in twelve events he participated in the Olympics.

During his heydays Nurmi was unbeaten in the 121 competitions he entered in 800 meters and above races. He was also undefeated in the 10km and cross country events in a span of 14 years.

Paavo Nurmi entering the stadium with the Olympic flame in 1952Paavo Nurmi entering the stadium with the Olympic flame in 1952

Nurmi’s family belonged to the working class, and at the tender age of 12 he started providing for his family. In 1912, he was inspired by Hannes Kolehmainen’s accomplishments in the Olympics and started coming up with a rigid training program.

Nurmi started making his presence felt in the athletics space ripping national records, here and there, in smashing fashion to earn a spot in the national track and field team.

During the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games, Nurmi capped his running career as he blazed his way on capturing the gold medal in the 10,000 meters and taking the silver medals in the 5,000 meters and the steeplechase. During this period, Nurmi was so prominent that he often graced athletic meets all over the world. This compelled the IAAF to label him as a professional athlete and was not given the chance to compete in the 1932 Summer Olympic Games and notch up his 10th gold medal.

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