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Paavo Lonkila, a famous Kiuruvesi sportsman
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Paavo Lonkila as a young sportsman.
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Gold medalist Paavo Lonkila in Oslo Winter Olympic Games in 1952.
written by Anu H.
(a second year student at Kiuruvesi
Upper Secondary School, Finland)



For younger generations in our home town, Kiuruvesi,  it’s surprising to know that we have an Olympic skiing winner here. He is 81- year-old Paavo Lonkila, whose life achievement is not only an Olympic victory but he has had a very demanding job as a farmer and he has also experienced the hard years of war.
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Inspite of everything Paavo Lonkila is still a lively and healthy person.





I will give a summary of a recollection called 'Pieni suurmies' witten by Toivo Lonkila. I will especially describe Paavo Lonkila’s career as a top skier.
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As a young soldier. War has started.
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The hard years for the home country. Paavo on the left.
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At the home farm.
Alongside with farmwork, Paavo trained himself for coming competitions throughout the year. In summer time he did 10-30 kilometre-long runs or walks. When snow arrived he took his skis and added the length of the route by a few more kilometres.

In addition to his physical condition, Paavo had to take care of his mental well-being. Especially, it was very important to create a steady will to win. Giving up or getting depressed was not his alternative. Paavo Lonkila’s coach had said about him, ' The coach can’t make a top level sportman of anyboby, it’s the sportman himself  who does it.'

At the time when the World War II had just ended there was no money to give to winners in sports events. There were plenty of people to pat your back, but your bread and butter had to come from somewhere else.

Although the equation of a farmer and a top sportman feels almost impossible, you can, however, state that Paavo Lonkila succeeded in  turning the situation into a victory. Long days at work, persistence and hard manual work were needed to maintain the farm. These qualities were also required in sport. Taking care of the farm was also some kind of training for sports performances.

Paavo Lonkila was really a successful farmer, and at the same time a successful top level sportsman. I could easily  imagine that it’s impossible to fit together these two qualities, because only skiing could have been Paavo’s full-time occupation, as it is nowadays  for skiers, in general.
Paavo Lonkila’s active career as an athlete started almost immediately after the war ended in 1945 and lasted for over one decade to the middle of the 1950's . During his active career,  Paavo took part in over two hundred competitions. They have stayed in Paavo’s mind very well. Here are a few of them.
INTERNATIONAL WINTER GAMES IN KUOPIO 1949
Two weeks before these games there had been the Finnish Championship Games, where Paavo on his part had raised his relay team  from place 29 to place 5 doing such a marvellous skiing performance. In the very same games he was second when he skied his personal spurt distance. One  detail of the competition is that Paavo passed Martti Huhtala who had won the silver medal of the Olympic Games in combined skiing. Huhtala was amazed when Paavo, who had left two minutes after him, now passed him on a steep hill. 'What’s your name?', Huhtala had shouted to Paavo.

In the Winter Games at Puijo Paavo took a superior victory. A  reason for that was probably partly Paavo’s new pair of skis. The previous day of the contest Paavo had met an agent of a ski factory. The agent had given a pair of skis to him and a promise that Paavo didn’t need to pay for them if he won the coming contest.

The skis were good and they made the gliding better and faster. After Paavo came in first there were many people to congratulate him, but the best thing was the announcement by the ski factory that Paavo didn’t need to pay for the skis and he would get more skis, as many pairs as he wanted. Since that Paavo has always had a pair of skis just made for him.
WINTER OLYMPICS IN OSLO 1952
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Paavo prepared himself for the Olympic Games by tightening and raising his training level, also  skiing camps were part of the programme. About six months before the Olympics Paavo hurt his hand badly. He was doing forest work and had hit his hand with an axe when loping a tree. All the bending tendons of his fingers got off, but luckily the arteries were spared as well as the nerves. It seemed very likely that the Oslo Games should be omitted. So it’s like a miracle that Paavo Lonkila returned home from Oslo with a gold medal from the 4 x 10 km men’s relay and a bronze medal from the 18 km spurt contest.

A gold medal at men’s relay was a huge achievement. The winning time of the Finns was over three minutes better than that of the second team of Norway. That day gold and glory was taken home to Finland. The day was one of the most magnificent ones in the history of Finnish skiing, for that very same day Finnish women had taken a 10 km spurt race triple victory.
These contests presented above are only a superficial sight to Paavo Lonkila’s huge skiing accomplishments. The recollection 'Pieni suurmies' was an eye opener as a book, which could be recommended at the senior secondary school. Because not only telling the reader about Paavo Lonkila's success as a skier, the book teaches you to appreciate him as a person, as a farmer and as a soldier.
Memories and the present day
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Paavo Lonkila visiting Carelia, the place where he was serving as a young soldier during the Second World War.
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Two famous sportsmen meeting each other, Emil Zatopek, an Olympic gold medalist at Helsinki Summer Olympics 1952 (on the left) and Paavo Lonkila, a gold medalist at Oslo Winter Olympics 1952 (in the middle).
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Two Finnish Olympic winners of different ages, Juha Mieto and Paavo Lonkila.
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Paavo Lonkila is a welcome guest of honour at skiing competitions and is always ready to support younger generations at sports. Here he is wearing the original famous number label from the Olympic victory in Oslo 1952.
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Date created:05/26/04
Last change:05/26/04
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