By Richard Askwith
For a decade after the second one international battle, Emil Zátopekthe Czech locomotive”redefined the game of distance working, pushing again the frontiers of what used to be thought of attainable. He gained 5 Olympic medals, set eighteen international documents, and went undefeated within the 10,000-metre race for 6 years. His dominance hasn't ever been equaled.
In the darkest days of the chilly struggle, he stood for a spirit of beneficiant friendship that transcended nationality and politics. Zátopek used to be an lively supporter of the Prague Spring in 1968, championing socialism with a human face” in Czechoslovakia. yet for this he paid a excessive fee. After the rebellion was once beaten by means of Soviet tanks, the hardline Communists had their revenge. Zátopek used to be expelled from the military, stripped of his position in nationwide recreation, and condemned to years of demanding and degrading handbook labor.
Based on wide learn within the Czech Republic, interviews with humans the world over who knew him, and unparalleled cooperation from his widow, fellow Olympian Dana Zátopková, journalist Richard Askwith’s booklet breathes new lifestyles into the guy and the parable, uncovering a wonderful age of athletics and an epoch-defining time in international history.
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Extra resources for Today We Die a Little!: The Inimitable Emil Zátopek, the Greatest Olympic Runner of All Time
The grandchildren knew him as ‘beardy grandpa’ – even when his beard had become a mere moustache – so Anežka, logically, was ‘beardy grandma’. The couple’s greatest pleasure was to gather the whole family round to sing Moravian folk songs. Emil continued to sing them all his life. The garden was scarcely less packed than the house, with goats, hens and geese jostling for space among trees and beehives. Children were expected to do their bit for animal husbandry, and would get into trouble for failing to do so.
As for his running style, he makes such a meal of it that people have been commenting on it for years: the way he grimaces as he runs, rolls his head, sticks out his tongue, claws at the air, clutches at his chest with his left hand, sometimes even seeming to swing his shoulders as he runs. Sportswriters love him for this, as it provides an excuse for some enjoyable phrase-making: ‘He runs like a man who has just been stabbed in the heart’; ‘. . as if there was a scorpion in each shoe’; ‘. . as if tortured by internal demons’; ‘.
The answer, when I arrive at it, surprises me. Zátopek’s whole life is both known and unknown, and for the same reason. He was, for two decades in the mid-twentieth century, the most celebrated sportsman on earth. Even now, he remains exceptionally honoured, with his own statue (one of only four) outside the official Olympic museum in Lausanne. Runner’s World named him the greatest runner of all time – over any distance – as recently as 2013. Yet the facts of his life as a human being are obscured, not just by barriers of time, language and ideology but, above all, by myth.