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Stockholm 1912 - Key Moments

Hannes Kolehmainen: the Flying Finn

In modern times he is less well-known than his compatriot Paavo Nurmi, but the Finn Hannes Kolehmainen created his own niche in Olympic history with a tally of four gold medals, three of which were obtained in middle distance events during the Stockholm Games in 1912.

The Finnish athlete achieved these spectacular results following an innovative and professional period of training (notably, with help from a psychologist) which would not have been possible without the financial help of his brother, a professional athlete in the United States.

On July 7, at the height of his form, he began what turned out to be an impressive string of victories, first winning the 10,000m qualifier in 33min 49secs.

The next day he went on to win the 10,000m final, the first Finnish medal of the Games. Despite the energy-sapping heat, Kolehmainen covered the distance in an impressive 31:20.8 secs.

Epic duel

Forty-eight hours later, he recorded a time of 15:34.6 in the preliminary rounds of the 5000m, but was not as quick as France's Jean Bouin, who succeeded in recording a new Olympic record with a time of 15:05.

On July 10, the anticipated final of the 5000m turned out to produce one of the epic duels of the Olympic Games (both runners passed each other a total of sixteen times).

Twenty-five metres from the finish line, the Finn, encouraged by the public, made a move which the Marseille athlete was unable to counter, and Kolehmainen won his second gold medal.

In doing so, he became the youngest world record-holder of the 5000m (14:36.6).

After beating the 3000m world record, for scheduling reasons the Finns pulled out of the final - and Kolehmainen went on to take another gold medal from the individual cross-country event. A triple haul of medals for the Finn, with another, this time silver, taken in the team cross country event.

The Flying Finn once again illustrated his ability at the Games in Antwerp in 1920 by winning the marathon title.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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