Bikila: Ethiopia's Barefoot Olympian

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Reportage Press, 2008 - Biography & Autobiography - 175 pages

On September 10, 1960, Abebe Bikila, an Ethiopian, stunned the world when he won the Rome Olympic marathon running barefoot. He was the first black African to win a gold medal at the Olympics and overnight became a sporting hero, an African hero, and, for many, the first black African they had ever heard of. Bikila was a man of his times--a symbol of hope in the new Africa.

Now, for the first time, his true story is told. Central to that tale is the extraordinary life of another man--the Swede Onni Niskanen, Bikila's trainer, a soldier and an adventurer. Together they took the sporting world by storm.

Although feted as a hero on his return to Addis Ababa, the celebrations didn't last and Bikila was almost killed during Emperor Haile Selassie's coup shortly after his return. His life spiralled into booze, girls, and cars until finally he was paralyzed in a car crash. The great athlete, however, forged through, and Bikila won a medal in the first Paraplegic Olympics for archery.

Tim Judah is one of the United Kingdom's most prestigious foreign correspondents. He has traveled extensively in Africa and reported from frontlines across the globe. He has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Balkans for the "The Times" (London), "The Economist," and "The New York Review of Books." Judah is the author of the prize-winning "The Serbs: History, Myth, and the Destruction of Yugoslavia," published in 1997, and "Kosovo: War and Revenge," published in 2000.

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