This novel, translated from French, is about the Czechoslovakian legendary Emil Zápotek, aka Czech Locomotive, who won three gold medals in the Helsinki Olympic Games. It’s a short novel (122 pages) and easy to read. Though the original author, Jean Echenoz, is supposed to be one of France’s greatest contemporary novelists, I cannot help but think Zápotek must have led more exciting life and the book does not capture it in entirety. It may be that the excitement was lost in the translation but I am not reading the book in French to find it out.
The book does touch on different aspects of Zápotek‘s life. His humble upbringing, modest but fun-loving personality, vigorous training method he invented for himself, stubbornness about other training methods, his wife who is also an Olympic champion, life after the competition under Soviet oppression, etc. Unfortunately, none of these aspects of his life is not depicted in details that I was hoping to learn, because Zápotek is such a legend, a hero, and an inspiration to many runners and athletes. I was looking forward to a story of verbal exchange with Jim Peters during the marathon, where Zápotek asked Peters how things were going. After Peters replied the pace was too slow, Zápotek simply took off and won the race in record time. Also, I would have liked to know more about a story where Zápotek gave one of his gold medals to Ron Clarke, an Australian distance runner.
I guess I need to try finding those stories somewhere else.