People Who Kick Buts: Emil Zatopek
If you want to win something, run the 100m. If you want to experience something, run a marathon.
- Born on September 19, 1922 and passed away on November 22, 2000.
- A Czech long-distance runner best known for winning three gold medals at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki.
- He won gold in the 5000 metres and 10,000 metres runs, but his final medal came when he decided at the last minute to compete in the first marathon of his life.
- He is widely considered to be one of the greatest runners of the 20th century and was also known for his brutally tough training methods.
- Emil Zátopek was born in Kopřivnice, Czechoslovakia on September 19, 1922, as the sixth child of a modest family.
- When Zátopek was 16, he began working in a Bata shoe factory in Zlín. Zátopek says that “One day, the factory sports coach, who was very strict, pointed at four boys, including me, and ordered us to run in a race. I protested that I was weak and not fit to run, but the coach sent me for a physical examination, and the doctor said that I was perfectly well.
- A mere four years later, in 1944, Emil broke the Czech records for 2,000, 3,000, and 5,000 metres. He was selected for the Czech national team for the 1946 European Championships and finished fifth in the 5K, breaking his own Czech record of 14:50.2, running 14:25.8.
- A hero in his native country, Zátopek was an influential figure in the Communist Party. However, he supported the party’s democratic wing, and after the Prague Spring, he was removed from all important positions and forced to work in a string of inferior and dangerous positions, such as a uranium mine, garbage collection service and well digging.
- His wife Dana Zátopková (born the same day as her husband) was an outstanding athlete in her own right in the javelin throw. She won the gold medal in the javelin in the 1952 Summer Olympics – only a few moments after Emil’s victory in the 5 km run – and the silver medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics.