Home > News > Amsterdam 1928 News > Flying Finn Ritola signs off with fifth gold

Amsterdam 1928

Options

Flying Finn Ritola signs off with fifth gold

02/06/1928

Ville, or Willie, Ritola unfortunately played second fiddle during one of the greatest dynasties Olympic track and field has ever witnessed.

Much like the Kenyans and Ethiopians dominate distance running now, in the 1920s success in the longer events was the sole preserve of the Finns.

At the forefront of that success was the inimitable Paavo Nurmi -– whose record of nine golds stood until American swimmer Michael Phelps finally broke it – and Ritola had to long live in the shadow of his legendary countryman.

Ritola had a commanding Olympic record; four years earlier at the Games in Paris he won four golds and two silvers and his tally would have been better but for the ever-present Nurmi.

He finished runner-up to his fellow Finn in the 5,000m and the cross country but shattered his own world record in winning the 10,000m by a huge distance.

Four years later and again the medals were expected to be shared between the two team mates. Nurmi won his ninth and last gold medal in a scintillating 10,000m with Ritola clinging on until a burst down the home straight sent Nurmi past the tape about two metres clear.

Then in the 5,000m, Ritola was eager for revenge and it proved to be a highly tactical race in front of a packed, expectant crowd at the Olympic Stadium.

Nurmi upped the pace at halfway and most of the field were lagging badly. Ritola and Swede Edvin Wide kept up with the Finn and as the event entered the final 400m it was a three-horse race.

But with Ritola at the front, his head ducking inside to catch a glimpse of Nurmi on his shoulder, the decisive break came with 150 metres to go.

Ritola burst clear and Nurmi immediately glanced back to ensure his silver was safe knowing his countryman’s burst of speed had put the gold beyond him.

Discover the best photos of Amsterdam 1928

  • The 1928 “Céleste” club

    The football team entered victoriously by Uruguay at the 1928 Games. Andrés Mazali stands third from right

    ©IOC

  • Winner’s medal Amsterdam 1928

    The reverse of the medal shows an athlete carried triumphantly in victory. This motif was used on the reverse of summer Olympic medals until 1968, when a different reverse was designed for the Munich 1972 Games

    ©IOC

  • AAANX093

    Amsterdam 1928-Italian competitors (ITA) on the boat arriving in Amsterdam.

  • XAAQA003

    Amsterdam 1928-WIDE Edvin (SWE) 3rd in 5000 m and 10000 m.

  • XAAQA007

    Amsterdam 1928-Field hockey-Count Henri DE BAILLET-LATOUR congratulating the Belgian team (BEL) 4e.

  • XAAQA001

    Amsterdam 1928-1500m-In 8th position, MARTIN Paul (SUI) 6th.

FEATURED NEWS