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Albin Stenroos made his own mark on the sport's biggest stage

Albin Stenroos made his own mark on the sport's biggest stage

14/07/1924

Few events conjured as much excitement during the formative years of the modern Olympic Games as the marathon.

Its early years were laced with tragedy and drama; from the collapse of Italian Dorando Pietri within sight of the finish line in 1908, to the tragic death of the Portuguese runner Francisco Lazaro at the 1912 Games in Stockholm.

Pietri was disqualified after British officials to come to his aid, his flailing legs and unsteady gait becoming one of the iconic moments in the history of the summer Games.

Like many Olympic marathons that had gone on before it, the race at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris was contested in searing heat.

Race organisers delayed the start time to allow the oppressive conditions to calm but by the time the 58-man field took to the starting line temperatures remained stubbornly high.

An array of improvised headgear and caps were on show as the field did all they could to calm the severity of the Parisian heat.

Refuelling stations were a far cry from those of the modern era, with pales of water available for competitors to refresh their faces and wet rags handed out to assuage the heat.

As with so many distance events of the era, it was a Finn who dominated the race.

While team-mate Paavo Nurmi was breaking all records on the track in Paris, Albin Stenroos, a 35-year-old from Vehmaa, was about to make his own mark on the sport's biggest stage.

Stenroos hadn't run a marathon for 15 years until he qualified for the Finnish team at the trials prior to the Games.

He had enjoyed Olympic medal success with a team cross country silver in Stockholm as well as a individual bronze in the 10,000m.

But few expected such an emphatic victory in the 1924 marathon.

He surged clear of the field and entered the Olympic stadium with an unbeatable lead of around six minutes.

With a casual doff of his cap he acknowledged the crowd's applause and gingerly completed the final lap before breaking the tape in 2 hours 41.22 minutes, almost six minutes clear of second-placed Italian Romeo Bertini.

In an indication of the toll that the fierce heat took on competitors, seventh-placed Boughera El Ouadi would win the Amsterdam marathon four years later in a time nine minutes quicker than the Finn's mark.

Discover the best photos of Paris 1924

  • Johnny Weissmuller (USA)

    A part of Hollywood legend for his role as Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller was nonetheless an accomplished swimmer. At the Paris 1924 Games, he won gold in the 100m freestyle, 400m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle relay. We see him here after his 400m freestyle surrounded by his fellow medal-winners, Sweden’s Arne Borg (2nd, on the right) and the USA’s Andrew Charlton (3rd, on the left)
    ©IOC

  • Paavo Nurmi (FIN)

    Finnish athlete Paavo Nurmi won five gold medals at the Paris 1924 Games. He won the individual cross country, team cross country, the 1500m, 5000m and the team 3000m events. On 10 July 1924, he won the 1500m before victoriously taking gold, 55 minutes later (!) in the 5000m

    ©IOC

  • Winner’s medal Paris 1924

    The reverse of the medal is occupied by the representation of an athlete helping one of his opponents to stand. This motif thus perfectly illustrates the solidarity that we expect from any athletes taking part in the Olympic Games. Besides this, the Olympic rings appear for the first time on a medal (they are visible here on the upper part of the medal)
    ©IOC

  • Liddell Chaired

    18th July 1924: Eric Liddell (1902 - 1945), winner of the 400 metres at the 1924 Paris Olympics, is paraded around Edinburgh University after his victory. He was known as the 'Flying Scotsman' and was immortalised in the film Chariots of Fire. (Photo by Firmin/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

  • Liddell Triumphant

    18th July 1924: Scottish athlete Eric Liddell (1902 - 1945) is paraded around Edinburgh University after winning the 400 metres at the 1924 Paris Olympics. Eric Liddell, known as the 'Flying Scotsman' went to the Paris Olympics in 1924 as the favourite t

  • Eric Liddell

    Scottish athlete and missionary, Eric Henry Liddell (1902 -1945) being carried round the streets after his Olympic victory. Eric Liddell, known as the 'Flying Scotsman' went to the Paris Olympics in 1924 as the favourite to win the 100 metres race but refused to run because he felt that running on a Sunday conflicted with his Christian beliefs. He won a bronze medal in the 200 metres event instead and then ran the 400 metre race despite having little experience at the distance. He not only won the gold medal but broke the world record by completing the race in 47.6 seconds, an achievement which is celebrated in the 1981 film 'Chariots of Fire'. Liddell gained two degrees, one in science and the other in divinity, before leaving Britain to work as a Scottish Congregational Church missionary in China as his parents had before him. Original Publication: People Disc - HG0205 (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

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