Paavo Nurmi

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Paavo Nurmi is considered by some to be the greatest runner of all time. He was known as "The King of Runners" or the "Flying Finn". Famous all over the world, Nurmi became an unending source of national pride for the newly independent Finland. Paavo Nurmi was driven by love of running. He had a burning will to succeed in life, and racing was his way to gain recognition from his fellow men and to fulfil the high standards he had set for himself. Martti Jukola, a famous Finnish sports journalist, wrote in 1935: "There was something inhumanly stern and cruel about him, but he conquered the world by pure means: with a will that had supernatural power." At three Olympic Games from 1920 to 1928 Nurmi won a total of nine gold and three silver medals.

Paavo Nurmi was born on the 13th of July, 1897, at Turku, a port town on the southwestern coast of Finland. In 1912, at the Olympic Games at Stockholm, Hannes Kolehmainen "ran Finland onto the map of the world", winning three gold medals in long-distance events. His races made an indelible impression on the 15-year-old Paavo Nurmi, who decided to do the same. Soon enough, Paavo got his first pair of running shoes and began serious training.

174 centimeters tall and weighing 65 kilograms at his prime, Paavo Nurmi was ideally built for a long-distance runner. In terms of basic training knowledge, Nurmi was self-educated. He was one of the first top athletes who had a systematic approach in training. Walking, running and calisthenics were the main elements of his harsh training regimen. He learned to measure his pace and its effects with a stop watch, and never raced without one in his hand. In 1914 Paavo Nurmi joined Turun Urheiluliitto, a local sports club that he was to represent all through his career. On May 29th, 1920, at Turku, he set his first Finnish national record. The distance was 3000 meters and the time 8.36,2.

The Olympic Games at Antwerp in 1920 made Paavo Nurmi a star in Finland, a worthy successor of Hannes Kolehmainen. His first Olympic race, the 5000 meters, ended in bitter defeat to Joseph Guillemot of France. This was to be the only time that Nurmi lost in an Olympic final to a foreign runner, however. In the following days he won gold medals in 10 000 meters and the cross-country race, adding a third one in the team event of the latter.
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