On this day This day in Olympic history - August 7...
Two-time marathon winner Abebe Bikila is born in a village not far from the Ethiopian town of Mendida. Bikila was spotted by a Finnish athletics coach who had been hired by the Ethiopian government to train potential athletes.
Bikila slipped into the Ethiopian Olympic team at the last moment after another runner broke his ankle playing football. When Bikila arrived in Rome shoe sponsors adidas had only a few shoes left and Bikila was given a pair that did not fit him. He then decided a few hours before the race to run barefoot, as he had trained. Bikila stunned the field and won ahead of Moroccan Rhadi Ben Abdesselam, thereby becoming the first black African to win an Olympic gold medal. When he was asked why he had run barefoot, he said: 'I wanted the world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism.'
He repeated his success four years later in Tokyo, but was prevented from a hat-trick of gold medals in Mexico in 1968 by an injury. Bikila, who only ran one marathon (Boston 1963) which he did not win, died in 1973 from injuries received in a car crash four years earlier.
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