At the young age of 19, Virén dropped out of school to train for the Olympics under Rolf Haikkola.
At the 1972 games, a runner’s nightmare occurred. During the 10,000 meter race, Virén fell, causing him to fall behind 50 meters from the leaders. He scrambled back to his feet and chipped away at the time he lost. He gained the lead and with one lap left he fought off a charge from Belgium’s Emiel Puttemans, placing Virén at the top of the podium in world record timing (27 min 38.4 sec). He won Finland’s first gold medal in 36 years. Weeks later he set an Olympic record in the 5,000 meter, earning himself another gold. He went on to successfully defend both races at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
Virén could’ve easily given up mentally after falling in arguably the biggest, toughest race of his life, but he didn’t allow one failure to ruin his destined success. What we can learn from Virén is that anything is possible no matter what the circumstances. As a quote from Arthur Ashe said, ”start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”