Posted on Monday, July 25th, 2016 at 9:22 am and is filed under Butcher's Blog | 0

QUICKSILVER, The Mercurial Emil Zátopek by Pat Butcher  (published today, July 25, 2016*)

Pat Butcher shared the company of quadruple Olympic gold medallist Emil Zátopek at international events on several occasions, dating back to the Games in Munich in 1972 when Emil was guest of honour.


Pat finally met Zátopek properly, along with his wife Dana, also an Olympic gold medallist, when he was invited to spend several hours at their house in Prague almost 20 years ago. He interviewed Emil at length, and then met the couple again the following year, 18 months before Emil’s death.

The resonance of Zátopek’s example and achievements has echoed down the decades since his first Olympic gold, in London 1948, but particularly by his unrepeatable Olympic treble – 5000 and 10,000 metres, and Marathon – at the Games of Helsinki 1952. He ended his career a half dozen years later, having added three European gold medals, and eighteen world records to his feats.

In the process, he endeared himself to millions across the world by his openness and charm, which he managed to communicate even while he ran in a style that looked more like torture. To the aficionados, he was a god, who re-invented long-distance running, employing methods still in use by champions of today.

The Zátopek story is made even more extraordinary by his exile from Prague following his vocal opposition to the Soviet invasion in 1968. The fact that he had spent the previous two decades as an officer in the Czechoslovak People’s Army, being lionised by the regime meant that, despite that grotesque punishment for the most famous person in the country, there remained people who thought that he deserved his fate for having been a willing dupe of the regime.

Given the difficulties of securing accurate information from behind the Iron Curtain during the 40 year period between the Second World War and the Velvet Revolution, even when Zátopek was restored to public life, and just wanted peace and quiet for the last decade of his life, doubts still remained about his role during his halcyon years.

Pat Butcher believed so much in finding out the real story that he spent two years researching in Prague and elsewhere in Czech Republic, and has self-published this book about the man considered by many to be the Greatest Runner in History.

* For the time being, QUICKSILVER, The Mercurial Emil Zátopek is only available via:

(Pat Butcher’s book, The Perfect Distance, Ovett and Coe, The Record Breaking Rivalry is in development with AL Films/BBC Films)

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