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African Sports History

Throw Back: The First African Gold Medalist At Olympics Ran Barefoot

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Abebe Bikila was born In 1932, he was an Ethiopian athlete and two times Olympic gold medalist, He made history after running barefoot and winning the marathon during the 1960 Summer Olympic Games in Rome, Italy. His decision to run barefoot was as a result of the new running shoes he bought in Rome which did not fit and gave him blisters.

For winning the gold medal, the Ethiopian athlete’s name entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest marathon run in bare feet. He thus became the first African to win a gold medal at the olympics. Abebe ran the race in 2 hr, 15 min, 16.2 sec, on September 10, 1960. He also made history as the first Ethiopian and sub-Saharan African to win an Olympic medal.
Abebe’s world recognition did not end in 1960. In 1964, the legendary athlete competed in the marathon during the 1964 Olympic world games in Tokyo where he broke his record by winning the race. The win made him the first athlete in the world to win an Olympic gold medal in the marathon simultaneously and the first to break the world record again.
Abebe passed away at the age of 41 on October 25, 1973, after suffering from a cerebral haemorrhage complication due to his earlier accident.

Before gaining world recognition, Abebe was locally known as a good horse rider, swimmer and Gena-hockey player. He was born in a small village called Jato and joined the military at the age of 17. He rose through the ranks and became a Captain in the guards of the Emperor.

He was honoured with a military burial and Emperor Haile Selassie declared the day as a national day of mourning. The Abebe Bikila Stadium in Addis Ababa and other landmarks were named after him.

Even though long dead, his name and legacy still lives on in the memory of many Africans and athletes around the world.

Source: Face2FaceAfrica

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