Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Juho Pietari "Hannes" Kolehmainen 9.10.1989

Juho Pietari "Hannes" Kolehmainen (9 December 1889 – 11 January 1966) was a Finnish long-distance runner. He is considered to be the first of a generation of great Finnish long distance runners, often named the "Flying Finns". Kolehmainen competed for a number of years in the United States, wearing the Winged Fist of the Irish American Athletic Club. He also enlisted in the 14th Regiment of the National Guard of New York, and became a U.S. citizen in 1921. Kolehmainen, a devoted vegetarian and bricklayer by trade, was from a sportive family from Kuopio (his brothers Willy and Tatu, also an Olympian, were also strong long distance runners). He was one of the stars of the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, winning three gold medals. His most memorable was the one in the 5000 m. In that event, he ran a heroic duel with Frenchman Jean Bouin. After leading the field together for most of the race, Bouin was only defeated by Kolehmainen in the final metres – in World Record time. In addition, Kolehmainen won the 10000 m and the now discontinued cross country event. With the Finnish team, he also obtained a silver place in the cross country team event. At the time, Finland was still a part of Russia, and although there was a separate Finnish team at the Olympics, the Russian flag was raised for Kolehmainen's victories, making him say that he "almost wished he hadn't won". 

Kolehmainen's sportive career was interrupted by the First World War, but he remained an athlete to be reckoned with, although his specialty had now shifted to the longer distances, especially the marathon. At the first post-war Olympics in Antwerp, he won the gold medal in this event. He would also enter the Olympic marathon in 1924, but Kolehmainen did not complete that race. By then, Kolehmainen had found a worthy successor in Paavo Nurmi. Together with Nurmi, he lit the Olympic Flame at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. He died in that same city, fourteen years later. 

This FDC was given to me by Merja.

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