Ville Ritola

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Vilho ("Ville") Eino Ritola (18 January 1896 – 24 April 1982) was a Finnish athlete, specialised in the long distance events. In the 1920s, he won 8 Olympic medals. He was internationally known as one of the "Flying Finns".

Born in Peräseinäjoki, Finland, Ville Ritola, nicknamed as Peräseinäjoen Susi (The Wolf from Peräseinäjoki), emigrated to United States at the age of 17, to join his seven siblings, who had emigrated earlier.

In the United States, Ritola joined the Finnish-American Athletic Club and trained together with Hannes Kolehmainen, who had moved to the United States after the 1912 Summer Olympics. Kolehmainen tried to convince young Ritola to join the Finnish 1920 Summer Olympics team, but Ritola said, he wasn't ready yet.

But he was ready at the 1924 Paris Olympics by winning four gold medals and two silver medals. In his first race, the 10 000 m, in absence of Paavo Nurmi, he won by half a lap and obliterated his own world record by more than 12 seconds. Three days later, he won the 3000 m steeplechase by 75 metres. The next day he finished second behind Nurmi in the 5000 m. Next he earned another silver medal behind Nurmi in the cross-country race and gained a gold medal as a member of the Finnish cross-country team. Finally, Ritola joined with Nurmi to win the 3000 m team race.

In the 1928 Summer Olympics, Ritola placed second in the 10 000 m, behind Nurmi. His last Olympic appearance was in the 5000 m. This time Ritola pulled away from Nurmi in the final curve and won by 12 metres. This victory brought Ritola's career total to five gold medals and three silver medals.

Ritola never competed in the Finnish Nationals, but won a handful of medals in AAU Championships in United States. He was the AAU champion at 6 miles (9.7 km) in 1927, at 10 miles (16 km) road race in 1922, 1923 and from 1925 to 1927, at 2,000 yd (1,800 m) steeplechase in 1923, 1926 and 1927 and at cross county in 1922, 1923 and from 1925 to 1927.

Ville Ritola retired from athletics after the 1928 Olympic Games. He moved back to Finland in 1971. Ville Ritola died in Helsinki at the age of 86.

Ritola's career inspired a phrase into colloquial Finnish. "Ottaa ritolat", translating as something like "pull a Ritola", means to make a quick exit from somewhere.


 1912: Hannes Kolehmainen (FIN)  ·  1920: Joseph Guillemot (FRA)  ·  1924: Paavo Nurmi (FIN)  ·  1928: Ville Ritola (FIN)  ·  1932: Lauri Lehtinen (FIN)  ·  1936: Gunnar Höckert (FIN)  ·  1948: Gaston Reiff (BEL)  ·  1952: Emil Zátopek (TCH)  ·  1956: Vladimir Kuts (URS)  ·  1960: Murray Halberg (NZL)  ·  1964: Bob Schul (USA)  ·  1968: Mohammed Gammoudi (TUN)  ·  1972: Lasse Virén (FIN)  ·  1976: Lasse Virén (FIN)  ·  1980: Miruts Yifter (ETH)  ·  1984: Saïd Aouita (MAR)  ·  1988: John Ngugi (KEN)  ·  1992: Dieter Baumann (GER)  ·  1996: Vénuste Niyongabo (BDI)  ·  2000: Million Wolde (ETH)  ·  2004: Hicham El Guerrouj (MAR)  ·  2008: Kenenisa Bekele (ETH)

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