Paavo Nurmi

Olympic Person of the Month May 2022

Inspiration comes in all different shapes and forms as we go through our daily lives. In the world of sports, inspiration is usually triggered by other athletes who has accomplished something incredible. The Olympic Games in Stockholm in 1912 gave the stage to Finnish runner Hannes Kolehmainen, who won not one, not two but three gold medals and put Finland “on the map”. These runs made a strong impression on a young 15-year-old Finnish runner and sparked the inner passion to accomplish the same later becoming the greatest runner of all time known as the “Flying Finn”. This is the story of Paavo Nurmi.

Paavo was born June 13, 1897, in Turku. Growing up, the stars were aligned as he had the ideal physique for long-distance running. He understood the meaning of structured training and used a stopwatch to understand how speed impacts results.

The Antwerp 1920 Games were his first Olympics where he achieved his first gold and silver medals in several competitions. Paris 1924 was the highlight of his career. Within 6 days, he ran five gold medals. What is exceptional is that between 1500m and 5000m races there was only two hours in between and he still won both! The Olympic Games in 1928 in Amsterdam were his last games where he won a gold medal from 10 000m race and two silver medals from 5000m race and 3000m steeplechase.

Nurmi passed away in Helsinki October 2, 1973.

Famous all over the world, Nurmi became an unending source of national pride for the newly independent Finland. To this day Finland is at third place for having won the most medals per Games contested relative to the country’s population size. A big thanks to this go to Nurmi who was one of the most successful Olympians of all time.

The EOA is delighted to honour Paavo Nurmi as the Olympic Person of the Month of May. He is a splendid example of why role models and inspirational figures are important. From the spark received from Kolehmainen, it became Nurmi’s turn to inspire future generations!

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