Paavo Johannes Nurmi ( pronunciation (help·info)) (13 June 1897 – 2 October 1973) was a Finnish runner. Born in Turku, he was known as one of the "Flying Finns"; a term given to him, Hannes Kolehmainen, Ville Ritola and others for their distinction in running. During the 1920s, Nurmi was the best middle and long distance runner in the world, setting world records at distances between 1500 m and 20 km.
Nurmi won a total of nine gold and three silver medals in the 12 events in which he competed at the Olympic Games from 1920 to 1928. In 1932, Nurmi was unable to compete at the Olympics, as he had received money for his running and was thus considered a professional.
Nurmi debuted at the 1920 Summer Olympics by competing in four events. He won three gold medals: the 10,000 m, the cross country event and the cross country team event, and finished second in the 5000 m.
In 1924, he won five gold medals in five events, including the 1500 m, 5000 m (with only 26 minutes between the final races; as a try out he had broken the world record in both of these events earlier the same year, the 3000 m team race, and again both cross country events. It was the last time these cross country events were held, as the great heat caused more than half of the competitors to abandon the race, and many more had to be taken to hospital. Finnish officials, fearing for his health, refused to enter Nurmi in the 10,000 m event. Thus, he was unable to defend his title. An angry Nurmi protested after returning to Finland by setting a 10,000 m world record that would last for almost 13 years.
Nurmi ended his Olympic career at the 1928 Summer Olympics, winning the 10,000 m and two silver medals (5000 m and 3000 m steeplechase).
Nurmi has won the most Olympic medals in Track & Field, 12 total. He ties Larissa Latynina, Mark Spitz, and Carl Lewis with nine Olympic gold medals, second only to Michael Phelps with fourteen. Due to this fact, he is often considered the greatest Track & Field athlete of all time.
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