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Helsinki 1952 - Key Moments

Zatopek: the human train

Emil Zatopek arrived in Helsinki with an already established reputation - making him one of the firm favourites in his class. In this particular Olympiad, Zatopek exceeded all expectations by winning three titles - the 5000m, 10,000m and the marathon - an unheard of feat that will likely never be repeated.

On July 20, the Czech, who already held the 10,000m Olympic title and a silver medal from the Games four years previously, brought his account up to date by retaining his 10,000m title.

With unbound ease, he crossed the finish line 15 seconds and 100m ahead of his nearest rival, Franco-Algerian Alain Mimoun, establishing a new world record of 29:17.00.

Two days later, Zatopek and Mimoun squared up again in the 5000m - again the Czech imposed his superiority by taking the gold and setting a new Olympic record (14:06.6) - only eight-tenths of a second ahead of Mimoun, who ran an impressive last lap to catch up with his rival.

A few hours after the race, both Zatopek and his wife Dana were able to congratulate each other after she won a gold and set a new Olympic record in the women's javelin event with a throw of 50.47m.

Face of death

The man known as the "locomotive" was, despite his reputation and ability, a frightening sight for the spectators. Zatopek, his head rolling and his tongue hanging out, ran with an accompanying grimace and seemed to be forever on the verge of breakdown.

One thing was clear - the Czechoslovakian army soldier perfected a method of training which saw him combine daily runs of 30km with sprint work and muscle-training. The only challenge remaining for Zatopek was the marathon - the pinnacle of his success.

First try, first win

Racing for the first time at this distance - at least officially - Zatopek took up the lead at the midway point, slipping past the two athletes who, until then, had been able to keep up with him.

He set himself up for an unforgettable victory in a time of 2hr 23:03.02. As proof that he was at ease during the race, Zatopek was seen waving to the crowd, and even chatted with roadside spectators.

At the finish line, he was carried aloft to his wife Dana to enjoy his victory by members of the 4x400m Jamaican relay team, signing autographs as he went along.

After enjoying his brief victory, Zatopek returned to the finish line with some fresh oranges in hand to welcome the next arrival - Argentina's Reinaldo Gorno, who came in 2 minutes and 32 seconds later.

Thanks to this memorable week in Finland, Zatopek added true Olympic glory to what was an already highly successful career.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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