Paavo Johannes Nurmi, born June 13,1897 at Turku, Finland and died seventy-six years later on October 2, 1973 at Helsinki Finland. He was the son of Johan Fredrik Nurmi, carpenter, and Matilda Vilhelmina Laine.
Paavo Nurmi is considered 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." He made his Olympic debut at the 1920 Antwerp Games. He took the competition by storm winning gold medals in the 10,000m, the cross-country individual and team event. He also claimed a silver in the 5,000m. Brilliance in Paris .At the 1924 Paris Games, Nurmi made history by becoming the first athlete ever to win five gold medals at a single Olympic Games. In the space of four astonishing days, Nurmi won the 1500m, the 5,000m, the 3,000m team event and the two cross-country events. The one that got away. Nurmi had hoped to defend his 10,000m title, but Finnish officials, fearing for his health, refused to enter him in the event. Back in Finland, an angry Nurmi made his point by setting a 10,000m world record that would last for almost 13 years.
Professional controversy. At the 1928 Amsterdam Games, Nurmi completed his Olympic career by winning the 10,000m and earning silver medals in the 5,000m and the steeplechase. By this time, Nurmi was so famous he was invited to become the main attraction in athletic meets worldwide. This prompted the IAAF to brand him a professional, causing him to miss out on the 1932 Olympic Games and a possible 10th gold medal.At three Olympic Games from 1920 to 1928 Nurmi won a total of twelve medals. Nine gold and three silver. Three golds and one silver at Antwerp in 1920, five golds at Paris in 1924 and one gold and two silvers at Amsterdam in 1928. Paavo Nurmi is one of the most successful male athletes in Olympic history and one of only four athletes to win nine Olympic gold medals.
Marjatta Väänänen, the Finnish Minister of Education, said in her commemoration speech at his funeral, "Records will be broken, gold medals will lose their lustre, winners find their victors. However, as a historical concept, Paavo Nurmi will never be beaten." On October 11th, 1973, Paavo Nurmi was given a state funeral. The ceremony took place in the Old Church of Helsinki. From there he was taken in a motorcade to his native Turku where he was buried in the family grave at the Old Cemetery.
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