After the 1900 Olympic Games, Paris would be the first place to hold the Olympics twice. “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (or “Faster, Higher, Stronger”) became the motto for the Olympics for the first time, while Ireland would appear as independent country. The marathon distance was definitively established at 26 miles and 385 yards, as it had been run in the 1908 London Olympics.
Oskar Albinus Stenroos, known by its nickname of Albin, was born in Vehmaa, Finland, in 1889. He would be part of a golden Finnish generation, known as the “Flying Finn” that dominated the athletics during the 1920s, and included the marathon Olympic Champion Kolehmainen, who was the subject of his own entrance in our blog, and famous Paavo Nurmi, among others.
Stenroos run his first marathon in 1909, although he decided to move to shorter distances, and would not return to run a marathon until 1924. He won a bronze medal in the 10000 metres in the 1912 Olympics, and helped his country to win the silver medal in the cross-country event. During the following years he would win a set of national cross country events in Finland, and set world records for the 20 and 30k distances. He didn’t compete in the 1920 Olympics, and feeling that qualification in the 5000 and 10000 metres for the 1924 Olympics would be too strong, he tried his luck and qualified for the marathon in the Olympic trial over a 40.2k distance in May 1924, a distance he hasn´t competed in the last 15 years.
On Sunday, July 13, 58 participants were in the start line for the Olympic marathon, that has been originally scheduled to start at 15, but delayed 2 hours because of the hot weather conditions, that the previous day have sent numerous participants in the cross-country event to hospital (and subsequently caused this event to be removed from further Olympics appearances).
The athlete from Greece Kranis took an early lead, followed at a short distance by the Canadian Cuthbert. By mile 9 the French athlete Verger came up front, while Stenroos started climbing positions from behind. Just before the midpoint he took the leadership, crossing the half marathon 30s ahead of his closest persecutor. His advantage increased as the miles passed, with no runner behind capable of closing the distance. Although the gold medal seemed sure for Stenroos, the fight for the other medal positions was hard.
Stenroos entered the stadium looking fresh, and ensured his victory in 2.41.22, with a gap of almost six minutes with the silver medallist, Italian Bertini. The athlete from the United States DeMar completed the podium positions one minute later. The warm weather took its toll, as only 30 runners were able to complete the course.
As for the winner Stenroos, his best result after the Olympics was finishing second in the Boston marathon of 1926. The following year he was unable to finish in Boston, and decided to close his running career.
“The Olympic Marathon”. DE Martin & RWH Gynn. Human Kinetics Publishers 2000.