Ethiopian legend Abebe Bikila named in 2012 IAAF Hall of Fame

Ethiopia legend Abebe Bikila / Photo: RBG FIT CLUB

Ethiopia legend Abebe Bikila has been named in the inaugural International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Hall of Fame announced on the eve of the 14th edition of the IAAF World Indoor Championships, Istanbul 2012 today.

The Late Bikila, who was the 1960, 1964 Olympic marathon champion and once a World record-holder, joined 11 other Athletics greats from all over the world in the inaugural list of 12 achievers announced for 2012.

A total of 24 athletes will become the inaugural Members of the IAAF Hall of Fame in 2012, with the Official Induction Ceremony taking place at the IAAF Centenary Gala in Barcelona on Saturday 24 November 2012.

These 24 athletes will represent all IAAF Areas and include all major event groups - sprints, middle distance, long distance, hurdles, jumps, throws, combined events, race walk, and road running.

The remaining 12 names will be made public between now and the IAAF Centenary Gala in a series of announcements to coincide with important Centennial events including the actual day of the IAAF Centenary (Tue 17 July, 2012) and the traditional IAAF Dinner (Thu 2 August, 2012) in London on the eve of the start of the Olympic Athletics programme.

Announcing the creation of the IAAF Hall of Fame, as part of the celebrations to mark to the Centennial Year of the IAAF, President Lamine Diack said:

"The creation of the IAAF Hall of Fame which has long been a vision of the sport’s world governing body is an excellent way not only to honour the lifetime achievements of our greatest athletes, but also to heighten public awareness of our sport and its rich history.

"2012 is more than an appropriate moment to launch the Hall of Fame because as well as the IAAF Centenary in 2012, any year which celebrates an edition of the summer Olympics is always of special importance given Athletics’ honoured position as the Olympics’ number one sport. We have a history entwined with the Games. Athletics’ greatest heroes and heroines are largely those of the Olympic Games too."

"Induction into the IAAF Hall of Fame must be seen as the crowning glory of an athlete’s career, the highest possible accolade which should rival any medal, trophy and award achieved. Membership must honour the truly outstanding athletes of our history who have been both multiple global champions and record breakers," he added.

About Bikila - IAAF Profiles

Abebe Bikila's marathon victory at the 1960 Olympic Games was the first time that an Olympic gold medal had been won by a black athlete representing an African nation.

His triumph in Rome became a beacon for the generations of African runners, particularly from East Africa, that followed in his footsteps in the subsequent decades.

Bikila ran barefoot through the Italian capital, an occasion made even more atmospheric by being the first Olympic marathon to be run at night, crossing the line in what was then a world best of 2:15:16.2.

Between 1960 and 1966, Bikila won 12 out of the 13 marathons he contested; his only loss coming at the 1963 Boston Marathon where he finished fifth.

Due to an appendectomy six weeks beforehand, Bikila was far from the sole favourite for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo but he proved his doubters wrong in emphatic fashion.

Now wearing running shoes, he forced the pace from 15km and had a clear lead by the halfway point, eventually crossing the line in 2:12:11.2, which took nearly two minutes off the previous world best.

Bikila also started the 1968 Olympic marathon but had to drop out at 17km due to leg problems.

In 1969, he tragically suffered a broken neck and spinal cord injuries in a car accident that confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

He died from a brain haemorrhage in 1973 at the age of just 41 but Bikila remains to this day an iconic name in athletics.

The great Abebe Bikila is survived by his four children: Dawit 28, Tsige 25, Yetnayet 22, and Teferia 20.

HOF Membership

According to the IAAF President, for athletes to be considered for membership of the Hall of Fame, they must meet the required stature and fulfill the strict membership criteria/requirements established by the IAAF:

1) Athletes must have won at least two Olympic or World Championships gold medals AND at set least one World record,
2) Athletes must have been retired for at least 10 years at the time of election to the IAAF Hall of Fame

To administer the process of which athletes will be honoured with induction as Members an IAAF Hall of Fame Selection Panel has been created, which is composed of renowned athletics experts who are long-standing members of the Association of Track and Field Statisticians (ATFS).

The first 12 inaugural Members are:

  • Jesse Owens (USA)

1936 100/200/LJ + WR 100, 200 & LJ (25 years)

  • Abebe Bikila (ETH)

1960, 1964 Oly MAR + WR

  • Paavo Nurmi (FIN)

1920 10,000, 1924 1500/5000 & 1928 10,000 + WR 1500, Mile, 3000, 5000 & 10,000

  • Carl Lewis (USA)

1984 100/200/LJ & 1988/1992/1996 LJ + WR 100 + 5 world titles

  • Emil Zátopek (TCH)

1948 10,000 & 1952 5000/10,000/Mar + WR 5000 & 10,000

  • Al Oerter (USA)

1956/1960/1964/1968 DT + WR DT

  • Adhemar da Silva (BRA)

1952/1956 TJ + WR TJ

  • Ed Moses (USA)

1976/1984 400H + WR 400H (16 years) + 2 world titles

  • Fanny Blankers-Koen (NED)

1948 100/200/80H + WR 100, 80H, HJ, LJ & Pen

  • Betty Cuthbert (AUS)

1956 100/200 & 1964 400 + WR 200

  • Jackie Joyner-Kersee (USA)

1988 LJ/Hep & 1992 Hep + WR LJ & Hep (25 years as at 7.7.2011) + 4 world titles

  • Wang Junxia (CHN)

1996 Oly 5000 & 93 World 10,000 + WR 3000 (18 years as at 12.9.2011) & 10,000 (18 years as at 8.9.2011)

(With Additional Information from the

VIDEO: The Great Abebe Bikila winning the Men's Marathon at the 1960 Olympics in Rome...barefooted.

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