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Lasse Virén had been considered an unlikely contender when he won his gold medals in the 5000m and 10000m during the previous Olympic Games in Munich 1972.
Arriving at Montreal 1976, Virén was now a double Olympic champion and considered as one of the favorites for another medal.
Could he follow the footsteps of the “Flying Finns” Hannes Kolehmainen, Paavo Nurmi and Ville Ritola who dominated long-distance running events during the Olympic Games between 1912 and 1928?
Lasse Virén began by winning the 10,000m with a comfortable 30 meters lead. However, the 5,000m final was harder. Although Virén was in the lead at the beginning of the last lap, only five meters separated the first six runners. Coming out of the final turn, Virén beat back a fierce challenge by New Zealand's Dick Quax and won his fourth Olympic gold medal, while Quax took the silver.
The podium was completed by Klaus-Peter Hildenbrand from West Germany who - in his fight for the bronze medal - lunged across the finish line, winning it by 0.12 seconds.
With this race, Virén became the only repeat winner of the 5,000m and therefore, the only athlete to win both the 5,000m and 10,000m in consecutive Olympic Games.