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Emil Zatopek: The Bouncing Czech Who Dominated Long-Distance Running



Emile Zatopek

Emil Zatopek was a Czechoslovak athlete who won three gold medals at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics (5,000m, 10,000m and marathon). He was noted for his relentless training regime which involved a pioneering use of interval training. Zatopek was born in Koprivnice, Czechoslovakia in a modest family. He started working at Bata, a shoe factory, in 1937. The factory sports coach persuaded him to take part in a race, in which he came second.

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Emile Zatopek

Emile Zatopek

Zatopek 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. He is also known for his distinctive running style. He would pant and wheeze and would look visibly shattered during a race.

Zatopek’s running style was distinctive and very much at odds with what was considered to be an efficient style at the time. His head would often roll, face contorted with effort, while his torso swung from side to side. He was known as “the bouncing Czech” because of his ungainly running style. Fans liked his visibly agonised running style, which made him supremely dramatic to watch.