First Black African to win Golds in 1960 and 1964
Ethiopia, People's Democratic Republic, formerly also known as
Abyssinia is a country in East Africa, bordered North East by Djibouti
and the Red Sea, East and South East by Somalia South by Kenya and West
and North West by Sudan, It consists an area of 1,221,900 sq km/ 471,653
sq miles. It's a high plateau with central mountain range divided by
Rift Valley and the plains in the East; source of Blue Nile River.
In Olympic history, Ethiopia occupies a very prominent place in
Marathon running as they were undisputed world champions of the long
distance Mega Event in the 1960's.
Ethiopian Abibi Bikila brought fame and glory to his country
Ethiopia, by winning the Gold Medals consecutively in the years of 1960
and 1964. In 1968, another Ethiopian Marathon Runner, Mamo Walde annexed
the gold medal. Probably, the physical geography of Ethiopia and its
challenging hard grueling life probably helped them to be tough
competitors. These factors probably helped them to achieve these great
Representing an African country, Bikila, created history by becoming
the First Black African to win a Gold Medal in Olympic games. Further,
he was the only Black African to win a Marathon Race consecutive in
Olympics in 1960 (Rome) and in 1964 (Japan) respectively. It was
undoubtedly a marvelous, unique achievement.
Abibi Bikila, the Ethiopian word means blooming flower. This "Flower"
spread its sweetness, and its fragrance all over the world and brought
credit to Ethiopia.
He served as a security officer of Emperor Hail-Silasi. In a matter
of a day after annexing a gold in the Marathon Event, in 1960, his name
Abibi Bikila became internationally known more than his Emperor name -
When the 28 year old Ethiopian represented the 1960 Rome Olympics, he
was not know to the world. When all the other competitors were running
with shoes, this raw athlete Bikila ran bare-footed. Therefore, at the
commencement of the race no one ever cared for him. When Bikila won a
gold winning the Marathon Race with a new record, many could not believe
their own eyes. His determination, commitment, courage, brought him rich
dividends. He practised in high plateau regions in the central mountain
ranges under difficult and trying conditions.
He was a determined and a courageous athlete. Before one and half
months prior to 1964 Olympic Games in Rome, Bikila underwent surgery.
This operation never hampered his determination and goal. In this
marathon held in Tokyo, Japan, he ran with shoes, and here too
established a new record.
This born Marathon runner was 36 years when he participated in the
olympic games held in 1968. Once a reporter considering his age in a
press briefing questioned "what are your chances at Mexico."
Bikila replied "Although I am 36, I still train hard. I know even
Mexico is geographical like Ethiopia as far as Mountain Ranges are
concerned. In Ethiopia, I train so hard and run in these high plateaus
of 7000 feet in height. I cover them easily. Therefore, I am determined
to win my third gold in the Marathon Race in Mexico in 1968."
At the Mexico Olympics, Bikila was in front from the start. He ran
rhythmically and smoothly. When passing the 17th kilometre, he fractured
his bone in the left foot and he was unable to take part in the race any
more. He motivated his fellow Ethiopian runner Mamo Walde and said "Mamo,
do not let the country down. Put the country before self." Walde won the
gold medal and kept the Ethiopian Flag flying high for the third time,
During the period from 1960 to 1966, Bikila took part in 13 Marathon
Races and won 12 times. In appreciation of his victories, Ethiopian Govt,
presented a motor car to him. In 1969, he met with a car accident and
damaged and sustain severe injuries to his legs. By this unfortunate
accident, his movements were restricted to a wheel chair inside the
boundary walls of his house. In 1973, the great Marathon Runner Abibi
Bikila died due to a haemmorage in the brain.