It was five decades ago that a barefoot man crossed the streets of Rome, competing in the Rome Olympic marathon. Not only did he win, he set a new record and became the first black African to ever do so, and astonished the entire world.

That man was the Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila, who showed his persistence, his strive in winning. He became the revolutionary man who inspired the entire community, and will continue to do so for generations to come.

Abebe Bikila, born in Jato, near Addis, is a legendary athlete and a hero for many. He won his first marathon in Rome and four years later he won the Tokyo Olympics, becoming the first man in history to win in two consecutive Games. Abebe’s running career was abruptly ended when a car accident paralyzed him below the waist. However, in newly-discovered sports he found the will to live again, and was able to win in archery at the English Paralympics and in handicapped country skiing in Norway.

For some he became a living legend, a hero they admired growing up, and in his home country of Ethiopia, his name came to signify endurance and persistence, and many sayings were created in his name.

His life inspired many, including Raselas Lakew, the Ethio-American filmmaker who wanted to tell the story of the man who had an impact on so many people’s lives and athletes who followed in his footsteps, making Ethiopia a nation of runners.

Born and raised in Ethiopia, Raselas Lakew was stunned by Abebe Bikila’s story, and like many other Ethiopians who watched the athlete on ETV as children and were all inspired, wanted to share Abebe’s story with the world. 

Full Story on Ethiopian Reporter