Emil Zatopek: The Czech Locomotive

Emil Zatopek crossing the line to at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki. Photograph: EPA

Emil Zapotek found running quite by accident when his teacher forced him to participate in a foot race just to make up the number, what started as a forced run turned into a lifelong passion for distance running.

He entered the army at a young age and was constantly training himself even with his hectic army training schedule. He would run out in the freezing night, lugging his heavy army pack and come back later and continue running in his bathtub, using the suds and clothes for resistance.

He was not born with the physique of a runner nor did he receive any kind of formal training, he JUST RAN! He also pioneered a very dangerous yet effective training method by having his wife (who was an Olympian herself, winning a javelin gold!) throw her javelin while he attempted to run after it to CATCH IT!

Emil Zatopek participated in the 1952 Helsinki games where he won the 5,000m and 10,000m gold medals, adding to his already 2 gold medals from the earlier London games. He then took part in the marathon which he has NEVER raced in his life; overcame the heat and intense competition and won ahead by 2 minutes.

Emil’s story would later take a tragic turn in the end but will be remembered as a consummate professional who gave his all and best to the sport he loved, continuously improved himself. The world loved him as a professional and a very intelligent humble man.