b. 1897 d.1973
Perhaps the most reknowned Finnish
athlete of all time. Paavo Nurmi, the "Flying Finn", was the world's greatest distance runner
of the early 20th century
He broke on to the world track scene by winning three gold medals at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics. At one time (1923) he held world records in the mile, 5000 meters and 10,000 meters. No one before or since has ever accomplished this trifecta.
Perhaps his finest performance, though, was in the 1924 Olympics. Over a six-day span in Paris he won 5 gold medals -- winning the 1500 meters and the 5000 just hours apart.
During World War II Nurmi made trips to America to raise funds for Finland's war efforts. To this day he is revered in both Finland and Finnish communities in the United States. A marathon named in his honor is run annually in Hurley, Wisconsin.