#1 – Emil Zatopek

Look at him run!

“Why should I practice running slow? I already know how to run slow.
I want to learn to run fast.”

Usain Bolt is a great athlete. He eats fried chicken before races and breaks world records as a result. He is without a doubt one of the greatest athletes of his generation, and will no doubt be included in debates about being the greatest athlete of all time.

This man, however, is cruelly overlooked whenever the . As well as setting eighteen world records, he held eight of them at once, a record to this day.

And I challenge anyone to win gold in the 5,000m, 10,000m and marathon at the same Olympic games. That’d be akin to Mr. Bolt not only repeating his Beijing heroics but also gearing up and winning the 400m. Or in laymen’s terms, like eating a steak, followed by two steaks, followed by a giraffe all on the same night. While having a cold.

I once ran like this from muggers

He may have been castigated for his awkward running style, but his retorts that prizes weren’t given for beauty in running just added to his charm.

By now, I’m sure you’re thinking “My, he does sound like good guy, but not really ‘unsung hero’ material”. And you would be right. But I have to finish talking about him. The most amazing thing about Mr. Zatopek were his principles. He convinced the pretty much unconvincable Czech Communist Party to allow both himself and friend Stanislav Jungwrith to go to Helsinki in 1952 despite the latter’s father being a political prisoner.

Most amazingly however is what occurred after his career had finished. Despite being a Communist, he supported the democratic wing of the party and after brief political liberalisation (The Prague Spring) through the reformer Alexander Dubcek, the Czech atheltics hero was removed as a corporal and sent to work in the uranium mines. For twenty years. And what is even more astonishing is that he didn’t bear any grudge, he just accepted his punishment for his willingness to speak out against the authorities and support the reformists.

Just for this he should be celebrated, but added to his athletic achievement, this makes him a proper unsung hero.

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In other news, I am looking for a decent banner for the front page of the blog. If anyone can help me out there, leave a comment 🙂

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