Zátopek, Emil was born on September 19, 1922 in Koprivnice, Novy Jicin, Czechoslovakia. His working-class parents, Frantisek and Anzeka had eight children in all. The large family meant family finances were spread thinly and Emil was always conscious of living close to the poverty line.
As a child, Zatopek was a bright, independently minded spirit, with an unusual power of memory. Many friends said an abiding characteristic of the young Zatopek was his willingness to try everything differently.