Unique post-February 25, 2012
Repost September 19, 2022
This piece was initially posted on February 25, 2012, on RunBlogRun. Of all of the interviews that I’ve achieved over the previous 40 years, the one I’m most pleased with is with Emil Zatopek. I nonetheless cry once I consider what he went by way of in 1968 and the way he confirmed his affection for the late Ron Clarke.
At the moment, September 19, 2022, is the Centenary of Emil Zatopek. Everywhere in the Czech Republic, celebrations went on in regards to the most interesting Olympic distance runner in historical past, the person who gained the 5,000m, 10,000m and marathon, one thing by no means repeated, on the similar Olympics the place his beautiful spouse took gold within the javelin.
Emil Zatopek was bigger than life. The winner of the Olympic gold medal in 1948 ( London), and the silver within the 5,000m (he missed the gold by lower than a yard together with his insane final lap, operating down a 50-plus meter lead by Gaston Reiff).
In 1952, Emil Zatopek gained the gold within the 10,000 meters, got here again and gained a troublesome 5,000m, the place he didn’t regain the lead till 180 meters to go. After golds within the 5,000m and 10,000m, Zatopek additionally gained the marathon, on his first strive, taking the lead after 25k and by no means wanting again. Some fascinating trivia, in all 4 Olympic monitor medals, Alain Mimoun of France completed proper behind him.
In 1956, six weeks after hernia surgical procedure (he had achieved 300-meter intervals holding his spouse, Daniella, on his again), he completed sixth place. Ready within the line for Emil was his expensive pal and competitor, Alain Mimoun.
In 1991, when Emil spent a number of days at Stanford, he traveled to Carmel with Joe Mangan and me. I taped six hours of tapes from that day.
He instructed us about Vladimir Kuts, who he favored, and he instructed us about Alain Mimoun, who waited on the end for him within the 1956 marathon, telling his Czech pal that he had turn out to be a father simply earlier than the race (I’ve heard that this story will not be true, properly, in 1991, to Emil Zatopek, it was true).
What will not be clearly recognized is how terribly the Soviets handled Emil after 1968. Zatopek, whereas a Communist, was a nationalist. He supported the Spring Revolt and the Dubjek authorities, who stood as much as the Soviets. A scholar revolt, led by the late Vaclav Havel, then, a university professor, was additionally a part of the story. Zatopek was thrown in jail, and handled so severely by the Soviet captors, that he broken his again and legs, by no means to run once more.
As he instructed us this story, I used to be sitting within the again seat, recording the discussions and Joe Mangan was driving. It was onerous to not tear up. Right here was his nation’s biggest athlete, really the best distance runner in Olympic historical past, and he was given menial jobs for almost twenty years after the 1968 revolt.
I discovered this video of Emil’s Olympic successes and considered him as soon as once more. On the day of his marathon victory, his beautiful spouse, Daniella, gained the javelin gold medal. She grew to become a coach after that, and I consider, has nonetheless had among the finest throws with the picket javelin.
In Edmonton, in 2001, I witnessed how extremely Czech athletes held in esteem the Zatopeks. Emil had been useless for 2 years, however as Roman Sebrle noticed Daniella, at a press convention in Edmonton, they crossed the room to hug her. She smiled and chatted with Roman and one other Czech decathlete.
I used to be fascinated with Emil’s view of the world. He was actually a world citizen. Once I requested him in regards to the 1968 revolt and his emotions on Marxism, he instructed me that ” I’m a Communist, sure, however I’m a nationalist first.” He paid dearly for the love of his nation.
Zatopek did prepare onerous. 20-40 instances 400 meters, a number of instances per week. He educated all yr spherical, and maybe 100 miles per week. He would attempt to maintain his breath for lengthy instances, to strengthen his lungs. His neighbors thought he was ingesting, as he would maintain his breath so lengthy that he was having hassle strolling. He pounded a 4 hundred or so meter snow path round his officer’s billet (residing quarters), one chilly winter.
On this age of scientific coaching, it’s nice to listen to and see how far the human coronary heart can push a person or lady to excel. One of many nice issues about our sport are the shock athletes who come up by way of the ranks!
Who would be the subsequent Zatopek?
Please learn this superb piece by Simon Turnbull for World Athletics on Emil Zatopek: https://worldathletics.org/heritage/information/emil-zatopek-olympic-treble-helsinki-1952