Emil Zátopek and Dana Zátopková’s 100th Birthday – In the 1952 Olympics, Dana Zatopkova won a gold medal in the women’s javelin throw one hour after her husband, Emil Zapotek, won the men’s 5,000 meter run. Today’s Doodle celebrates the Czech power couple of track and field’s shared 100th Birthday! This Doodle was created by Prague-based guest artists Ilona Polanski (illustration) and Aliona Saskova (animation).
Both Emil and Dana were born on September 19, 1922. Dana developed a passion for sports while she grew up in Karviná, Czech Republic. Before she ever threw a javelin, Dana was a talented handball player and played in college and professionally where she led her team to a Czechoslovakian handball title. The javelin throw soon caught Dana’s attention. Rumor has it she reached 34 meters the first time she gave it a try. She later became the first Czech woman to throw a javelin over 40 meters, which qualified her for the 1948 Olympic Games.
Over in Zlín, teenage Emil worked at a shoe factory. It was there that he was encouraged to run in a local race where he finished second out of a hundred participants! Emil became a private in the Czech army and trained at night by running in his combat boots while holding his breath to build up his lung capacity. His legend grew after he rode a bicycle from Prague to Berlin and won the 5,000 meter race in an Allied Occupation meet.
Emil witnessed Dana’s qualifying javelin throw and congratulated her on making the Olympics. After bonding over their shared birthday, the two formed a relationship. They traveled together to the 1948 Olympic Games in London where Emil won gold in the 10,000 meter race and Dana placed seventh in the javelin throw. Shortly after, the couple married.
Dana and Emil made history at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. Emil won the gold medal in 5,000 meter, 10,000 meter and the marathon—his frist ever—breaking the Olympic record in all three races. Dana not only placed first and set an Olympic record for the javelin throw but became the first Czech woman to win an Olympic gold medal. Due to the couple’s performance that year, Czechoslovakia took home more gold medals than any country besides the United States.
They broke a combined 35 world records in a marriage that lasted 52 years. Dana received the Olympic Order for distinguished contributions to the Olympic movement. The editors at Runner’s World Magazine named Emil the Greatest Runner of All Time.
Happy 100th birthday, Emil Zátopek and Dana Zátopková!
You can find more about Emil Zátopek and Dana Zátopková’s 100th Birthday on the official Google Doodle Page
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