Josef Odložil – An Athlete of Olympic Ideals

Born on November 11th, 1938 in Zlin, Czechoslovakia, He attended the Military Academy of Jan Žižka in Bratislava. And there he started to really devote himself to athletics in earnest.

After graduating he was posted to the town of Olomouc, where he started to run in the local athletics club Slovan. Further studies brought him to Košice in eastern Slovakia where he spent three years under the guidance of his coach Jan Liška. Josef‘s rising prowess secured him a place on the national team, and since from he firmly belonged to the Army Athletic Club Dukla.

His dream was a bold one: to make it to the Olympics. Thanks to his hard work, unrelenting dedication, and above all a gigantically strong will, he managed in 1964 to secure a spot on the Tokio Olympics team. He brought home a silver medal in the 1500m run, having been beaten only by the phenomenal Peter Snell of New Zealand.

In 1965 Josef broke the 2000m world record with his time 5:01.2, which remains to this day the Czech (and Czechoslovak) national record. During a 1966 international match with France he set a new Czechoslovak 1500m record at 3:37.6. (Today the record is held by Josef‘s later protégée Jan Kubista.) On the next Olympics in Mexico, Josef made it once more to the final of the 1500m run, finishing 8th.

Over the period of his running career he was 7 times the Czechoslovak champion. In addition to his Olympic successes he also brought silver from the 1967 Indoor European championships. He held (or co-held) 11 Czechoslovak records and 5 best times on Czechoslovak soil.

Josef Odlozil graduated summa cum laude from the Faculty of Physical Education and Sports of Charles University (double major Czech literature – Physical education). In 1977 he successfully defended his doctoral thesis „Training top 800m runners“. Despite these academic successes, for political reasons he was forced to leave the Army after the end of his active running career.

Later he worked as a coach in Sparta Prague, 1979 – 1981 saw him coaching at the Institutio National del Deporte in Mexico.

After 1989 he was exonerated and Josef thus returned to the Army where he worked until his death. In 1992 – 1993 he was a UN Peace Corps commander in Iraq.

He tragically died after his return home on September 10, 1993. His life journey was captured by the director Vit Olmer in a documentary feature called Josef Odlozil – An Athlete of Olympic Ideals.