A ‘MEETING’ WITH ZÁTOPEK

Posted on Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 at 3:05 pm and is filed under Archive | 1

Should you be lurking in central or west London on the afternoon of Thursday, October 6, feel free to go to the Slovak Embassy at 25 Kensington Palace Gardens, London W8, at 18.30, when I shall be presenting an illustrated talk on Emil Zátopek.

Entry is free, as long as you register in advance with the British Czech & Slovak Association (bcsa@bcsa.co.uk or tel: 020 8795 4875), and say you are a guest of mine.

The talk with video and photos will last approx. 45mins, and there will be complimentary wine afterwards….

Here is another extract from QUICKSILVER to whet the appetite…..

If anyone saw Emil Zátopek as a father figure, it was the former decathlete, TV commentator and journalist, Štĕpán Škorpil. He never knew his own father. He was only 17 days old when his father, a member of the Resistance was executed in a Nazi prison camp, where he had been taken shortly after Škorpil’s conception. An early ‘meeting’, as he termed it, with Zátopek was to have a decisive impact on his young life, in more ways than one.

Emil Zatopek Globe Runner

“I first met Emil on the radio,” Škorpil told me in early October 2014. “I was seven years old, and it was the Helsinki Olympics. I was glued to the radio. Day One, he wins the 10,000 metres, Day Three, it’s the heat of the 5000 metres, then the final. The last lap, he’s fourth, then he’s first, then he’s fourth, then (Chris) Chataway falls; and Emil wins. I was jumping up and down on my bed. The whole country must have been listening.

“You know, the only time my mother ever hit me was after this. I cut a big photo of Emil out of the newspaper, and nailed it to the wall of my bedroom. Of course, I made big holes in the wall… Many years later, I was driving Emil to a sports club somewhere, to give a talk, and I told him this story. He threw his hands up to his head (Škorpil mimicks this in the café, where we were talking), and said, ‘Oh my God, you got punished because of me’. And he evidently kept thinking of this, because half an hour later, he put his hands up to his head again, then threw his arms around me, kissed me on the cheek, and said, ‘My poor boy, your mother only ever hit you once, and it was my fault’. I had to say, ‘Emil! Stop; or I’ll crash the car’”.

I asked the obvious question, was Emil a sort of spiritual father to you?  Nearing 70 at that time, Škorpil was the archetypal hard-bitten journalist, who had seen and heard of lot of things, seen a lot great performances, and heard a lot of bullshit. And he had lived through some of the most momentous events in Czech and Czechoslovak history. At 10.30 in the morning, over coffee in a bustling Prague city centre café, he almost broke down. When he gathered himself, he said, “You know, Emil once said to me, ‘I am your athletics father, and Dana is your athletics mother’. That experience,” he added, recalling the Helsinki radio report, “made me want to do something in sport. My father was an engineer. Who knows, if he had lived, I might have worked in factories all my life”.

One response to “A ‘MEETING’ WITH ZÁTOPEK”

  1. Mel Tyler says:

    I was intending to go to your book launch.Unfortunately I suffered an injury and was unable to attend.In the late1950s I saw Zatopek at the White City past his best but still a good runner he was beaten by Gordon Pirie on very foggy evening

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