Link #134: Bikila Won Gold Medal Running An Olympic Marathon Barefoot!

 

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Link #134: Bikila Won Gold Medal Running An Olympic Marathon Barefoot!

barefoot
Image Source: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain.

The human body is considered to be extremely resilient. In fact, over long distances, the human body performs better than even horses. The reason for this is that the bodies of horses’ overheat much faster than human bodies. Moreover, their bodies aren’t designed to keep performing at those temperatures while the human body is.

This is best evident with the legend of Pheidippides. Pheidippides is said to have run 240 kilometres in less than two days before fighting in a battle and running 40 kilometres again.

However, even centuries after Pheidippides, there are still examples that showcase the resilience of the human body. A case in point here is that of Abebe Bikila. Bikila won gold medal in the Olympics marathon event without any shoes!

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When Did Abebe Bikila Run Barefoot in Olympics?

Bikila near the finish line at the 1960 Olympics
Bikila near the finish line at the 1960 Olympics. Image credit: Blackcat/CC0 Public Domain.

Abebe Bikila is a marathon runner who is known for many things. However, his biggest claim to fame is that he won an Olympics gold medal in the marathon event while running without any shoes.

Bikila achieved this great feat in the 1960 Rome Olympics and became the first black African to have won a gold medal at the Olympics. The most interesting part of Bikila’s achievement is that he wasn’t even supposed to participate at the Olympics. He was only brought in at the last moment to replace Wami Biratu who fell ill.

Why Didn’t Bikila Wear Shoes?

adidas running shoes
Image Source: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain.

Bikila became a part of the Ethiopian Olympics team at the very last moment. The official shoe sponsor of the 1960 Rome Olympics was Adidas. When Bikila went to collect his shoes, he was late and couldn’t find a pair that fit him well. The pair of shoes that he finally received weren’t comfortable.

In fact, later on, it was revealed that Bikila’s shoes caused him pain. So, only two hours before the big race, Bikila chose to run barefoot. It wasn’t a big deal for him because he used to practice without shoes in the first place.

What Is The Story Of Bikila And Rhadi?

Left-right:Rhadi Ben Abdesselam, Abebe Bikila, Barry Magee at the 1960 Olympics
Left-right:Rhadi Ben Abdesselam, Abebe Bikila, Barry Magee at the 1960 Olympics. Image source: Wikimedia Commons/CC0 Public Domain.

There’s a story about what happened during the race as well. First of all, the race was held in the evening because the heat was judged to be too much for runners. Before the race, Bikila was told about his main competitors in the race.

He was made aware of the Moroccan Rhadi Ben Abdesselam who was expected to sport the number 26. In the race, Rhadi couldn’t get the number 26 and instead decided to wear his old number of 185.

After the race began, Bikila started overtaking runners looking for Rhadi’s number 26. He crossed all the runners till he was running beside the number 185 of Rhadi. However, Bikila didn’t know that he was running beside Rhadi and continued to search for him far ahead.

When he saw the finish line, he sprinted to it as he was surprised. Bikila would go on to become the first individual to defend his gold medal at the next 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Bikila could’ve made an impact at the 1968 Olympics too but had to pull out 17 kilometres into the race because of injury.




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Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abebe_Bikila
http://www.olympic.org/abebe-bikila
http://www.infoplease.com/spot/summer-olympics-abebe-bikila.html
http://www.olympic.org/videos/abebe-bikila-barefoot-to-olympic-gold

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