Until the coming of Abebe Bikilla in to the world marathon strength and endurance were the two most important qualities expected of runners if they had to emerge as winners. After his participation a third element -speed - was introduced.Abebe Bikila , a winner of two gold medals and a setter of world records,was widely recognized as the greatest marathoner of all-time.
Abebe's race in the Rome Olympics established him as a running legend and as the first African to win an Olympic medal . Not only did he win the race, he also set a new world record of 2:16:02, running on the cobblestone streets of Rome bare footed.
At the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, Bikila's fame had reached all corners of the globe. Six weeks before the marathon, Bikila underwent surgery due to Appendicitis.The day he arrived in Tokyo, he hadn't fully recovered from the surgery. However, the reception Abebe had from the Japanese people helped him recover quickly and unexpectedly. This time he wore shoes, but still won the race easily. And the gymnastic display he showed right after finishing the race is now a classic image engraved in the minds of millions. This was also the first time ever that the Olympic marathon race was won consecutively by the same athlete. The new world record of 2:12:11 that Abebe set was icing on a cake for this remarkable race.
In 1968, The legendary Bikila had a car accident that left him paralyzed below the waist and he died in 1973.