Hubbard's Cupboard: Rautavaara the singing Finn's aim was true

Click to follow

One of the most exciting things about these Games has been the javelin – not the field event but the bullet-like train which speeds spectators from St Pancras to Stratford in just seven minutes. No doubt tonight's "spear throwing" men's contest will take considerably longer, but the thrill for true Olympic aficionados will be just as great. For the javelin is one of the revered spectacles of the Games – one of the five disciplines of the original Olympics in Ancient Greece. It has also produced its fair share of characters and not least among them is the Finn who won gold in London in 1948 and went on to become one of his nations most popular entertainers as a singer and actor.

Kaj Tapio ("Tapsa") Rautavaara was not only a mouthful for the stadium announcer but more than a match for the rest of the field, winning by more than two metres from American Steve Seymour. Two years after his Olympic triumph Rautavaara also won a World Championship gold medal, but this time as an archer.

The Finn's talents were unbounded. He had worked for two years as a radio journalist, broadcasting to troops during the war, and after his athletic exploits became one of the most famous singers in Finland, composing his own lyrics and again striking gold – golden discs for many of his records. When he went into films he auditioned, albeit unsuccessfully, for the part of Tarzan after another Olympic champion, Johnny Weissmuller, had ended his own career.

His death came on 25 September 1979 when he slipped and fell while posing for a photograph at a swimming centre in Vantaa, Finland, and hit his head on the concrete floor. He was taken to a nearby health centre where his injuries were not considered serious, as staff believed him to be drunk. His head was bandaged and the next night he died as a result of a cerebral haemorrhage at his home in Helsinki, aged 64.

Comments