The three Olavis

olavi, running, finland, name
The three record-breaking Olavis (July 11, 1957)

While reading about the 1,500-metre run for yesterday’s post on Kipchoge Keino, I discovered an interesting name-related fact: In the summer of 1957, three Finnish runners named Olavi (pronounced OH-lah-vee) — all running the same 1,500m race in Turku — all broke the 1,500m world record.

The record had been 3 minutes and 40.6 seconds, set by a Hungarian runner (named István) in 1956.

The photo-finish winner of the Finnish race was Olavi Salsola, with a time of 3:40.2. In second was Olavi Salonen, who technically finished with the same time. In third was Olavi Vuorisalo, who (at 3:40.3) was just a tenth of a second behind the first two Olavis.

The new record didn’t last long, though, because the very next day a Czechoslovakian runner (named Stanislav) clocked in at 3:38.1.

The Finnish name Olavi, which popped up in the U.S. data a handful of times in the 1910s and 1920s, is a form of Olaf, which evolved from an Old Norse name comprised of the elements anu, meaning “ancestor,” and leifr, meaning “descendant.”

Do you like the name Olavi? (Do you think it might be a good substitute for the trendy name Oliver?)

Sources: Three Finnish Runners All Break World Record for 1,500 Meters at Turku, 1500 metres world record progression – Wikipedia, Olaf – Behind the Name

2 thoughts on “The three Olavis

  1. I have liked Olavi a lot for years. I think it’s much more interesting than Oliver which is so internationally popular but realistically I’m not sure if it’s possible for it to become a substitute for Oliver, perhaps just some very spunky alternative for people with Finnish roots.

  2. I agree 100% — I don’t think Olavi will ever dethrone Oliver, but I bet it would really pique the interest of expectant parents who have ties to Finland. (It also might be a cool alternative to Levi.)

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