News : Tonight I have been with Zatopek
I don’t know what brought me to Prague. The great Emil Zatopek, the great athlete that we have all heard of at some time, has opened the doors of his house to me.
Last night I had a dream from which it was uncomfortable to wake up.
I would have stayed to live in it my whole life.
I landed at the Prague airport, where a man, who looked like a taxi driver, took me to the outskirts of the city in the neighborhood where Emil Zatopek lives, which is no secret in the city.
There, Zatopek belongs to everyone and everyone has the right to share it.
Zatopek is a tall, slim, sincere man with a very broad forehead.
Today he is at home with his wife Dana, a javelin thrower who also speaks English.
I am accompanied by a photographer with a camera that weighs more than a newborn.
We have the feeling that we are going to do the report of our life.
-What are you going to ask him? -the photographer asks me.
We are young and we are street people who are the only place in the 1950s where you can do journalism.
We have contacted Zatopek through postal mail. He himself replied with a letter, written with a fountain pen, which took 15 days to arrive. He has promised us that he will be home for the entire month because he is on vacation from the army, which is his real job.
He told us to go, that the doors of his house were open to us.
Running, even though it was gold in this summer’s Olympics in Helsinki in 5,000, 10,000 and marathon it’s just a hobby.
At this time there are no television commercials.
Advertising is important but not decisive.
Prague it seems a sad and cold city but Zatopek opens the door for us in short sleeves.
Today, at seven in the morning, he went out to train 15 kilometers and then showered with cold water, even colder than the water that falls from the sky.
Zatopek is an extraordinary character that we will continue to speak of in 50, 60 or 70 years as if it were American black and white cinema.
At dawn we sat in the living room of his house. Dana brings us fruit, Toast, orange juice and coffee for breakfast.
In such a small room Zatopek is like a giant.
I am fortunate that he has risen for me, so that I can see him and ask him questions.
No one can accuse me of inventing the answers: we are dreaming, we are shooting our own movie.
Zatopek doesn’t just have a beautiful woman. Too is in the prime of life.
This summer, through the radio, we heard how it has taken Helsinki by storm. And then we have read it in the newspapers that we are going to buy while taking a walk to Gran Vía.
But suddenly, in a single moment, I have grown older.
Suddenly, I am in Prague in a neighborhood full of streetlights, hopeful green lawns and a two-story house, Emil Zatopek’s, where the best drink is water.
Zatopek is a man who gets up to clear the table after breakfast.
Then he also goes shopping with Dana in a coat that is like a Sunday Eucharist: it is very cold in Prague.
Zatopek says that walking also trains, that he is not in a hurry to rest, that sleeping 7 or 8 hours a day is enough, that exaggerating is cowardly.
He walks like he runs: rare.
And looks you in the eyes like the protagonists of the movies.
In the living room of his house, he is a man relaxed next to a stove, which in these times would already seem archaic to us and perhaps even frighten us.
But today we are in the month of December 1952 and it has only been four months since the Helsinki Olympics.
Zatopek is a 30-year-old man, a celebrity, “an animal”, as the intellectuals who gather at Café Gijón say, when they see the photographs of him running with that disheveled face in the second edition of the newspapers.
Without being a journalist from ‘The Washington Post’ or from ‘France Football’ the one who is by his side today is me.
There is something even more beautiful than living: dreaming.
I don’t care that dreams don’t tell the whole truth.
The thing is to dream, to dare to tell what you dreamed of.
Of course I have asked Zatopek if it is true that he trains 42 series of 400 meters, 25 km in the afternoon and 25 in the afternoon and he has not denied me a single comma.
He just smiles and adds that the training is made to get the body used to running tired, to dribbling to the unfavorable conditions that it will find later in the race.
He also explains to me that training is not asking for help and that it is better to be a little crazy: this way you lose your fear of pain and the unknown, which are our great rivals.
I don’t know what it is that brought me to Prague this morning. It was neither a woman nor the hope of taking a walk on the Charles Bridge nor the smoke from the trams.
But I’m sorry to leave. I’m sorry to wake up. I am sorry that Dana locks the door of the house and that Zatopek tells me:
-Do you need anything else?
I have come without knowing that I was coming tonight when I went to bed, when I turned off the lights in the room.
But dreams can also be paid for in one go: they don’t always have to be in installments.
Now I also remember that in the first thing I read about Emil Zatopek the chronicler defined it as “the strength of angels.”
And it’s true.
The Angels tonight they have come looking for me.
They have taken care of everything, preparing the trip, the stage and the presentations.
They have turned me into a type, who did not exist in December 1952, and Zatopek has returned to be 30 years old, to challenge the human and the divine running, to hit those huge changes of rhythm.
I have never heard him say “this is impossible.”
We have not talked about brands but about something more difficult: how to unravel the impossible in those years.
At his side, I have also understood that with a cotton tank top you could also reach the end of the world as the black and white photographs from before told us.
Then when I woke up, it was worse.
I realized that we were nowhere.
But for some reason I have felt the need to tell it, to write it down in the notebook as I would have written it if we had stayed to live in Prague in December 1952 in the lake that was so cold by the Vltava River.