top of page

Abebe Bikila

1932 – 1973

Ethiopian Runner; 5’ 10’’, 126 pounds

Sports Ranking 12th of 12

Commemorating the 19th Olympic Games in Mexico City, Ethiopian stamp, 1968.            

Abebe Bikila was the first African to win an Olympic medal (1960) and it was gold. Bikila was the seed that led to the Kenyans and Ethiopians dominating male long distance running from the 1960s to this day. Bikila was the 1960 and 1964 Olympic marathon winner; both times setting world records of first 2 hours, 15 minutes, and sixteen seconds then 2:12:11.20.

He and his teammate Mamo Wolde both competed in the Mexico City Olympics in 1968; Wolde won and Bikela, running barefoot, dropped out after 15 kilometers. From 1960 through the London 2012 Olympics, male and female runners from Ethiopia and Kenya have won 42 Olympic gold medals in running events, 83% in distances from 3000 meters to the marathon. Ten of the 42 golds, the most for the events when winning gold, were for the Kenyans in the men’s 3000 meter steeplechase in 1968, 1972, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012. The Kenyans did not participate in the 1976 and 1980 Olympic Games. 


Key Reference:  Bikila:  Ethiopia’s Barefoot Olympian by Tim Judah, 2009.

bottom of page