Loukola overshadows fellow Finn Nurmi in steeplechase

It says everything about the balance power in the distance running events at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam that four of the nine finalists in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase were from Finland.

Led by the legendary Paavo Nurmi, Finnish runners were the dominant force at the Amsterdam Games and he was expected to add to his bulging haul of gold. Nurmi had won five gold medals at the Paris Games four years earlier but was absent from the 10,000m after Finnish officials said he was competing in too many events. However in Amsterdam his programme was curtailed and he opened his campaign by winning the 10,000m in an Olympic record time, eight years after first winning the event in Antwerp.

When the heats of the steeplechase came round a week later, Nurmi was again expected to prevail but a spectacular fall nearly put paid to his chances. He was helped up from his fall by Lucien Duquesne and in return Nurmi paced the remainder of the race to help the Frenchman qualify.

Team-mate Toivo Loukola, who had once been declared unfit for military service by the Finnish army because of breathing problems, qualified some 20 seconds faster than Nurmi and lined up with a cavalry charge of Finnish team mates. He controlled the race from the very beginning and although Nurmi kept in touch for much of the race he applied the pressure in the closing 800m – often taking off and landing on the same foot. His time of nine minutes 21.8secs was a new world record, finishing some 10 seconds clear of Nurmi and Over Andersen who completed a Finnish clean sweep in third.