Foto: R Norrby
World record
22 June 1921

10 000 m

30.40,2

Paavo Nurmi

Paavo Nurmi grew up in poverty in Turku.  He was inspired to take up running when he read about the exploits of his countryman Hannes Kohlemainen at the 1912 Olympics. Nurmi was the first top athlete to truly grasp the importance of systematic training. His iron-willed discipline made him the king of the track during the 1920s. Nurmi was 24 years of age when, on 22 June 1921, he competed in the 10,000 metres at a meeting in Stockholm. As the reigning Olympic champion over the distance, Nurmi was not lacking in self-confidence and he promised to break the world record. Heavy rain had made the track heavy but this did not prevent the Finn from keeping his word. In a race started by only four competitors, he quickly took a commanding lead. Nurmi kept a remarkably even pace; from the 20th to the 25th lap, he maintained the same lap time: 73 seconds. He completed the final 400 metres in 66 seconds, setting a new world record of 30:40.2. On speed alone, Nurmi had also recorded a world best time over six miles on that grey July afternoon. This was only the beginning of Paavo Nurmi’s fairytale career.  In the Paris Olympics of 1924, he astonished the world by winning  five gold medals in only six days. He won his final Olympic gold in the 10,000 metres at the 1928 games.  Nurmi was the king of the track and one newspaper wrote that he transcended human limits, a claim that no one saw fit to dispute.

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