How did Abebe Bikila die?

Abebe Bikila was a marathon runner from Ethiopia who ran the 1960 Rome Olympic Marathon barefoot and won the gold medal. He later won the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Marathon. He became a national hero in his country and was held up by the barefoot running community as evidence that you can run barefoot and do not need running shoes.

He passed away in 1973 at the age of 41 from complications following a motor vehicle accident. After allegedly drinking on the night of March 22, 1969 while driving home, Abebe lost control of his Volkswagen Beetle, trying to avoid an oncoming car and it overturned. He was trapped inside. After being freed from the car he was hospitalized and was eventually left as a paraplegic. Abebe did recovery sufficiently to compete in wheelchair archery and table tennis.

Abebe died on October 25, 1973 in Addis Ababa due to a cerebral hemorrhage which was a complication related to his car accident. He was buried with full military honors following a state funeral. Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia proclaimed a day of mourning, calling him the country’s national hero.

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