Today in 1907, the birthday of an Olympic gold medal skier from Finland, Kalle Jalkanen.

He came from behind to lead his team to a first place finish*, but that may only be the start of this unusual story.

It’s hard to be sure of all the details, so let’s start with what we know for sure.

Jalkanen was part of a Finnish ski relay team that was competing in the 4x10km race at the 1936 Winter Games in Germany.

It was his first international competition.

While Jalkanen would later win a world championship in the 50 kilometer race, he had never picked up any medals domestically, so it wasn’t as if he was coming into the Games as a top name or a heavy favorite.

More likely people were looking at Norway to win the gold, and by at least a few accounts, that team was ahead of everybody for the first three quarters of the race.

By the time Jalkanen got skiing, Finland was about a minute and a half behind.

But he somehow started gaining on the Norwegian anchor until the two were neck and neck.

This is where the story gets weird and very hard to confirm; I found several sources but nothing definitive, so this may be a legend.

But if so, what a legend: the story goes that as Jalkanen huffed and puffed his way through the race, his dentures came flying out of his mouth.

And given that dentures were (and are) expensive, he had a very hard choice to make: should he stick with the race and go for the gold, or should he try to save his false teeth?

Actually, it’s said that he didn’t really have to choose one or the other.

Instead, he reportedly skied back, spotted the dentures in the snow, picked them up, put them in his pocket, and they raced past his Norwegian rival to win the race by 20 yards.

Even without the unverified denture story, that’s a pretty amazing come from behind victory.

But I bet there are at least a few of us who want that legend to also be the tooth – er, truth.

If you’re celebrating Mother’s Day this Sunday, how about a trip to a museum I’m pretty sure Mr. T of “Treat Your Mother Right” fame would like to visit?

St. Petersburg, Florida is home to the Museum of Motherhood, which hosts scientific, artistic and cultural exhibits about moms, motherhood and a mom’s role in the world.

Moms get in free, but there’s no admission charge so everybody can get in free.

The death of Finland’s ski king was arcstained – Major executed four prisoners of war (Iltalehti) 

Museum of Motherhood

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Photo courtesy Jonverve, via Wikicommons

*If a skier from Finland wins the gold, is that considered a Finnish finish?