He Won an Olympic Gold Medal – Barefoot

There’s no surprise to anyone that the Olympic Games has given us a big number of cult heroes. As it is the biggest sporting event in the world, it is impossible for it not to be this way. Now we can have a look at one of the biggest of them all, the Ethiopian sprinter Abebe Bikila.

Running without shoes

The thing that made Bikila so famous is what he did in the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960. First of all, he became historical as the first athlete from an African sub-Saharan country to win an Olympic Gold medal when he finished at a time of 2:15:16. This was a new record at that time. But what really caught everyone’s attention was his lack of footwear. He ran the entire race without any shoes.

Determination and courage

Obviously, he got some questions about this from the journalist when he had finished. When asked why he did not wear any shoes, he said that he did it to show that when Ethiopia wins, it is because of determination and courage. In a world where more and more of the former colonies were declaring their independence, this caused a great deal of approval among the peoples of these countries.

After his career

Bikila had a career that didn’t last as long as it could have. After a horrible car crash during a student demonstration, he ended up in a wheelchair. This lead to some of his trainers trying to persuade him to go to the Olympics to participate in archery, an event he could manage from his wheelchair. Bikila, with his good spirit intact, usually joked that he would go to win the marathon in his wheelchair instead. He died from a disease in 1973, at a much too young age of 41. Following the news of his death, the Ethiopian emperor declared one day of national mourning. His funeral in Addis Abeba was followed by 75,000 people who wanted to pay their last respect to the man who has meant so much for the sporting spirit of the entire African continent.

He Won an Olympic Gold Medal – Barefoot
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