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Olympics – Special – Olympiad – The Magnificent Ones – Mark Spitz & Lasse Viren – Host Jesse Owens


Bud Greenspan’s film series called The Olympiad is the best “top shelf” productions of films about the Olympic Games ever produced in this lil ole chiweenie Sportsphile’s humble opinion….and this particular video called “The Magnificient Ones”  is a stunning example of my opinion….as it features legendary 9 Olympic gold medal swimmer USA Mark Spitz….along with the only man to ever win the gold medal in consecutive Olympics in the 5,000m Race and the 10,000m Race….as Finland’s legendary runner and national hero Lasse Viren….for both these men were truly “The Magnificient Ones” in Olympic history.

Mark Andrew Spitz is an American former competitive swimmer…..who throughout his illustrious career won 9 Olympic gold medals….while being a former world record-holder in 7 events. At the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, he won 7 gold medals in 7 events…. which is an achievement surpassed only by Michael Phelps….who won eight golds at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Spitz set new world records in all seven events in which he competed in 1972….as he holds more medals than any other Jewish athlete in the history of the Olympics.

Between 1968 and 1972, Spitz won nine Olympic golds, a silver, and a bronze….five Pan American golds….31 Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) titles….and eight National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) titles. During those years, he set 35 world records, but two were in trials and unofficial.  He was named World Swimmer of the Year in 1969, 1971, and 1972 by Swimming World Magazine….and he was the third athlete to win nine Olympic gold medals.

Lasse Artturi Virén is a Finnish former long-distance runner….who was the winner of four gold medals at the 1972 Munich Games and the 1976 Montreal Games….as Virén recaptured the image of the “Flying Finns”…..which was promoted by runners like Hannes Kolehmainen, Paavo Nurmi and Ville Ritola in the 1920s. Lasse Viren was elected Finnish Sportsman of the Year in 1972 and 1976….who later became a politician and a member of Finland’s parliament in 1999–2007 and 2010–2011.

At the 1972 Summer Olympics at Munich, Virén won both the 5,000 and the 10,000 meter events….when at the 10,000 meter finals held on 3 September….Virén broke Ron Clarke’s 7-year-old world record despite falling in the twelfth lap after getting tangled with Emiel Puttemans….as Mohamed Gammoudi also fell after being tripped by Viren’s legs. In less than 150 meters, Virén caught up with the leading pack after losing about 20 meters…..and with 600 meters to go….he started an unprecedented lap-and-a-half kick that only Puttemans was able to respond to. The Finn won the race in 27:38:40….which is still the current record for the Olympiastadion. He became the fourth athlete to win both events in the same Olympics….joining fellow Finn Hannes Kolehmainen (1912), Czechoslovakia’s Emil Zátopek (1952) and Russian Vladimir Kuts (1956). After them, Miruts Yifter (1980) and Kenenisa Bekele (2008), both from Ethiopia….and Mo Farah from Great Britain (2012 and 2016)….accomplished the coveted “double”. However, only Kolehmainen, Virén and Yifter had to endure 10,000 meters heats to qualify for the 10,000 metres final….thus making winning the “double” more challenging. In the 5,000-meters final one week later….Viren could keep up with USA’s Steve Prefontaine, Gammoudi, Puttemans and Ian Stewart….in the race’s quick final four laps. He sprinted past Gammoudi with around 110 to 120 metres to go….and won in 13:26.4….a mere one second before Gammoudi. Four days later, despite the wet, chilly and windy weather in the Helsinki Olympic Stadium….he set a new world record at 5,000 meters by running 13:16.4.

Virén ran at lower levels between the Olympics….and at the 1976 Summer Olympics…. he again won both events….which was coined later as the “double double”….and became the first repeat winner of the 5,000 meter race in Olympic history….since joined by Mo Farah of England. He then won the 10,000 meter final comparatively easily….because even Great Britain’s Brendan Foster dropped from the steadily accelerating pace of Portugal’s Carlos Lopes at 8,000 meters….and because Lopes back then was unable to radically increase his pace in the last lap or so of track races….so, Virén passed Lopes at around 9,550 meters and defeated him by 4.79 seconds.

Mark Spitz, the USA simming legend…..and Lasse Viren, the Finnish distance running legend…..are definitely “The Magnificiient Ones” worthy of this awesome Bud Greespan “Olympiad” production….and certainly well worth watching in this video below.

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