The Google Doodle of today honours the 100th wedding anniversary of the Czech track and field power couple! Ilona Polanski (illustration) and Aliona Saskova, two visiting artists from Prague, drew this doodle (animation). Dana Zatopkova won the gold medal in the women’s javelin throw at the 1952 Olympics one hour after her husband, Emil Zapotek, took first place in the men’s 5,000-meter race.
Dana and Emil were both born on September 19, 1922. Dana grew raised in Karviná, Czech Republic, where she discovered her love for sports. Dana was a skilled handball player in college and professionally, where she helped her team win a Czechoslovakian handball title before she ever threw a javelin. Dana quickly focused on the javelin throw. According to reports, she tried it once and made it 34 metres. Later, she made history by becoming the first Czech woman to javelin throw over 40 metres, earning her a spot in the 1948 Olympic Games.
Emil, a teenager, worked in a shoe factory in Zln. He was inspired there to sign up for a local race, where he placed second out of 100 competitors. In order to increase his lung capacity, Emil trained at night while running in his combat boots. He later joined the Czech army as a private. His fame increased after he won the 5,000-meter race in an Allied Occupation meet after cycling from Prague to Berlin.
Dana’s qualifying javelin throw was seen by Emil, who congratulated her on making the Olympics. After bonding over their same birthday, the two established a romance. Emil won gold in the 10,000-meter sprint and Dana finished ninth in the javelin throw at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, where they both travelled together. The couple got hitched soon after.
At the Helsinki Olympics in 1952, Dana and Emil made Olympic history. Emil won his first-ever gold medals in the 5,000-meter, 10,000-meter, and marathon races while breaking all three Olympic records. Dana became the first woman from the Czech Republic to win an Olympic gold medal in addition to taking first place and breaking the javelin throw Olympic record. The performance of the couple that year led to Czechoslovakia winning more gold medals than any other nation outside the United States.
In a 52-year marriage, they broke 35 world records together. Due to her outstanding services to the Olympic movement, Dana was awarded the Olympic Order. Emil was named the Greatest Runner of All Time by the editors of Runner’s World Magazine.
Happy 100th birthday, Emil Zátopek and Dana Zátopková!
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