45 Facts About Abebe Bikila


Shambel Abebe Bikila was an Ethiopian marathon runner who was a back-to-back Olympic marathon champion.

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Abebe Bikila is the first Ethiopian Olympic gold medalist, winning his and Africa's first gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome while running barefoot.

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Abebe Bikila placed second on his first marathon in Addis Ababa, won twelve other races, and finished fifth in the 1963 Boston Marathon.

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Abebe Bikila regained some upper-body mobility, but he never walked again.

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Abebe Bikila competed in both sports at a 1971 competition for disabled people in Norway and won its cross-country sleigh-riding event.

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Abebe Bikila died at age 41 on October 25,1973, of a cerebral haemorrhage related to his accident four years earlier.

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Abebe Bikila received a state funeral, and Emperor Haile Selassie declared a national day of mourning.

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Abebe Bikila is the subject of biographies and films documenting his athletic career, and he is often featured in publications about the marathon and the Olympics.

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Abebe Bikila was born on August 7,1932, in the small community of Jato, then part of the Selale District of Shewa.

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Abebe Bikila's birthday coincided with the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic marathon.

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Abebe Bikila was the son of Wudinesh Beneberu and her second husband, Demissie.

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In 1956, Abebe Bikila finished second to Wami Biratu in the Ethiopian Armed Forces championship.

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Abebe Bikila was 27 when he married 15-year-old Yewebdar Wolde-Giorgis on March 16,1960.

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Abebe Bikila, following Bertie Messitt, Bakir Benaissa, Arthur Keily, Aurele Vandendriessche, and Rhadi Ben Abdesselam.

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Abebe Bikila was greeted by a large crowd, many dignitaries and the commander of the Imperial Guard, Brigadier-General Mengistu Neway.

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Abebe Bikila was paraded through the streets of Addis Ababa along a procession route lined with thousands of people and presented to Emperor Haile Selassie.

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Abebe Bikila was given the use of a chauffeur-driven Volkswagen Beetle and home, both owned by the guard.

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Kihachiro Onitsuka suspected that Abebe Bikila had a secret sponsorship deal with Puma, in spite of the now-abandoned rules against such deals.

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Abebe Bikila ran the 1963 Boston Marathon—which was between his Olympic wins in 1960 and 1964—and finished fifth in 2:24:43.

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Abebe Bikila returned to Ethiopia and did not compete in another marathon until 1964 in Addis Ababa.

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Abebe Bikila entered the Olympic stadium alone, to the cheers of 75,000 spectators.

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Abebe Bikila did not appear exhausted after the finish, and he again performed a routine of calisthenics, which included touching "his toes twice then [lying] down on his back, cycling his legs in the air".

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Abebe Bikila was the first runner to successfully defend an Olympic marathon title.

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Abebe Bikila received the Order of Menelik II, a Volkswagen Beetle and a house.

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The following year, Abebe Bikila did not finish the Zarautz International Marathon in July 1967.

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Abebe Bikila had injured his hamstring, an injury from which he would never recover.

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Abebe Bikila had begun to limp, and the 1966 Incheon–Seoul Marathon was the last marathon he ever completed.

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Abebe Bikila returned in time to join the rest of the Ethiopian Olympic team training in Asmara, which has an altitude and climate similar to Mexico City.

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Abebe Bikila was rewarded with a promotion to the rank of shambel upon his return to Ethiopia.

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Abebe Bikila was freed from his car the following morning and brought to the Imperial Guard hospital.

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Abebe Bikila was visited by Queen Elizabeth II and received get-well cards from all over the world.

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Abebe Bikila was invited to the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich as a special guest, and received a standing ovation during the opening ceremony.

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On October 25,1973, Abebe Bikila died in Addis Ababa at age 41 of a cerebral hemorrhage, a complication related to his accident four years earlier.

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Abebe Bikila was buried with full military honours; his state funeral was attended by an estimated 65,000 people including Emperor Haile Selassie, who proclaimed a day of mourning for the country's national hero.

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Abebe Bikila is interred in a tomb with a bronze statue at Saint Joseph Church in Addis Ababa.

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Abebe Bikila began, and largely inspired, East African preeminence in long-distance running.

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Abebe Bikila is a national hero in Ethiopia, and a stadium in Addis Ababa is named in his honour.

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Abebe Bikila left his winning ring in a bathroom after he won the Olympic medal.

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Abebe Bikila gave the ring to Yetnayet, son of the late Abebe when Yetnayet came to Kasama City in Japan in December 2019 as a guest of honour for the half marathon competition conducted in honour of his father.

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Abebe Bikila has been featured in several documentaries about his life and the Olympics in general.

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Abebe Bikila was the subject of Bud Greenspan's 1972 documentary, The Ethiopians.

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Rambali pictures [Abebe Bikila] driving to training in his VW Beetle, only to be forced off the road by a group of students who are being chased by armed police.

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The facts uncovered by Judah point to a less poetic explanation: [Abebe Bikila] was last seen in a bar at 9 pm, the roads that night were wet and he was inexperienced behind the wheel.

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Abebe Bikila is the subject of a 2009 feature film, Atletu, directed by Davey Frankel and Rasselas Lakew.

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Abebe Bikila did not carry his shoes but wore them; he was not sponsored by Adidas but was perhaps secretly sponsored by Puma.

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