Thursday, June 24, 2010

"ZATOPEK'S SHADOW"


Full name: Alain Mimoun O'Kacha
Nickname(s): Alel
Gender: Male
Height: 5'7" (170 cm)
Weight: 123 lbs (56 kg)
Born: January 1, 1921 in Le Telagh, Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria
Affiliations: Racing Club de France, Paris (FRA)
Country: France
Sport: Athletics
Medals: 1 Gold, 3 Silver (4 Total)


Emil Zatopek and Alain Mimoun
Helsinki 1952
From demi-fondu74.over-blog.com


Alain Mimoun, J.O de
Melbourne 1956
From Picasa Web Albums


WHEN you are close to having your foot amputated, you savor every subsequent walking moment. But for Alain Mimoun, there has been much more to life than that. Algerian-born and winner of Olympic gold 54 years ago in Melbourne, he was still running 10 miles a day aged 80, and at 86 he remains an inspiration to young athletes. Such a prolonged active life all seemed very problematic when he was badly injured by shell-fire in the Second World War battle for Monte Cassino in 1944.
Mimoun was known as Emil Zatopek's Shadow, three times taking Olympic silver behind the Czech legend, and twice finishing runner-up to him in European championships. But in 1956 he made it to the top step of the podium, when he won the marathon.
By then he was 35, and it was his first attempt at the distance, but he was convinced it would be his lucky day. He had learned that a daughter (whom he named Olympia) had been born the previous evening, and then he drew No.13, which he considered to be lucky. It must also have boosted his confidence to know that Zatopek had undergone hernia surgery just six weeks earlier.
The day of the Melbourne Olympic marathon was so hot (97F) that it melted the tarmac. He had a moist handkerchief over his head, but it felt so heavy he threw it away. He was reckoned to have lost four litres of body fluid.
He inspired himself by recalling his wartime struggles and admits his spirits were uplifted when a pretty blond blew him a kiss. He won by 92 seconds. Zatopek was sixth, more than four and a half minutes behind, but Mimoun waited for his friend at the finish. Zatopek took off his cap, saluted his rival, and embraced him. "That was better than the medal," said Mimoun.
(Adapted from "Alain Mimoun" by DOUG GILLON, at Heraldscotland.com)


Emil Zatopek and Alain Mimoun
Melbourne 1956
From hubertzakine.blogspot.com


But such was the bond between them that Mimoun says his greatest moment was not winning in Melbourne, it was when Zata finished, realized Mimoun had won, went up to him, took off his cap, and in his best military fashion, since he was a colonel in the Czech Army, saluted the victor…..
Since Mimoun is now close to 90, and still running an hour every other day(!), as you might imagine, his account of his career describes another world.
He was born in Algeria in 1921, enlisted in the French army when he was 18, fought on the eastern front, almost had a foot blasted off in the battle for Monte Cassino, and discovered a talent for running almost by accident - says he joined in a race as he was passing a suburban track with some pals after his recuperation.
He joined a Parisian club post-war, and worked as a waiter in a restaurant on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne, where he would also do his training…..
(Adapted from ALAIN MIMOUN - A LEGEND by Pat Butcher, March 10th, 2010 at Globe Runner blog)
Mimoun won the world cross-country title four times, including in 1952 on Hamilton racecourse in Lanarkshire. He was selected 85 times by France and set 20 national records. He also won four titles at the Mediterranean Games, and 19 French titles, the last of these aged 45 in 1966, more than 22 years after he almost lost his foot.
He won the Croix de Guerre and was decorated by four French presidents including General de Gaulle, the French wartime commander. When they met, he told Mimoun: "You and I have something in common. We last."
Some 40 sports centres in France bear his name. Among them is the stadium at Bugeat where he trained for the 1956 Games. He still turns out there to encourage young athletes.....
(Adapted from "Alain Mimoun" by DOUG GILLON Heraldscotland.com)
There have been a lot of Olympic champions. Of those, there have been a few who have stood out from the crowd, either by their super-extraordinary feats, or by their strength of character. Alain Mimoun fits the bill on both counts.
(ALAIN MIMOUN - A LEGEND by Pat Butcher, March 10th, 2010 at Globe Runner blog)


Alain Mimoun O'Kacha
From jabiru.blog.lemonde.fr


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