A story about an athlete from former Czechoslovakia who did not give up. Who pushed himself to the maximum. And who reached that maximum.
Today We Die a Little by Richard Askwith offers to its reader a breath-taking story about Emil Zátopek, the winner of five Olympics medals. The athlete who was hardly ever out of breath. Richard Askwith begins the biography with Zátopek running the first marathon in his life during the Olympic games in 1952. Askwith narration pulls the reader right in to the middle of Helsinki's Olympics and brings up the atmosphere of the event. Therefor it might be a bit disappointing when in the following chapter Askwith goes back in time to start from the beginning, depicting every single detail out of Zátopek's life. However, it quickly becomes obvious that he can keep reader's attention, no matter if he is just describing Zátopek's poor childhood, or moments of his fame. As the history of Czechoslovakia might be unknown for some readers it is handy when Askwith sets his reader to the individual historical events which only helps to fully comprehend Zátopek's background. Yet, he never gets stuck and keeps moving through Zátopek's childhood and adolescence, adding one funny story after another. And so the reader tests his knowledge about the events in 20th century and learns why Zátopek, coming from such a poverty-stricken village, was able to set 18 world records.
After those dark days of the war, the bombing, the killing and the starvation, the revival of the Olympics was as if the sun had come out.
Today We Die a Little (page 81)
As the subtitle reveals, Askwith follows Zátopek's rise as well as fall. Which means covering more than 70 years of Zátopek's life and an immense number of running races. For that reason, the book can become monotonous and featureless. At least for some readers. Especially when it comes to portraying yet another running race. But both Richard Askwith and Emil Zátopek are always able to come up with a new way how to spice it up; either with narration in Askwith's case, or a risk of loosing the race in Zátopek's. Which adds so much needed feeling of tension and thrill to the entire book.