Petteri Kolehmainen of Finland was born on December 9, 1889 in Kuopio, Finland.
His two brothers were also distance runners.
Kolehmainen began running when he was a teenager.
Kolehmainen won the British four mile championship race in 1911.
In the 1912
Olympics, he won the 10,000m,
5,000 m, and 12,000m cross-country run.
He also won silver in the 8,000m team race.
He most likely would have won a medal in the 3,000m team race.
Kolehmainen won his heat, but the other three Finnish runners did not
turn in good times, and Finland did not make it to the final.
5,000m final was exciting. Kolehmainen
and Jean Bouin of France, the two favorites, had a huge lead on the rest of the
runners in a short time. It was the
two of them for gold and silver. For
twelve and a half laps, they stayed together.
The two kept passing each other, but neither managed to pull away.
With 20 meters to go, Bouin was winning.
Then, with a final burst of energy, Kolehmainen broke the tape at the
finish line slightly ahead of Bouin, with a world record time of 14:36.6.
Kolehmainen broke into a grin. That
is why he is given the nickname “Smiling Hannnes.”
After the race, while being congratulated by
Lord Noel-Baker, he looked up on the flagpole and saw the Russian flag.
As in 1908
the Finnish athletes had decided to use no flag instead of the Russian one when
they won medals. In what sealed his popularity for Finns, he said “I would
almost rather not have won, than see that flag up there.”
Kolehmainen most likely would have won more
medals in the 1916 Olympics, but they were canceled for World War I.
He therefore could not compete again until 1920,
when he was well past his prime. Even
so, he decided to run the marathon. It
was the longest Olympic marathon: 42,750 meters and in heavy rain.
Even so, Kolehmainen did excellent.
After five kilometers, he was in second place.
For the next ten km, he was never less than fourth.
After the 15th kilometer, he was in second again.
Kolehmainen became the leader in after 30 km and never lost it.
Kolehmainen died in Helsinki, on November
11, 1966. He was not only
remembered for being an outstanding runner, but for inspiring another Finn, Paavo
Nurmi, to pursue his own dreams of running long distance races in the