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Paris 1924 - Key Moments

Paavo Nurmi - the man machine

Following the collection of three titles, and a silver medal won in Antwerp four years earlier, the Finn Paavo Nurmi became the hero of the Games when he demonstrated unparalleled ease and class to take five new gold medals.

As if to prove that, at the age of 27, he was virtually unbeatable, Nurmi established two new world records (1500m and 5000m) during his preparations for the forthcoming competition.

As expected, he took the 1500m title in the Colombes stadium - only one second short of his own world record time, but setting a new Olympic record.

Less than an hour later, Nurmi lined up for the 5000m, at which his rivals hoped to benefit from Nurmi's anticipated fatigue. They established a steady rhythm at the start of the race, but it was a case of wishful thinking. At half-way, Nurmi was happy to entertain his rivals' wishes and maintained the pace. In the last eight laps, however, the Finn showed his superiority by forcing ahead relentlessly.

Only his compatriot Ville Ritola stayed within distance of him until, 500m from the finish line, he took one last look at his watch, threw it into the grass and accelerated, edging Ritola by two tenths of a second.

Pace technology

The next day Nurmi took victory in the individual cross-country race. He followed this up with gold in the team cross-country event, though in less conducive conditions. For several days Paris fell victim to a heatwave, the majority of the runners feeling the full force of the hot conditions. Out of 38 competitors, 23 dropped out as they fell prey to exposure.

Yet, as Nurmi entered the stadium the events which were left in the wake of the Finn's unerring stride during the race, were largely unknown to the waiting crowd.

Finally, his personal haul of medals in Paris was raised to five with the team 3000m gold.

But more than his astonishing achievements, the most noted impression Nurmi left upon the Games was his running style. Always with a stop-watch in hand, as much in training as in competition, the man who went on to establish 22 world records judged his timing by glancing at his watch on each lap.

This was Nurmi's infamous "pace science" in action - a part of his performance technique which allowed him to keep his own progress in check, and to prepare in the most exact fashion to win races. In Amsterdam, in 1928, the "stop-watch man" won the 10,000m gold - his ninth gold medal - and two silver medals in the 5000m and 3000m steeple.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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