September 13, 2012 – The couple of athletes Emil and Dana Zátopek was not only united by their common love, but also by their common birthday on September 19, 1922 and by their athletic successes. On occasion of their 90th birthday the Czech Mint has issued a silver medal.
The Zátopek medal: .999 silver / 37 mm / 31.1 g / design: Petr Horák / mintage: 1,000.
The medal’s obverse shows the couple embracing and kissing each other. The legend says ‘Vyroci Narozeni Dany a Emila Zatopkovych 1922 2012’ (‘Birthday anniversary of Dana and Emil Zátopek 1922-2012’), on the inside of the legend run parallel the words ‘Olympijskych Vitezu’ (‘olympic champions’).
On the reverse, the two athletes are pictured during their triumph in Helsinki: Emil Zátopek runs frontally on the right side of the field while his wife dashes to the right on the point of throwing the javelin. On top, the year of their triumph is indicated, ‘1952’, the legend follows the edge in two lines: ‘Manzelu Zatopkovych Na XV. OH v Helsinkach / 60 Let od Spolecneho uspechu’ (‘60 years since the common success of the Zátopeks at the XV Olympic Games in Helsinki’).
The Zátopek couple has made history in the field of sports but there are other reasons, too, why they remain so well known to everybody. Probably the most noted reason is their common birthday on September 19, 1922. In 1948, on their 26th birthday, they married just after Emil Zátopek had won the 10,000 m at the Olympic Games. But it was their triumph in Helsinki four years later which became legendary indeed. Emil had been hotly tipped to win the 10,000 m already – and indeed he plainly won. But it came as a whole surprise when he succeeded in addition in the 5,000 m and the marathon, too. Three gold medals! Olympic record in the marathon! And Emil Zátopek had never competed in the marathon before!
Only a couple of hours after Emil’s winning the 5,000 m his wife Dana went to the javelin finals – winning Olympic gold as well!
The ‘Czech Locomotive’ running, 1951. Photo by Roger and Renate Rössing. Source: Deutsche Fotothek / Wikipedia.
Later the couple continued breaking records and winning championships. But besides his athletic successes the ‘Czech Locomotive’ as they used to call Emil Zátopek in order of his audible pants while running, there were other motives as well why he captured his compatriots’ hearts. After retiring from athletics he served as an official in the Czechoslovakian Ministry of Defense. But during the Prague Spring he joined the democratic wing of the Communist Party; he firmed the manifesto ‘The Two Thousand Words’ and in his uniform climbed a tank appealing to the Soviet army. This involvement put an end to his work at the Ministry. The following years he had to earn money in a uranium mine and collecting rubbish.
In 1997 the Czech conferred on him the title of ‘Athlete of the Century’. Three years later this unique sport’s talent died in Prague. His wife Dana is still committed to athletics.
On occasion of the Zátopeks’ 90th birthday the Czech Mint illustrates the lovely aspects of this couple on a silver medal: both united in the moment of their most important athletic success and kissing each other tenderly, symbol of their love that had lasted for decades.
Watch Emil Zátopek during his greatest triumph in Helsinki 1952 in this footage!
‘Birds fly, fish swim, humans run.’ Quotations like this Emil Zátopek was famous for. You can read others of his sentences here.