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Emil Zátopek dominated his sport and is the only runner to win the 5,000m, the 10,000m and the marathon at the same Olympic Games. Zátopek had a distinctive running style. He would pant and wheeze and would look visibly shattered during a race. This led to him being nicknamed “The Locomotive”. When asked about his rather inelegant looking style, he replied: “This isn’t gymnastics or ice skating, you know.”
In the 10,000m final at the 1948 London Games, Zátopek lapped all but two runners and won by more than 300m. Three days later, Zátopek ran in the final of the 5,000m. Trailing by 50m at the start of the final lap, he closed the gap with a stunning sprint finish. But he had to settle for silver finishing just 1.5 metres behind the victor, Gaston Etienne Reiff of Belgium.
Four years later in Helsinki, Zátopek did even better. He won the 10,000m in convincing style and claimed the 5,000m with a brilliant sprint finish. But Zátopek was not finished. He entered the marathon even though he had never run one before and won by two-and-a-half minutes.
Emil Zátopek is the only runner to win the 5,000m, the 10,000m and the marathon at the same Olympic Games. He went undefeated in his first 38 races over 10,000m from 1948 through to 1954, and is recognised as one the greatest runners of all time.