Though his life came to a tragic early end, Abebe Bikila is often considered the greatest marathoner ever. He was the first person to win the Olympic marathon consecutively, doing so in 1960 and 1964. His marathon career began only a few months before the Rome Olympics in 1960, when he won a trial race in the altitude of Addis Ababa. Between that race and a marathon he won in Seoul in October 1966, Bikila ran 13 marathons, winning 12, losing at the 1963 Boston Marathon, in which he finished fifth. He sustained an injury in 1967 and never fully recovered, which caused him to withdraw after starting the 1968 Olympic marathon Mexico City. Late in 1969, Bikila was in a car accident, and the injuries he sustained rendered him a quadriparetic. After treatment at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, his condition improved to paraplegic, and he even competed as an archer in the 1969 Stoke Mandeville Games, the forerunner of the Paralympic Games. He lived only a few more years, dying in October 1973. His funeral in Addis Ababa was attended by thousands who came to mourn their nation’s first great runner.
Personal Best: Mar – 2-12:12 (1964).