On This Date in Sports July 27, 1952: Czech Locomotive
In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
Emil Zatopek from Czechoslovakia wins the Gold Medal in the marathon, capping an incredible week in which he won the three major distance races, each while setting an Olympic Record. Zatopek's endurance test at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki began a week earlier when he repeated his Gold Medal performance from the London games while setting a record in the 10,000 meters. Four days later, he took the Gold Medal in the 5,000 meters before finishing it off with the marathon, beating Reinaldo Gorno of Argentina by two and half minutes.
Born on September 19, 1922, in Koprivince, Emil Zatopek was one of the best distance runners in the history of the Olympics. His endurance test at the 1952 games is unmatched as he won the three major distance races in the Helsinki games. Zatopek grew up in a large family. At 16, he went to work in a shoe factory. The factory's sports coach ordered the youngsters who had begun working at the factory to run a race. At first, Emil Zatopek protested, but after finishing second out of 100 runners, he decided he wanted to take running seriously.
Emil Zatopek joined an Athletic Club and slowly began to build himself into a champion runner while his country suffered under Nazi occupation during World War II. After Czechoslovakia was liberated, Zatopek joined the army, as Czechoslovakia now became part of the Eastern Bloc of Communist Nations under the guidance of the Soviet Union. Emil Zatopek began chasing national records as he continued to run. In 1948, Zatopek made his first appearance on the World Stage, taking a Silver Medal in the 5K and a Gold in the 10K at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London.
At the Helsinki Game in 1952, Emil Zatopek was ready to dominate. His first race was the 10,000 Meters. In a time of 29:17, Zatopek set an Olympic Record, finishing nearly 16 seconds ahead of Alain Mimoun of France, while Aleksandr Anufriyev from the Soviet Union took the Bronze Medal.
In the 5,000 meters, four days later, Emil Zatopek continued to blaze the track in Helsinki. Once again, he set an Olympic Record, winning in a time of 14:06.4. It was the closest race of the games for the Czech distance runner, as Alain Mimoun finished one second behind for the Silver Medal. Herbert Schade of the United German team would take the Bronze Medal.
Emil Zatopek's Olympics ended with the Marathon through the streets of Helsinki. Running the 26.2-mile course in 2:23:03, Zatopek set another Olympic Record, besting Reinaldo Gorno of Argentina by two and half minutes. Gustaf Jansson of Sweden would take the Bronze Medal. All the while, Zatopek would wheeze, during his distance runs, earning him the nickname "Czech Locomotive."