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Biography of ‘Bouncing Czech’ released in Korean

The biography of “The Locomotive,” one of the most successful runners of all time is being released in the Korean language just in time for the IAAF World Championships in Daegu.

Widely regarded by sport fans and the press as the greatest runner of the 20th century, Emil Zatopek’s story was unveiled by the Czech and French Embassies last week.
Cover of the Korean language translation of “Running” by Jean Echenoz (Czech Republic Embassy)
Cover of the Korean language translation of “Running” by Jean Echenoz (Czech Republic Embassy)

The translated work is from the highly regarded French novel “Courir (Running)” by acclaimed French writer and Goncourt Prize recipient Jean Echenoz.

The book shows the Czech sporting hero as a unique person, a hard worker with a strong work ethic, but also explains Zatopek’s place as an integral player in European history of the mid-20th century.

“He was a role-model as a sporting hero as well as a social hero,” said Czech Republic Ambassador Jaroslav Olsa Jr.

Zatopek became a household name when he won the 5,000 and 10,000 meter races as well as the marathon at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki.

Also known as the “Bouncing Czech,” Zatopek dominated the long distance races from 1948 to 1954 when he won a total of 38 consecutive 10,000 meter races including 11 races in 1949 alone.

He also set 18 world records, won four Olympic gold medals and one silver medal.

Living up to his nicknames, Zatopek was the first person to run the 10,000 meters in under 29 minutes and also the first person to run the 20,000 meters in less than an hour.

“In many ways, he resembles one of his preceding marathoners, Korean Sohn Kee-chung, who was also a tireless fighter for his nation,” said Olsa.

Sohn was the first medal-winning Korean Olympian who won the gold medal in the marathon at the 1936 Berlin Olympics as a member of the Japanese delegation.

“He was one of the symbols for Korean independence and like Zatopek, was a role model for many generations to come in Korea,” said Olsa.

Forced to compete under his Japanese name Son Kitei, he became a symbolic figure, representing the struggle for independence against Japanese colonial rule when he accepted the gold medal with his head bowed down in protest.

“Zatopek was not only a remarkable athletic star and a king of the long-track in his times, but also an enthusiastic fighter for freedom and democracy,” he said.

On the political front, Zatopek was also a hero by being among the leading Czech figures demanding the country’s democratization after the Soviet occupation in 1968.

Due to his political stance, he was fired from all important positions in both sporting and social life and lived in his internal exile until the fall of communism in 1989.

“During the last decade of his life, he once more reemerged as an important role model,” said Olsa.

By Yoav Cerralbo (