Born Harri Lagerström, Harri Larva changed his last name to Larva in 1928, because Lagerström did not sound Finnish. He was coerced into doing so by the Finnish Athletics Union President, and known nationalist, Urho Kaleva Kekkonen, who later became the longest-serving president of Finland (1956-82). Larva, a Finnish champion at 800 metres in 1928-30 and 1934, won only one bronze medal over his favorite distance, the 1,500 m, at the Finnish nationals, that coming in 1927. Larva’s best year was 1928, when he ran all his best performances in distances from 400 m to a mile. At the Olympic Games in Amsterdam, in a 1,500 m final, Larva fought off Frenchman Jules Ladoumègue, and won a surprising gold in 3:53.2. Larva also competed at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, placing 10th in the 1,500.
Personal Best: 1500 – 3:52.0 (1928).