Profile Born on 19 September 1922 in Koprivnice, Czechoslovakia, Emil Zátopek would become one of the greatest runners of the 20th century.
Zátopek developed a distinctive running style which led to his nickname of “The Locomotive” due to all the panting and wheezing and visible suffering that he would undergo during a race. When asked about his inefficient looking style, he replied: “This isn’t gymnastics or ice skating, you know”.
Emil Zátopek’s gold medal over 10,000m in Olympic record time and silver medal over 5000m at the 1948 Olympic Games of London, were the first medals of his highly successful Olympic career. At the Helsinki Olympic Games in 1952, the finest sporting achievements were reserved for Zátopek who completed the distance running triple. He won three gold medals in the 5000m, 10,000m and the marathon. On the same day that Zátopek won the 5000m, his wife Dana Zátopková won the javelin gold. It was the first time ever he attempted to run the marathon, at Helsinki, just to test his stamina. The test was successfu
Six weeks before the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne where he wanted to run only the marathon, Zátopek developed a hernia condition while training with his wife on his shoulders, in order to improve his endurance. Following the operation it seemed unlikely that The “Czech Express” would be ready to compete in Australia, but he did and finished in a most respectable sixth place in 2:29:34. Considered to be a distance running genius, Zátopek went undefeated in his first 38 races over 10,000m from 1948 through to 1954, with a career winning record of 261 wins for 334 races at all distances, leaving an indelible impression on the sports world. Already in retirement, Zátopek supported the freedom-seeking “Prague Spring” movement of 1968 and when it was crushed, the formerly pampered national hero was sent to work for a year or so in a mine.