Abebe Bikila Biography

(First African to Win Olympic Gold Medal and the First Athlete to Win Two Olympic Marathons Back-to-Back)

Birthday: July 7, 1932 (Cancer)

Born In: Shewa, Ethiopia

Abebe Bikila was a well-known Olympic marathon champion who participated in 15 marathons, winning 12 of them. His successes and wins made him one of the greatest marathoners in the world. He is also the first man to win Olympics marathon twice and the first black man from Ethiopia to win an Olympics medal. He also participated in International Paraplegic Games in Norway as a paraplegic after facing a car accident. The story of his life was a source of inspiration for many people.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Shambel Abebe Bikila

Died At Age: 41

Born Country: Ethiopia

Athletes Black Athletes

Height: 5'10" (178 cm), 5'10" Males

Died on: October 25, 1973

place of death: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Cause of Death: Cerebral Hemorrhage

Childhood & Early Life
Born to a poor family, Abebe Bikila was the son of a shepherd and was raised in a village called Jato.
To support his family, young Bikila joined the Imperial Bodyguard Squad of the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie.
His life took a turn when Swedish Coach, Onni Niskanen recognized Bikila’s athletic talent when he was sent to a government camp.
Abebe Bikila began to prepare for the Olympics when he was 24 years old.
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In 1958, Bikila entered the National Armed Forces Championship marathon competition, won it and qualified to enter the Rome Olympic Games in 1960.
A barefooted Bikila won the Olympic marathon in 2 hours, 15 minutes and 16.2 seconds, making his country proud.
In 1964, he participated in the Japan Olympics, even though he had not recovered from his appendicitis surgery, and won a medal for his country, setting a world record as the first man to win double-Olympics marathon.
After his car accident in 1969, Bikila became quadriplegic but his love for sports did not falter.
As a paraplegic athlete, he competed in the International Paraplegic Games in Norway and many other such events.
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Awards & Achievements
Abebe Bikila was the first African to win the Olympic marathon gold medal and is known as the first athlete to win two Olympic gold medals in marathon.
He participated in fifteen marathons in his lifetime including the Olympics and Ethiopian marathons.
Olympic gold medal in 1960 Rome Summer Games.
A second Olympics gold medal in the 1964Tokyo Olympics.
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Winner of many other marathons including the marathon in Kosice, Zarauz, South Korea, Otsu and the 20,000 meters marathon in Copenhagen.
Personal Life & Legacy
Bikila was married to Yewubdar, with whom he had four children.
Abebe Bikila was paralyzed after a car accident in 1969.
He was treated for eight months at the Stoke Mandeville hospital in England before he returned.
He was unable to participate in any marathons after this accidents but his love for sports did not falter.
He continued to participate in games including the Paraplegic Sport Competition in England and the International Paraplegic Games in Norway despite his poor physical condition.
His willpower made him a great Olympic hero as well as an inspiration for his country and the rest of the world.
Abebe Bikila passed away on October 25, 1973, owing to complications of the 1969 car accident that had also caused a parallel cerebral hemorrhage.
As a tribute to Abebe Bikila, Siraj Gena ran barefoot for the last three hundred meters of the Abebe Bikila’s Olympics Race in 2010 and won the same.
The Yaya Abebe Bikila Primary Village School was established by the Mendida community and a stadium is named in his honor in Addis Ababa.

See the events in life of Abebe Bikila in Chronological Order

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