Famous Czech Personality – Emil Zátopek
(*19th September 1922)
-famous name in our sport history
Emil Zátopek was born on the 19th September 1922 in Kopřivnice. His father worked as a joiner in the Tatra factory. He had six brothers and sisters. He was the fastest boy in the class and therefore always ran for the teacher’s snack at breaks. He played football, too. After primary school he went to the secondary chemist school in Zlín. He liked his studies and looked forward to the work in the factory, because he could use his theoretical knowledge (for example about silk). It is incredible, but until he was nineteen years old, he didn’t run any race and he didn’t have any training. It was only by chance that running became his sport career: in the last year of his studies his class got a new P.E. teacher, who was very strong. All the boys had to run in the Sunday Race of Zlín. But Zátopek didn’t want to run. He said, that he couldn’t run because he had a bad knee. But the teacher took him to the doctor and the doctor said that he was healthy. The teacher was very angry and said that Zatopek was lazy. The next day, Zatopek ran very fast and he ended up second. After the race, he was stopped by Tomáš Šalé, who looked for talents in this race. He asked him, whether he would want to go to the stadium. Emil said yes and his training began. In turn, he had no competition in Zlín and later in the whole Czechoslovakia. The first confrontation with Europe’s runners was in 1946 in Oslo. It was the European Championships. There he ran the 5000 m race and was fifth. Two years later, it was the Olympic Games in London. First he ran in the 10 000 m race. There was very good competition (Heino, Albertsson, Mimoun); his course of winning was 1:10. At the end Zátopek had a very good finish and he won. Then he ran the 5000 m race, where he was second. Reiff was the winner. In 1950 there was the European Championships in Brussels. Before this championship, he could run 10 000 m under 30 min. At the Championship he chose the 5 000 m race. It was a fight between Zátopek and Reiff. Reiff ran very quickly, he was first for a long time, but in the last round Zátopek overtook him and won. In the next Olympic Games in Helsinki in 1952 he won three gold Olympic medals and his wife Dana won one gold medal, too. Emil ran 5 000 m, 10 000 m and the marathon. The biggest problem was the marathon, because he couldn’t run slowly and he had to learn it for three days. But he had no problem in wining. Then he won the 10 000m race in the European Championships in Bern. And he ran the Olympic marathon in Melbourne in 1956. There he was fifth because two months before that he had undergone an operation of rupture and therefore missed training and lacked power.
He stopped his sport career when he was 37 years old. In the 18 years of his sport career he won four gold medals at three Olympic Games and two gold medals in European Championships. He was 15 times the Champion of our Republic. He broke over 18 world records and 61 Czech records.