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Paris 1924 - Key Moments

Paavo Nurmi -- The Man Machine

Following the collection of three titles and a silver medal in 1920 in Antwerp, Paavo Nurmi of Finland became the hero of these Games when he demonstrated unparalleled ease and class to take five more gold medals.

As if to prove that, at the age of 27, he was virtually unbeatable, Nurmi established two world records (in the 1,500-meter and 5,000-meter runs) during his preparations for the competition.

As expected, he took the 1,500 title in the Colombes stadium -- only one second short of his world record time, but an Olympic record.

Less than an hour later, Nurmi lined up for the 5,000, at which his rivals hoped to benefit from his anticipated fatigue. They established a steady rhythm at the start of the race, but it was a case of wishful thinking. At the midpoint, Nurmi still 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, 500 meters from the finish line, Nurmi took one last look at his watch, threw it on the grass and accelerated. Ritola resisted the chase and arrived two-tenths of a second behind Nurmi.

Pace technology

The next day, Nurmi took victory in the individual cross country. He followed this up with gold in the team cross country, although 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 abandoned the race as they fell prey to exposure.

Nurmi's haul of medals in Paris was completed with the gold in the team 3,000.

But more than his astonishing achievements, the most noted impression Nurmi left upon the Games was his running style. Always with a stopwatch 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 -- part of his performance technique, which allowed him to keep his own progress in check and prepare in the most exact fashion to win races. In 1928 in Amsterdam, the "stopwatch man" won the 10,000 gold -- his ninth gold medal -- and two silver medals in the 5,000 and 3,000 steeple.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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