Running Heroes #5: Abebe Bikila

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It’s impossible to talk about running, at the same time not to mention Ethiopians like Abebe Bikila who ran in 1960 and died at 40. His family were simple farmers and they inspired him to become a hard worker. When he was just a little boy, he used to lead a sheep. To keep up with them, Abebe ran many miles each day. Ethiopians and Africans admire him because he gives them optimism that there’s something, which they’re better at. He was able to influence the Ethiopians that they can be the best marathoners as well in the world. Each citizen of Ethiopia thinks him as a hero because he had shown them they’re good runners as well.

The Ethiopian legendary Abebe Bikila was the first world breaking record marathoner and athlete and the very first Sub-Saharan African Olympic who won a gold medal. He would become the first Olympic double gold medallist as well as the double-world breaking athlete in Africa. No one in the world has acquired 2 Olympic gold medals in the marathon, at the same time breaking also the world record. The honors and statistics go on and one and a lot of trophies and memorials show in honor of the memorable Abebe Bikila.

Where did he come from?

Abebe was born on the 7th of August 1932. He was born in a small village known as Jato in Ethiopia where his father works as a shepherd. Abebe spent his years along with the Imperial Guard before his great breakthrough at the age of 24 – the time when he competed in the National Armed Forces Championship marathon, which makes him the hero of the Ethiopia, Wama Biratu.

Importance Events in Abebe Bikila’s Life

Abebe Bikila

Abebe Bikila

Rome Olympics in 1960

Abebe’s victory at the Rome Olympics marathon was one of the most significant victories in the world of athletics. He won the competition in a new world record time of exactly 2:15:16:2, which leads him to become the very first African to get a medal in Olympic. Apart from that, he also won it by running barefooted because the team shoes of Adidas hurt his feet.

Surprisingly, after the Rome Olympics, a takeover against the Emperor Haile Selassie was planned, and Abebe was pressured into taking his part. However, he was against the idea of killing dignitaries at the same time was pardoned when the coup failed and those people involved were hung.

Tokyo Olympics in 1964

In 1964 in Tokyo, Abebe Bikila becomes the first individual to win back to back marathon gold medals. Unfortunately he was diagnosed with an acute Appendicitis 6 weeks before the marathon needing prompt surgery. His training for the marathon was hindered substantially. Abebe’s plan for the competition was to sit still with the leaders for the first twenty kilometers before raising the pace. The strategy worked and he ended up winning by 4 minutes and 8 seconds from the runner Basil Heatley of Great Britain.

Two Time World Champion 

Apart from that, Bikila also won 2 world championship marathons. One in the 1960 and the other one in 1962. Bikila won a total of 26 major marathons within his career. Unluckily, Abebe Bikila did not complete the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Marathon, he pulls out on the 15-kilometer mark because of a pre-existing medical condition.

The Tragedy of the Running Hero

Unfortunately, during 1968, the great running hero has involved in a car accident roughly 90 km from Addis Ababa. The huge incident left him paralyzed. The full life of Abebe Bikila as well his rich life came to an end in October 1973, because of fatal cerebral hemorrhage. This complication is connected to the car accident occurred in 1968. Abebe was outlived by his loving wife and four children. The current emperor of that time, naming Atse Haile Selassie was able to attend his funeral and more than 75,000 people also came. Abebe rests in peace at the St. Joseph’s Church in Addis Ababa.

Being a positive influence on other people was his heroic qualities too. He influenced a lot of people to work hard and show them that no one can stop anyone from reaching their goals.

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