At The 1920 Antwerp Games, 23 year old Paavo Nurmi, one of the Flying Finns began his great Olympic career with 3 gold medals [he would end up with 9 in his olympic career} In 1920 he won gold in the 10,000 meters and the 8000 meter cross country race. He also won gold in the team cross country race and a silver medal in the 5ooo meters.
Paavo Nurmi was the greatest middle and long distance runner in the world in the 1920’s. He set records in distances from 1500 meters to 20 km. In the 1924 Paris Games, Nurmi set an olympic record in athletic events for the most gold medals in one olympic games. At the 1928 Amrsterdam Games Nurmi won one gold and two silver medals.
Paavo Nurmi was set to compete in the 1932 Los Angeles Games but was considered a professional and not allowed to compete. He reportedly had received money from his successful tours of America. He was in Los Angeles at the games and ready to compete but his appeals were denied by the International Olympic Committee.
Paavo Nurmi is considered by some to be the greatest track and field performer ever. His 12 medals at olympic games in track and field events still stands. His track career lasted from 1919 to 1934. He was known for his silence. He had a long career but rarely gave interviews or said very much-earning him the nickname “Great Silent One”
When Finland hosted the 1952 Games at Helsinki- it was of course Paavo Nurmi, the greatest athletic hero of Finland who had the honor of lighting the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony.
Paavo Nurmi would die in 1973 at the age of 76.