News08 Mar 2012

Hall of Fame Profile - Emil Zatopek (Czechoslovakia)


Emil Zatopek (© Getty Images)

Over the years, there have been plenty of debates about who is the greatest distance runner ever but one name that is always mentioned is that of Emil Zatopek.

The charismatic Czech soldier, already known to his many fans as The Human Locomotive for his relentlessly hard training and his success at the 1948 Olympic Games where he won the 10,000m gold medal, achieved a unique treble at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki.

He won the 5000m, 10,000m and marathon; a feat which had never been achieved before or since.

The 10,000m in the Finnish capital was a relatively easy affair for Zatopek, winning with an Olympic record and by nearly 16 seconds.

His next event, the 5000m, was a more difficult contest. Four men were still in contention with 250 metres to go but Zatopek's superior sprint finish prevailed as he won in another Olympic record.

Despite his proven talent on the track, Zatopek had never run a marathon before but his lack of experience proved to be almost irrelevant en-route to his third gold medal.

He was on his own for the final six miles and came home over two-and-a-half-minutes in front of his nearest rival, completing his final lap around the Olympic stadium to the resounding cheers of “Za-to-pek, Za-to-pek”.

In addition to his gold medals, which also included three European titles, the popular Zatopek - with his fellow competitors as well as the general public - also set 18 world records during his illustrious career.

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