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PAAVO NURMI AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES


PARIS 1924 ANTWERP >> AMSTERDAM >>



Tuesday, July 8th 5000 metres, Qualifying Heat

Paavo Nurmi has a relaxed start in his second Olympic campaign. He spends the early kilometres behind the main pack, chatting with team-mate Eino Seppälä. When the audience starts to whistle at his lazy performance, Nurmi picks up pace, takes the lead and wins the heat. His time is one minute slower than his world record mark set in June.



Wednesday, July 9th 1500 metres, Qualifying Heat

Nurmi uses the qualifying heat to test his speed and finds it quite adequate. A fast first lap leaves the others far behind, and Nurmi only needs to coast to finish as winner.



Parisi 1924: 1500 metrest final

Thursday, July 10th 1500 metres Final: GOLD MEDAL

Paris is caught by a heatwave on Paavo Nurmi’s greatest day. The Olympic finals in 1500 and 5000 metres were originally scheduled to take place inside an hour. On 19 June in Helsinki Nurmi had tested this Olympic schedule and broken world records in both distances. Now he aims to win the 1500 metres without exerting himself too much. Nurmi takes the lead after 200 metres and builds up a blistering speed. He passes the 800-metre mark almost three seconds sooner than in his world record race. Only Ray Watson of the United States tries to keep up with Nurmi but he too gives up before the last lap. With 300 metres to go Nurmi remembers to relax, slows down visibly and coasts to victory. His winning time of 3:53.6 is still only a second slower than his world record. In the end the rest of the pack, fighting fiercely for the silver, narrows the gap to about twenty metres. Watson pays dearly for his folly and fades to seventh place. Nurmi is already preparing for the 5000 metres.



Thursday, July 10th 5000 metres Final: GOLD MEDAL

The original schedule has been relaxed by placing qualifying heats in 400 metres between the two finals. The 5000-metre final still starts less than two hours after Paavo Nurmi’s victory in the 1500 metres. What is more, Nurmi now has a serious competitor. His countryman Ville Ritola has already won two gold medals, in the 10 000 metres on Sunday - with a new world record - and in the 3000 metres steeplechase on Wednesday. This is the first time Nurmi and Ritola meet in an Olympic race: in allocating races between their two stars the Finnish team officials had prevented Nurmi from taking part in the 10 000 metres. Sweden’s Edvin Wide, who was also born in Finland, tries to shed his former countrymen by building up early speed. Ritola trails him closely with Nurmi following a bit further down the field. Wide keeps up world record pace for 2000 metres but then begins to fade. At half-way mark Nurmi takes the lead and is followed by Ritola. Wide falls behind, and the rest of the race is a duel between the two Finns. Nurmi leads by seven metres at best, but Ritola closes the gap before the last lap. In the home stretch Ritola makes his move from the outside, but Nurmi answers with a calm change of pace and breaks the tape in 14:31.2, one metre ahead of his rival.



Friday, July 11th 3000 metres Team Race, Qualifying Heat

From every nation six men enter the race: the placings of the best three are added together to make the team score. Finland’s opponents in the qualifying heat are Great Britain, Italy, Poland and Norway. As expected, Paavo Nurmi and Ville Ritola outclass the rest of the field. In the final stretch they even wait for the third Finn, Sameli Tala. The trio crosses the goal line at a leisurely pace, Nurmi duly getting the honour to break the tape.



Saturday, July 12th Cross-country race, Individual: GOLD MEDAL, Team competition: GOLD MEDAL

The Olympic cross-country race takes place on the hottest day of the Parisian summer. The temperature rises to 45 degrees Centigrade in the sun, and shade is nowhere to be found along the course. The competitors have to negotiate 10 650 metres of dusty tracks along the bank of the Seine amidst thick weeds and noxious fumes from a nearby energy plant. Of 38 entrants only 15 make it to the finish, and of these, eight are carried away on stretchers. Edvin Wide starts again fastest, trailed by Paavo Nurmi and Ville Ritola. After 4.5 kilometres the Finns leave Wide behind, and the Swede never sees the goal line. A couple of kilometres later Nurmi makes his move and towards the end his lead only increases. Nurmi crosses the finish line a minute and a half ahead of Ritola and looks only slightly tired. The gold medal in the team competition proves to be a much harder case. For a while it seems that no third Finn has made the journey home. Then Heikki Liimatainen, staggers semi-consciously into the Stadium and after dramatic interludes crosses the finish line in twelfth place. Only three teams get three men through: Finland wins with 11 points, the USA is second with 14, and France third with 20 points.



Paris 1924: 3000 metres team event

Sunday, July 13th 3000 metres Team Race Final: GOLD MEDAL

Many other cross-country racers are still recovering in hospital when Paavo Nurmi and Ville Ritola start for another Olympic final. Finland’s opponents for the 3000-meter team title are the United States, Great Britain and France. Nurmi takes the lead after the first kilometre and never looks back. Only the American Joie Ray dares to trail the champion but only manages to exhaust himself totally. Ritola leads the rest of the pack before he, too, leaves it behind at the beginning of the final lap. Nurmi’s winning time is 8:32.0, and Ritola comes second, 8.6 seconds behind. When Elias Katz crosses the finish line in fifth place, Finland’s total score is eight points. Britain takes the silver with 14 points and the bronze goes to the Americans with 25. This completes Paavo Nurmi’s Olympic campaign in Paris: in six days, he has run seven races, won them all and gathered five gold medals. Ville Ritola also has an impressive tally: four gold and two silver medals in eight races in eight days.


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