Helsinki 1952 Olympic Games
Helsinki 1952 Olympic Games - Olympiad XV
The 1952 Helsinki Games began dramatically as Paavo Nurmi, then 55 years old, carried the torch into the stadium and handed it to Hannes Kolehmainen, 62, who lit the cauldron.
One of the first women allowed to compete against men in the equestrian dressage was Lis Hartel of Denmark. Despite being paralyzed below the knees after an attack of polio, Hartel, who had to be helped on and off her horse, won a silver medal. Lars Hall, a carpenter from Sweden, became the first non-military winner of the modern pentathlon.
Back in 1924, Bill Havens had been chosen to represent the United States in coxed eights rowing, but declined in order to stay home with his wife, who was expecting their first child. Twenty-eight years later, that child, Frank Havens, won a gold medal in the Canadian singles 10,000m canoeing event.
Bob Mathias (USA) was the first person to win two successive Olympic decathlon titles. After a first gold medal in 1948 when, as a 17-year-old, he became the youngest-ever winner of an Olympic track and field event, he set the world record defending his title.
The Soviet Union returned to the Olympic fold in 1952 after a 40-year absence, a period of time that included a revolution and two world wars. Ironically, the Soviets chose to make their comeback in Finland, a country they had invaded twice during World War II.
This time it was the United States that was surprised by the Soviets, and the USA had to scramble on the last day of competition to hold off the USSR's assault on first place in the overall standings. It was the beginning of an all-consuming 36-year Cold War rivalry.
Despite the Soviets' impressive debut, it was a Communist from another Iron Curtain country who turned in the most memorable individual performance of the Games. Emil Zátopek of Czechoslovakia, the 10,000-meter champion in London, not only repeated at 10,000 meters, but also won at 5,000 and in the marathon-an event he had never run before. He also set Olympic records in each race and topped it off by watching his wife Dana Zátopková win the women's javelin.
Also, Harrison Dillard of the U.S. won the 110-meter hurdles. In 1948, Dillard, the world's best hurdler, failed to qualify for the hurdles and won the 100-meter dash instead.
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