Thursday, September 28, 2023

Armas Taipale

In 1912 Finland was still part of the Russian Empire, so Armas Taipale here won the Gold medal for discus throw as part of the Russian Team.  As an independent nation, Finland proceeded to go on to a decades long domination of field events such as the hammer throw and discus.



  1. They were pretty hot long distance runners, too. The European Games in Helsinki in 1971 were a delight to watch - by that time, we had live pictures in colour over Eurovision.

    It was the Summer Olympiad in Helsinki in 1952 that inspired Sir Roger Bannister because of the very hard competition he encountered from the Finnish runners. (Bannister set a British record in the 1500 metres and finished in fourth place.) He then set his sights on the first sub-four minute mile.

    Paced by his friends the future Commonwealth Games gold medallist Christopher Chataway and future Olympic Games gold medallist Chris Brasher, Bannister ran a 3 minute 59.4 second mile, establishing an international and track record at the Oxford University track at Iffley Park. The race was broadcasted live by BBC Radio with a commentary by 1924 Olympic 100 metre champion Harold Abrahams, of Chariots of Fire fame.

    Bannister held his international record for a mere 46 days before it was broken by his Helsinki Games rival, the Australian John Landy in Turku, Finland, with a time of 3 minutes 57.9 seconds. Despite their fierce rivalry on the track, they would remain fast friends for the entirety of their lives.

    The race can still be watched online. It remains one of those huge moments in athletic history that will stand the test of time, however often the world record is bettered.

    I don't think I have experienced such exhilaration when I myself won at Iffley Park in the AAA Championships, qualifying for the British team, also establishing a track record. To follow in Sir Roger's wake was barely comprehensible to the young me. I don't know when his track record was broken, but by a fluke of history, mine still stands. You see, it was the last year the AAA used Imperial distances, the following year converting to metric.

    There is a statue of Bannister and Landy, then the only athletes to have run a sub-four minute mile in Vancouver, BC, commemorating the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. Billed "the miracle mile" Landy still held the world record.

    On the 50th anniversary of Bannister's triumph, both he and Landy were interviewed at the Iffley Park track. Both agreed that "it all began in Finland".