2011년 3월 10일 목요일
Athletic Legends - Part II, Flying Finn, Paavo Nurmi
Paavo Johannes Nurmi was born the son of a carpenter in TurKu, Finland in 1897. The athlete had a difficult childhood, after his father’s death, he had to support his poor family at the age of 12.
Nurmi first entered the athletics spotlight during the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games. Due to World War I, it took 8 years to hold the 7th Antwerp Olympic Games and moreover it was very meaningful to the Finland as a newly-independent nation.
Historically, Finland has struggled with its boarder countries, but after World War I national pride and unity spirit skyrocketed. It was the Finnish participation in the Olympics that gave the citizens the opportunity to show the new identity of their country. During this time, Paavo Nurmi took home three gold medals in 10,000m and cross country in both individual and group and also won the silver in 5,000 m and he soon emerged as Finland’s national hero.
This was the only beginning. He hit a winning streak in five events - 1,500m, 3,000m, Cross Country, and group in the 8th Paris Olympic Games. Even though a severe heat wave hit Paris, Paavo Nurmi won gold medal in five consecutive days. He became a fan favorite after spectators found out that he always ran while holding his pocket watch to check his time throughout the race.
The world had cheered on the stunning record and the press described him as Superman in the event. Now a proud symbol of Finland, the athlete faced more struggles with the neighboring countries of Sweden, Germany and Russia.
The athlete went on to the 9th Amsterdam Olympics in 1928 and again won the gold medal in the 10,000 m and silver medals at 3,000m hurdles and 5,000m, when he was 31 years old. He proved that he was again that he’s still strong enough to take on his younger rivals.
The athlete still on top of his game was not able to participate next the 10th Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1932 because of a scandal that led him to be disqualified by International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Nurmi was known for participating in several invitational events. During his tour throughout the U.S. he was charged for receiving more money than prescribed and he was not allowed to participate in the 10th Olympic Games. In addition, his amateur status was disqualified permanently and lost his qualification to participate forever. This case is still the subject of controversy and Finns are still trying regain his honor.
Although he didn't recover his honor officially, he was able to recover some of it as he was selected as the final torch-bearer of the 15th Olympic Games in Helsinki in 1952 at the age of 55. In Finland the athlete still remains as a national hero, this has been proven throughout time with the construction of his memorial statue in front of Helsinki Stadium and the use of his face on Finland currency until Euro integration.
In 1974, the sports hero died at the age of 77. The Finnish President gave him a state funeral and Finns across the country raised flag at half-mast.