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Published on Feb 11, 2010
In 1936, the Roman dictator Benito Mussolini conquered Ethiopia, and Abebe Bikila conquered Rome twenty years later. As a last minute replacement for the 1960 Olympic team, Bikila was unable to find a comfortable pare of running shoes. His coaches decided he should run the hard surface 26 mile course in his bare feet. Bikila ran in record time and became the first African to win a gold medal. He won again in the 1964 Olympics—this time wearing shoes. Bikila died at 41 of complications resulted from a car accident that had left him a paraplegic. A national day of morning was proclaimed to honor the humble Ethiopian who had gained victory for them in Rome.