Martti Vainio

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Martti Vainio
Personal information
Birth name Martti Vainio
Full name Martti Sakari Vainio
Nationality Finnish
Born (1950-12-30) 30 December 1950 (age 68)
Vehkalahti, Finland
Height 1.92 m (6 ft 4 in)
Weight 72 kg (159 lb; 11.3 st)
Country  Finland
Sport Running
Event(s) Long-distance
Club Turun Urheiluliitto 1972–82
Lapuan Virkiä 1983–84
Saarijärven Pullistus 1986–88
Coached by Aulis Potinkara 1971–82
Retired 1988
Achievements and titles
World finals 1983: 5000 m 3rd
1983: 10,000 m 4th
1987: 10,000 m DNF
1987: Marathon DNF
Regional finals 1978: 5000 m 6th
1978: 10,000 m 1st
1982: 5000 m 8th
1982: 10,000 m 3rd
1986: 5000 m 6th
1986: 10,000 m 7th
Olympic finals 1976: 10,000m 8h1
1980: 5000 m 11th
1980: 10,000 m 13th
1984: 5000 m DSQ
1984: 10,000 m DSQ
Highest world ranking 5000 m: 4th (1983)
10,000 m: 2nd (1978)
Personal best(s) 1500 m: 3:41.09 (1983)
3000 m: 7:46.24 (1982)
5000 m: 13:20.07 (1983)
10,000 m: 27:30.99 (1978, NR)
Marathon: 2:16:41 (1986)

Martti Sakari Vainio (born 30 December 1950) is a Finnish former long-distance runner. In Finland he is recognized as the last of the great runners of the famous "V-line", the previous ones being Juha Väätäinen, Lasse Virén, and Pekka Vasala. Each of them won at least one gold medal either at the Summer Olympics or the European Athletics Championships in the 1970s.

His achievements in major athletic championships include gold in the 10,000 metres race 1978 European Championships in Athletics in Prague and bronze in the same distance at the 1982 European Championships in Athletics in Athens. At the 1983 World Championships in Athletics he dropped to fourth place by a very short margin in the 10,000 metres race, and incensed by that caught the bronze in the 5000 metres, which was also a closely contested fixture, Vainio only assuring his medal by a palpable lunge over the finish line.


Early career 1972–77

Martti Vainio started systematic training at the age of 20 in the autumn of 1971 with his coach Aulis Potinkara.[1] He received his first national championships medal in 1974 when he finished third in 5000 metres after Seppo Tuominen and Rune Holmén. In the same year he ran his first 10,000 m race with the result 29:09.6. He broke the 29-minutes barrier for the first time in 1976. The same year he was second at the Finnish Championships in Athletics in 10,000 metres after Pekka Päivärinta and was selected to his first Olympics in Montreal. However, he did not qualify for the 10,000 metres final, finishing as the second fastest runner to be eliminated from the final. He won his first Finnish Championship in 1977 when he beat Kaarlo Maaninka by 0.9 seconds in 10,000 metres.

Years of success 1978–82

Vainio ran intelligently in the 1978 European Championships 10,000 metres race, spending most of the distance among the lead group's last runners. He only joined the lead group after 8,500 metres. Due to the fast and steady pace, the other runners – some of them presumably better kickers than Vainio – had exhausted themselves, and Vainio only needed to sprint the last lap in 58.4 seconds to win the race. Especially notable was Brendan Foster falling from the lead to the fourth place in the last 130 metres. His winning time 27:30.99 was fifth on the all-time list of that time, and Vainio improved his personal best by 28.7 seconds. Later at the same championships Vainio was sixth in the 5,000 metres race. At the Track & Field News annual world ranking Vainio was second in 10,000 metres after world record breaker Henry Rono, and tenth in 5000 metres.

Because of his international breakthrough, Vainio was one of the potential gold medal candidates prior to the 1980 Summer Olympics. Vainio was also known for his tough training programs, and during the winter 1980 he ran as many as over 300 kilometres per week during his four-month-long training camp in New Zealand.[1] Presumably, that was too much and due to overtraining and some unspecified stomach problems, Vainio did not succeed at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, finishing 13th in the 10,000 metres final and 11th in the 5,000 metres final.

Despite the disappointment of the Olympic year Vainio returned to the top of the world and ran a very good season in 1981 in his best event, 10,000 metres. He won the Bislett Games in Oslo by his second best result so far, 27:45.50 and represented Europe at the 1981 IAAF World Cup in Rome by finishing fifth with the result 27:48.62. At the Track & Field News annual world ranking he was fourth after Werner Schildhauer, Geoff Smith, and Mohamed Kedir.

In the following year 1982, Vainio succeeded again at the European Championships in Athens, where he won a bronze medal after Alberto Cova and Werner Schildhauer in 10,000 metres with the excellent time 27:42.51. He competed in 5,000 metres as well and finished 8th. At the Track & Field News annual world ranking, Vainio was seventh in 10,000 metres.

World Championships in Helsinki 1983

After the 1982 season, collaboration between Vainio and Potinkara ended amicably and Vainio started to plan his training by himself.[1] However, certain people started to influence his training; among them was Jouko Elevaara, known as the coach of Kaarlo Maaninka.[2] Vainio has stated that he started to use hormones in the autumn of 1982 to avoid the detrimental effects of overtraining in his preparation for the first World Championships in Helsinki, the capital of his home country, Finland. According to Vainio, the first hormone ampullas were obtained from Palermo in the autumn of 1982.[2]

Vainio succeeded in his preparation for his home championships excellently. The 10,000 metres final was held on the third day of the Championships. Despite the slow race which culminated in the last lap, Vainio finished fourth with the time 28:01.37, missing the gold medal by only 0.33 seconds and bronze by 0.11 seconds. The home audience was very impressed with his achievement, since they knew very well that he was not at his best in the slow races. The gold medal was won again by Alberto Cova.

The 5000 metres final was held on the final day of the Championships. In his second-best event, Vainio surprised the Finnish audience with a bronze medal. The tight race again culminated in the final metres with Eamonn Coghlan as the overwhelming champion. As in the 10,000 metres race, Werner Schildhauer took the silver, beating Vainio by 0.14 seconds. Vainio won his bronze medal in an extraordinary way; he flung himself in the last 5 metres and fell flat on his face. As a result, he beat Dmitri Dmitriyev, who was fourth, by 0.04 seconds. Vainio considers this race to be the most sentimental event in his career.[1]

After the Championships, Vainio competed in Weltklasse Zürich and finished fourth in 5000 metres with his personal best 13:20.07. At the Track & Field News annual world ranking, Vainio was fourth in 5000 metres and seventh in 10,000 metres.

Doping case at the Olympics 1984

In 1984, Vainio started his season by finishing third at the Rotterdam Marathon with a personal record of 2:13:04. After the race he gave a doping sample in the test organized by the Finnish Athletics Association. The test did not have official status and was merely considered to be a control test to help avoid Finnish athletes getting caught at the tests performed in international championships. Therefore, only the so-called A-sample was taken and not the B-sample, which is used to ensure the test result after a positive A-sample. However, Vainio's A-sample was tested positive for anabolic steroids, and the head coach of the Finnish Athletics Federation, Antti Lanamäki, delegated Timo Vuorimaa, the head coach of long-distance runners, to inform Vainio about the test result. Vuorimaa informed Vainio only by mentioning that there was something strange in his test sample, not providing detailed information about the substance. Vainio believed that he had only been using testosterone and not anabolic steroids at all. Therefore, his only action was to give up drug use a little bit earlier prior to the anticipated tests.[2]

Vainio's track season was really strong. In June 1984, he competed five times in 5000 metres, the weakest result being 13:30.40, and once in 10,000 metres with his all-time second best result 27:41.75. At the Bislett Games on 28 June, he broke Lasse Virén's Finnish record in 5000 metres and finished second after Fernando Mamede[3] with the result 13:16.02. In July, he competed only three times; first two times in the Finnish Championships on July 6–8 in Kajaani, where he took the gold medals after solo runs in both 5000 metres (13:24.99) and 10,000 metres (28:06.85), and the third time when improving his 3000 metres record to 7:44.42 in Varkaus on 12 July. According to a Vainio interview in 2004, he took his next injection after the Rotterdam Marathon around 10 July, and was sure that this time period would be long enough to allow metabolism to take its effect and ensure a negative test at the Olympics.[2]

10,000 metres final was run on 6 August. Vainio took the lead after 5700 metres and only Alberto Cova was able to follow him. When the final lap started, these two runners were well over 100 metres ahead of the other runners. This time, hovewer, Vainio was not able to challenge Cova, who took the gold with the time 27:47.54. Vainio won silver with the time 27:51.10. Far behind, Mike McLeod was third at the finish line with the time 28:06.22. Vainio also qualified for the 5000 metres final, but was not permitted to start after his doping sample following the 10,000 metres final tested positive for Metenolone.

Especially in Finland, Vainio's positive test result was a big scandal and provoked public indignation. Although Vainio's positive doping test after the Rotterdam Marathon was unofficial because of the missing B-sample, public pressure forced the Finnish Athletics Association to disqualify all of Vainio's results after Rotterdam and to discharge Antti Lanamäki from his duties. Vainio himself did not want to provide detailed information about the incident, probably partly because he was himself still investigating the reasons for the positive test result. Finnish mass media demanded an explanation, and one story released to the public alleged that Vainio's training partner, janitor Alpo Nyrönen, had given Vainio a hormone injection by accident, instead of the intended Vitamin B injection. Vainio himself released the explanation about the confusion between anabolic steroids and testosterone only several years after the incident.

There is still some speculation and controversy around the Olympics 10,000 metres race. Alberto Cova has confessed the use of blood transfusion in his career and therefore Mike McLeod, originally third at the finish line, claims he should be awarded the gold medal.[4] However, Vainio considers himself to be the second best runner in the 10,000 metres race until the end of his life.[1]

Although the Finnish Athletics Association disqualified all of Vainio's results from the summer of 1984, he was still internationally recognized. At the Track & Field News annual world ranking, he was fourth in 10,000 metres and eighth in 5000 metres.

Return to the tracks, 1986–88

Initially, Vainio received a lifelong ban from competitive athletics, but after the Finnish Athletics Association made a plea for a reprieve, it was shortened to 18 months. In 1986, Vainio returned to the track and ran 10,000 metres at the Bislett Games in 27:44.57. At the European Championships, he placed seventh in the 10,000 metres final with a time 28:08.72 and sixth in the 5000 metres final with the time 13:22.67. At the Track and Field News annual world ranking, Vainio was sixth in 10,000 metres.

In 1987 Vainio concentrated on 10,000 metres and ran 27:42.65 in Helsinki on 2 July. The World Championships 10,000 metres race ended in a farce. The first half of the race was slow, 5000 metres lap time being only 14:13.07. At 5800 metres, Paul Kipkoech changed pace and left other runners behind. Francesco Panetta, Salvatore Antibo and Vainio started their pursuit a little bit later and were not able to properly challenge Kipkoech. Subsequently, Kipkoech was far ahead of the other runners and the officials decremented the lap table, which displays the remaining laps for the runners, immediately after Kipkoech passed the finish line after each round. As a result, Vainio and some other runners became confused about the remaining laps, started their sprint 400 metres too early and finished the race after 9600 metres. Some runners continued the race after their "first finish", but Vainio was too tired to realize the situation. Vainio also competed in the Marathon, but after a fairly good start he did not finish.[5] At the Track & Field News annual world ranking, Vainio was recognized as the seventh best runner in 10,000 metres.

In 1988 Vainio ran 10,000 metres in 28:02.04 at the Bislett Games, but that was not enough to convince the Finnish Olympic Committee, and he was not picked for the Olympics anymore.

Masters World Records 1991

Vainio returned to the tracks once again in 1991. He ran the age group M40 Masters world record in 3000 meters 8:05.08 in Mikkeli on 12 June. Later, he also improved 10,000 metres world record 28:30.88 at the Fanny Blankers-Koen Games in Hengelo on 25 June. At the World Masters Athletics Championships in Turku, he won the M40 10,000 metres with the result 29:16.88.[1]


During his career (1974–91) Vainio competed 80 times in 10,000 metres. He ran 68 times below the 29-minute barrier, 24 times below 28:10, and 10 times below 28 minutes.[3]

Vainio's winning time at the 1978 European Championships in Prague – 27:30.99 – is still the Finnish record and European Championship record.

Vainio's 10,000 metres time 28:30.58 in 1991 is still the World record of the age group M40.[6]

Vainio achieved five Finnish Championships in 5000 metres (1978, 1980, 1981, 1982, and 1987) and eight in 10,000 metres (1977, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1986, and 1987). He won the Finnish Championship in cross country running four times in 1981, 1983, 1986 and 1987.[7]

After his sports career, Martti Vainio has worked in the travel industry.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Tanhuanpää, Asko (1993). Kilpakenttien sankarit 2. Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Tammi. pp. 52–55. ISBN 951-30-8903-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Suomen Urheilulehti (5 November 2004). "Näin siinä kävi (in Finnish)". A-lehdet. Archived from the original on 2015-08-10. Retrieved 25 August 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Hannus, Matti (1999). Kultaiset kentät, Suomen yleisurheilun vuosisata. Juva: Werner Soderström Osakeyhtiö. pp. 187–188. ISBN 951-0-23703-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Turnbull, Simon (1 October 2006). "Athletics: McLeod: When we were the run kings". The Independent. Retrieved 26 August 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Pekola, Tapio; Hannus, Matti (1987). Rooma 87. Helsinki: Juoksija-lehti. pp. 56–67. ISBN 951-9465-12-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Records Outdoor Men". World Masters Athletics. 6 July 2009. Retrieved 29 August 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Tilastopaja Oy. "Martti Vainio's profile". Tilastopaja. Retrieved 29 August 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links