Paavo Yrjölä

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full namePaavo Ilmari•Yrjölä
Used namePaavo•Yrjölä
Born18 June 1902 in Hämeenkyrö, Pirkanmaa (FIN)
Died11 February 1980 in Hämeenkyrö, Pirkanmaa (FIN)
Measurements183 cm / 82 kg
AffiliationsTampereen Pyrintö, Tampere (FIN)
NOC Finland
Medals OG
Gold 1
Silver 0
Bronze 0
Total 1


Known as the Bear of Hämeenkyrö (Hämeenkyrön karhu), Paavo Yrjölä was the son of a farmer and trained his whole career on the family farm with self-made equipment. Despite this, Yrjölä was the world’s top decathlete in the late 1920s. After finishing ninth in decathlon at the 1924 Olympics, Yrjölä set two decathlon world records – 7,820.93 (6,460) in 1926 and 7,995.19 (6,566) in 1927 – before the 1928 Olympics and was considered the clear favorite for Olympic decathlon gold. At the Olympics, Yrjölä did not disappoint, winning the Olympic gold with a world record of 8,053.29 (6,587), being the first man to better the mark of Jim Thorpe from the 1912 Olympics, and the first decathlete over 8,000 points on the 1912B tables. Yrjölä also competed in high jump and shot put at the Amsterdam Olympics, finishing 19th and 9th, respectively.

In 1930, Yrjölä almost set one more world record of 8,117.30 (6,700), but this was not officially ratified. It would have been a short-lived record anyway, as Akilles Järvinen set a world record of 8,255.475 (6,865) only 10 days later. Yrjölä retired from athletics after finishing sixth in decathlon at the 1932 Olympics. Domestically he won 11 Finnish titles – in 1925-26 in shot put, decathlon and pentathlon, in 1927 in decathlon and pentathlon, in 1928 in high jump and decathlon, and in 1929 in decathlon.

After retirement from Olympics, Yrjölä managed his family farm until his death in 1980. His older brother Iivari was also an international level decathlete who competed at the 1924 Olympics and was Finnish decathlon champion in 1923-24, and Paavo’s son Matti was an international level shot putter who competed at three European Championships, but never at the Olympics.

Personal Bests: HJ – 1.87 (1928); SP – 14.72 (1930); Dec – 6700 (1930).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1924 Summer Olympics Athletics FIN Paavo Yrjölä
Decathlon, Men (Olympic) 9
1928 Summer Olympics Athletics FIN Paavo Yrjölä
High Jump, Men (Olympic) =19 r1/2
Shot Put, Men (Olympic) 9 r1/2
Discus Throw, Men (Olympic) DNS
Decathlon, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
1932 Summer Olympics Athletics FIN Paavo Yrjölä
Decathlon, Men (Olympic) 6

Olympic family relations