- 28 Jul 1952
- Helsinki 1952
Strömberg makes waves on home waters
As host nation, Finland was optimistic of securing a good crop of gold medals, and one of their greatest hopes was in the canoeing.
They had a number of strong stars, among them a young fisherman called Thorvald Strömberg, who had to contend with the pressure of home support and the challenge of one of the greatest canoeists of all time.
Strömberg was set to compete in both the 10,000m and 1,000m singles events. The longer race, in which the young Finn harboured his greatest hopes, came first. He had won the world championship title two years earlier, beating the legendary Swede Gert Fredriksson in the final.
Fredriksson, now 31, was the defending Olympic champion, having won the title in London by the enormous margin of more than 30 seconds. In the waters of Helsinki, the experienced Swede decided to trail along behind Strömberg, keeping the younger athlete just ahead of him.
Most expected Fredriksson to put in a decisive burst when the finish came into view, using the turn of speed that was one of his hallmarks. But they underestimated Strömberg's resolve. For every time the Swede tried to kick on, his Finnish rival responded. And by the end it was Strömberg who was pulling away, to win by more than 10 seconds.
Fredriksson did get a victory of his own the following day, when the finishing positions were reversed in the 1,000m, with Strömberg finishing nearly two seconds behind the Swede, and more than ten seconds clear of the third-placed canoeist.
Strömberg attempted to defend his 10,000m title four years later in Melbourne but could not produce his best form because he was suffering from a stomach problem. He did, however, regain his world title in 1958.