Lasse Virén extended the line of great Finnish distance runners when he won the 5,000 and 10,000 metre events at two consecutive Olympics – 1972 and 1976. He also competed in the marathon at the 1976 Olympics, attempting to emulate Emil Zátopek’s 1952 distance triple, and in his first attempt at the marathon distance, finished 5th. Virén returned to compete at the 1980 Olympics, running only the 10,000, in which he also finished 5th. He had no other major successes other than at the Olympics, and was considered a master of being able to manage his training to peak at the absolute perfect moment. But his failure to perform well at other meets also led to rumors, never substantiated, that he had employed blood doping to achieve his Olympic titles. Virén set three world records in 1972, over two miles, 5,000 metres, and in winning the Olympic 10,000 gold medal. That gold medal and world record was particularly memorable for he fell midway through the race but sprang to his feet and quickly caught back up to the field. He became a national hero in his country, was elected Sportsman of the Year twice in 1972 and 1976 and later went to politics becoming a member of Finland’s parliament from 1999 to 2007.
Personal Bests: 5000 - 13:16.4 (1972); 10000 - 27:38.35 (1972); Mar - 2-13:11 (1976).