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Ladislav Pataki, 60; Czech defector trained elite American track athletes

April 13, 2007|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Ladislav Pataki, 60, a sports scientist who defected from Czechoslovakia to the United States in 1985 and helped train America's elite track and field athletes, died April 5 of brain cancer, his daughter, Noemi Marozick, told the Associated Press.

A resident of Aptos, Calif., Pataki had recently been staying at an assisted-living facility in San Jose.

The native Czechoslovakian, who had a doctorate in biomechanics and the theory of sports training, had helped build the Eastern-bloc teams that dominated international athletic competition.

He defected with the help of Olympic hammer thrower Ed Burke of Los Gatos, Calif. When they were leaving for the U.S., Pataki and his wife told his teenage daughter that they were going on a vacation to Italy.

Upon arriving in Silicon Valley, Pataki found himself in a thriving community of world-class shot-putters and discus and hammer throwers.

He used his knowledge of nutrition, physiology and biology to coach and develop scientific training programs for athletes, some of whom went on to hold world records and become Olympians.

Pataki also won multiple masters world championships and set world records. He remained an athlete well into his 50s.

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