Zátopek, Emil

Zátopek, Emil
born Sept. 19, 1922, Kopřivnice, Czech.
died Nov. 22, 2000, Prague, Cz.Rep.

Czech long-distance runner.

He won his first Olympic gold medal in 1948 in the 10,000-m race. At the 1952 Olympics he won gold medals in the 5,000-m, 10,000-m, and marathon. From the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s he set 18 world records, and he held the record for the 10,000-m from 1949 to 1954.

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▪ 2001

      Czech long-distance runner (b. Sept. 19, 1922, Koprivnice, Czech.—d. Nov. 21/22, 2000, Prague, Czech Rep.), won at the 1952 Olympic Games the 5,000 m, 10,000 m, and marathon, a feat never achieved before or since. At the same time, he set Olympic records in the 5,000 m and 10,000 m and ran the marathon in Olympic record time; it was his first marathon. Zatopek also won a gold medal in the 10,000 m at the 1948 Olympics and from 1948 to 1954 won an unprecedented 38 consecutive 10,000-m races. During his career he set 18 world records at distances ranging from 5,000 m to 30,000 m, and he was the first to run the 10,000 m in less than 29 minutes. Zatopek began running at the age of 18 and trained intensively while serving in the Czechoslovak army. He retired as a runner in 1958 and later fell out of favour with his government for criticizing the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.

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▪ Czech athlete
born September 19, 1922, Kopřivnice, Czechoslovakia
died November 22, 2000, Prague, Czech Republic
 Czech athlete who is considered one of the greatest long-distance runners in the history of the sport. He won the gold medal in the 10,000-metre race at the 1948 Olympics in London and three gold medals at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland: in the 5,000- and 10,000-metre races and in the marathon. During his career he set 18 world records, holding the 10,000-metre record from 1949 to 1954, his best time being 28 min 54.2 sec; he was the first runner to break the 29-minute mark. He also set world records for 5,000 metres, 10 miles, 20,000 metres, 15 miles, 25,000 metres, and 30,000 metres.

      Zátopek was known as “the bouncing Czech” because of his ungainly running style. He began to run in 1940 when, while working in a shoe factory, he was encouraged to participate in a 1,500-metre race. Though he lacked training, he finished second and thereafter devoted himself to running. Zátopek first attracted international attention in 1946, as a private in the Czech army, when he bicycled from Prague to Berlin to enter the 5,000-metre race in an Allied Occupation Forces meet and won it. His best record in 1951 was for 20,000 metres in 59 min 51.8 sec. At the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, he set Olympic records for the 5,000- and 10,000-metre races and ran the fastest marathon to that time. Zátopek's success owed much to an unorthodox training program. Constantly experimenting with his workouts, he developed interval training—a stamina-building technique of alternating rigorous activity (sprints, in Zátopek's case) with intervals of less-intense exercise (jogging)—which was initially scoffed at but which eventually became a mainstay in most athletes' workout regimens.

      Zátopek retired as a runner in 1958, though he remained a popular international figure, noted for his modesty and sportsmanship. For criticizing the Soviet Union's 1968 takeover of Czechoslovakia, he was deprived of his colonelcy in the Czech army and of his Communist Party membership in 1969. After a series of menial jobs, he was allowed to work with the Czechoslovak Physical Training Association and by the late 1970s was associated with the Czech national sports institute. He was married (1948) to Dana Ingrova Zatopkova, an Olympic gold medalist in the javelin throw.

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Universalium. 2010.

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