Abebe Bikila: Barefoot in Rome


FOOT SOLDIER: Running without shoes, Bikila, an Imperial Guardsman in Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie's court, pulls ahead in the 1960 Rome marathon

A few of the other runners sniggered when they saw Abebe Bikila turn up at the start of the Olympic marathon with no shoes. As a television camera scanned the scrum of athletes readying themselves for the starter's gun, a commentator asked: "And what's this Ethiopian called?" It was 1960, Rome. Africa was just shrugging off the weight of colonial rule and some sporting officials still doubted Africans were ready for the big time. A little over 2 hr. 15 min. later that myth lay shattered by the slight man wearing number 11, a member of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie's Imperial...

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