Last Updated: August 3, 2012 6:36am
Viren rekindled Finland's love affair with distance running in the 1970s when he became the only man to complete the Olympic 5,000 metres/10,000m double on two different occasions.
Viren won a seat in the Finnish Parliament from 1999, the third time he had stood for election. He held it until 2007.
He perfected the art of 'peaking' for the Olympics, often lagging behind his rivals between Games but being able to hit top form once every four years.
At the 1972 Olympics in Munich he went in as an outsider but took victory in the 10,000m in a new world record, an achievement made all the more remarkable by the fact that he fell at around half distance, causing him to lose contact with the leading pack.
Viren then completed the double by claiming gold in the 5,000m to achieve what only three men before him and two since have managed.
And although he kept a low-profile between Olympics, he would stand alone as the only athlete ever to do the 'double-double' after the 1976 Games in Montreal.
Victory in the 10,000m was achieved in comfortable style, but his win in the shorter event was the most dramatic of his career.
With several faster finishers behind him, Viren steadily raised the pace over the final 600m and was able to run the kick out of his challengers, who were close behind him at the line but could not come past.
One of the most tactically astute runners of all time, Viren retired after a disappointing showing at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
Fascinating fact: Viren won a seat in the Finnish Parliament from 1999, the third time he had stood for election. He held it until 2007.
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