Flying Finn (Paavo Nurmi)

13.04.1897 – 2.10.1973


Paavo Johannes Nurmi was a Finnish Olympic middle and long-distance runner. He was also known as the “Flying Finn” and “The King of Runners”. He had won 9 gold medals and three silver medals from 1920 to 1928 in three Olympic Games. He was born in Turku, Finland on July 13 1897. He had watched Hannes Kolehmainen in 1912 put Finland on the map with his three gold medals in long distances running and decided that he would do the same for Finland. He had trained systematically and never trained without a stop watch. He had joined Turku Urheiluliitto and broke his first Finnish national record on May 29th 1920 with a distance of 3000 metres and the time of 8.36,2.


Mr. Nurmi had his first and only lost to Joseph Guillemot of France at the Antwerp 1920 games. After this he had broken world records in Stockholm in 1921 with 30.40,2 in 10 000 metres.

He held records in the track events:

  • The mile
  • 5000 metres
  • 10, 000 metres


"When you race against time, you don't have to sprint. Others can't hold the pace if it is steady and hard all through to the tape." 
"Kun juoksee aikaa vastaan, ei tarvitse kiriä. Muut eivät kestä mukana vauhdissa, joka on tasaisen kovaa loppuun asti..."
 - Paavo Nurmi, principle



The 1924 Olympic Games in Paris was also very fruitful for the proud Finnish runner. He had won five gold medals in six days. The French sports paper called Miroir des Sports had wrote: “Paavo Nurmi goes beyond the limits of Humanity.” He also impressed the United States running 55 times there in 1925.

Slowly stepping out of his prime of breaking many records: He  participated in the 1928 Olympic games in Amsterdam and won a gold medal in 10 000 metres and silver in the 5 000 and the 3 000 metres steeplechase at the age of 31. He went on more foreign tours and broke records in London and Stockholm in 1929.

In 1932 the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He wanted to run but had a foot injury and suspended from accusations of his professionalism. He didn’t run in this race but said he would have won by five minutes. He could not race in any other foreign races because the official suspension and also because he was named as a professional. The Finnish Athletic Federation didn’t pay heed to the International Amateur athletic federation claims. He had raced in his own country and came out victorious in the “National Amateur”.


After racing Mr. Nurmi became a businessman and put his money in the stock market. He had 40 towns built in Helsinki by his company. He had taken breaks from Business responsibilities to train some of the Finnish runners from 1930’s to the 1940’s.

He had also raised funds for the war against the Soviet Union by going abroad to America with Taisto Mäki another Finnish runner. Paavo Nurmi and Hannes Kolehmainen had both lit the flame for the 1952 opening Olympic Games of Helsinki. They had gotten a standing ovation from the 70 000 present that day.

Mr. Nurmi was like any other Finnish man that I know and worked hard even after his recovery from Thrombosis in 1950 but still worked and had a research foundation for Coronary disease. He gave the foundation two building and a large sum of money.

Mr. Nurmi the great Finn had died in 1971 October 2nd. His state funeral had taken place in the Old Church of Helsinki and he was taken back to his home town in Turku and was buried in the Old Cemetery. He has an original statue from Wäinö Aaltonen a famous Finnish Sculptor which was ordered by the Finnish government in 1924. The original is now placed in front of the University of Jyväskylä. There are many copies made from the original.  One statue is in Turku and the other one is in front of the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki. Nurmi also has a status in Switzerland. He had his face on a ten mark note ordered by the Bank of Finland in 1987.


Ten mark note from The Bank of Finland


1952 Olympics.


Nurmi 1924 Paris.


Nurmi Running.



Video (FanMade):



Personal Thoughts

I had first heard of Mr. Nurmi in 2012 watching the Olympic Games in Britain. They had mentioned his name and his great feats. I had asked my Finnish friend about him and she said “They don’t make them like him anymore.” I was really astonished by all his records and wanted to know more about him and other Finnish athletes like Hanna-Maria Seppälä.


Finnish Words:

  • Juoksijoiden kuningas – “King of Runners”
  • Lentävä suomalainen – “Flying Finn”
  • Juoksija – Runner
  • Olympialaiset – Olympic Games
  • Saavutettu – Achieved
  • Kipeytyneet jalastaan – Sore Legs
  • Metrin – Metre
  • Kultamitalia – Gold Medals
  • Legendaarinen – Legendary
  • Hopeaa – Silver Medals




















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