Abebe Bikila was a marathon runner from Ethiopia, winning dual Olympic gold medals: Paris, france in 1960 as well as in Tokyo in 1964. He died in 1973 at the age of forty one from complications after having a car accident. There’s a ground in Addis Ababa named after him. Google recognized him with one of Google’s doodles on which could have been his 81st birthday celebration on 7 August 2013.
1960 Olympic Marathon at Rome:
Abebe had been a eleventh hour alternative in the Ethiopian team for the Olympics. Abebe had no shoes to run in and Adidas, the official sponsor simply had a couple of pairs left that didn’t fit him, so he ran the marathon barefoot (he previously had been training without running shoes). He won the race in a time of 2hr 15min. Following the race, addressing an inquiry as to the reasons he ran without shoes, Abebe answered: “I wanted the whole world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism.
1964 Olympic Marathon in Tokyo:
Forty days before the Olympics he was operated on for an acute appendicitis and at one stage it was thought that he might be unable to take part. Abebe went on to win this marathon in a world record time of 2hr 12min, becoming the first runner to win two Olympic marathons. Bikila had been competing in Puma running shoes in the race (which Abebe also ran in to finish 5th at the 1963 Boston Marathon).
Abebe is an easy to slight heel striker with a few midfoot strikes also. Despite that, he’s not overstriding and did crack a world record. Bikila is oftentimes held up by the barefoot running community as a hero for running the marathon barefoot (along with other high level athletes). Critics of this like to explain that Abebe could compete faster and break a world record when using shoes.
As part of his legacy, the minimalist athletic shoes manufacturer, Vibram FiveFingers provide the Bikila model of their collection branded after him. Early in 2015, the descendants of Abebe Bikila reported they were taking legal action against Vibram for registering the ‘Bikila’ title without having authorization.