The 2021 Olympics will go down as the greatest and most bizarre of all time.

Great, because some Olympic records were completely obliterated, and strangely bizarre, because when the victorious athletes strutted around doing their lap of honour, their victory cries eerily echoed around the empty stadiums.

While most of us can only aspire to elevate ourselves to such feats, it is heartening to know that many Olympic champions started out as “mere mortals” and raised themselves above the mundane through self-belief and a great work ethic.


One such athlete was the Czechoslovakian runner Emil Zatopek. His inspirational quotes are a treasure trove of simple ideas manifested into heart-warming ideals.

“An athlete cannot run with money in his pocket. He must run with hope in his heart and dreams in his head.”

His training regime was the stuff of legend

This quote from Zatopek embodies the ideals that moulded his vision from an early age. He was born into poverty in 1922, quickly realised from an early age that anything was doable if you put your heart and soul into it. And he literally did.

His training regime was the stuff of legend, such as doing 100 x 400m intervals in one session and carrying his wife on his back as he endeavoured to sprint up hills! As a soldier he spent many hours training in clunky military boots. He pushed himself to the limits a body can endure and beyond. All this heart-wrenching training paid off though.

Runners World named him The Greatest Athlete Of All Time’ in 2013

In the 1952 Olympics he became the first man to win gold in the 5,000m, 10,000m and marathon, all ran off in the space of a week of each other. It’s a feat that’s unlikely to be matched. He also set 18 world records and Runners World named him The Greatest Athlete Of All Time’ in 2013.


His life evolved full circle shortly after he retired from the sport. Having criticised the communist regime of Russia, he fell out of favour with his country’s superiors and was forced to do manual tasks such as working in a uranium mine and spending years away from his family. He was however eventually rehabilitated and awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for “Spirit of Sportsmanship” in 1975.

In this sports era of drug taking and mass commercialism, it’s refreshing to trawl back through time and remember this athlete. He recognised that developing a good work ethic from an early age can sustain you later in life.

That could be the start of a sustainable journey of emotional stamina and fulfilment

Perhaps the next time that bullock escapes into the neighbour’s field, and you decide you are going to chase it back, it won’t elude you. That could be the start of a sustainable journey of emotional stamina and fulfilment.

By “running with hope in your heart, and dreams in your head” across a field of infinities, anything is possible. It doesn’t have to be sport.

Having being away from writing for so many years, I find it humbling that I can ink my ramblings and splurge my thoughts onto this paper. That in itself came from a tiny belief that kept incubating within and hopefully this tiny stream of ink may eventually become a river. History books are strewn with inspirational quotes from people from all walks of life.

It’s at the borders of pain that the men are separated from the boys

I love attaching these clusters of wise words to the pipeline of my own mind and milking their strength.

I leave the last words to Zatopek: “It’s at the borders of pain that the men are separated from the boys.”

Whatever you do, never underestimate yourself!

Cormac Troy is a beef farmer from Offaly who studied a little in writing and also wrote a little many years ago. With the dream of a memoir being published, Irish Country Living readers will benefit from his musings on current topics with some dark humour thrown in over the coming months.

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