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Black History and Blacks in U.S. History
Abebe Bikila



Abebe Bikila
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 7
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.99

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    participate, armed, heroism, medal, especially, improve, determination, gold, record, amateur, member, honor, marathon, championship, nearly, actually
     content words:    Abebe Bikila, Imperial Guard, Imperial Guardsmen, Onni Niskanen, Wami Biratu, Appian Way, Rhadi Ben Adbesselem


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Abebe Bikila
By Sharon Fabian
  

1     Abebe Bikila won the gold medal for running the marathon in the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Italy. Many more runners have won gold medals in Olympic marathons since that year, but Abebe Bikila's name still stands out as an Olympic hero.
 
2     He was born in 1932 in the town of Jato, Ethiopia. He was one of the children in a large, poor family, so he went to school for a while and then went to work as a shepherd. When he was 17 years old, he enlisted in his country's army. Later, he became a member of the Imperial Guard. There he got the chance to participate in athletic competitions because the Imperial Guardsmen were known as great marathon runners. He worked with a trainer named Onni Niskanen, who was from Sweden. Niskanen thought that Bikila's running time might improve if he ran in athletic shoes rather than in the barefoot style that he was used to. He timed Bikila running with and without shoes and found that he actually ran faster without them.
 
3     In 1956, Bikila participated in Ethiopia's armed forces championship. There he beat the favorite, Wami Biratu, in both the 5,000 meter and the 10,000 meter events. He was ready for the Olympics.

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