The flying Finn's American sojourn: Hannes Kolehmainen in the United States, 1912-1921

Adam Berg, Mark Dyreson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Shortly after he won three gold medals and one silver medal in distance running events at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, Finland's Hannes Kolehmainen immigrated to the United States. He spent nearly a decade living in Brooklyn, plying his trade as a mason and dominating the amateur endurance running circuit in his adopted homeland. He became a naturalised US citizen in 1921 but returned to Finland shortly thereafter. During his American sojourn, the US press depicted him simultaneously as an exotic foreign athlete and as an immigrant shaped by his new environment into a symbol of successful assimilation. Kolehmainen's career raised questions about sport and national identity - both Finnish and American - about the complexities of immigration during the floodtide of European migration to the US, and about native and adopted cultures in shaping the habits of success. His return to Finland ultimately turned the American 'melting pot' narrative on its head.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1035-1059
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of the History of Sport
Issue number7
StatePublished - May 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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