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20. století

Emil Zatopek

Czech athlete and Olympic record holder
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He was one of the 20th century’s top runners and a phenomenal record-holder. In addition to his fantastic performance at the Olympics in Helsinki in 1952, he was known for his exceptionally rigorous training methods.
He came from a modest family and started running at the age of 16, at a Bata factory race. During the war he quickly worked his way up and was able to break several Czech records in classic distance races. He first stepped onto the field of international athletics at the London Olympics in 1948, where he won the 10km run, which he was running for the second time in his life, and he came second in the 5km race. His greatest triumph came at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952 where he won the 5km race, the 10 km race, and even the marathon, which he decided to enter at the last moment and for the first time in his life. In addition, he crowned

his performances by breaking the world records on all the races. After shining on the international scene and breaking several more records, in 1957 Zatopek left the world athletic stage and went into athletic retirement. After 1968, he was persecuted by the regime for having supported a progressive branch of the Communist Party and was forced to work in uranium mines. He died after a long bout of illness.
His wife was a famous javelin-thrower, Dana Zatopkova, who won a gold-medal at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. Zatopek was known for his fierce running-style and his contorted facial expressions while running, which landed him the nickname “Czech Locomotive.” He himself commented this by stating that he was “so talented that he could both run and smile at the same time”. He was without a doubt one of the greatest runners of the 20th century.


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