Did you know that several Olympic champions have run barefoot?
In the 1960 Olympics in Rome and the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, two barefoot runners set records and caught the world’s attention with their bare feet.
In the 1984 Olympics, Zola Budd, an inspiring barefooted teen from South Africa, tangled up those trademark bare feet with those of American athlete Mary Decker. Decker fell off the track from the collision and an injury to her hip ended her dream of winning an Olympics.
Budd, whose bare feet had been leading the pack, fell back so she would not have to face a booing audience from the winner’s platform.
Even with that unfortunate race, Budd was the world cross country champion in 1985 and 1986, set world records in the 5K races in 1984 and 1985, and set the world indoor record in the 3K.
Budd achieved all of this while running barefoot.
Abebe Bikila ran in the 1960 Olympics in Rome. He even ran barefoot over cobblestones! It’s not really surprising that Bikila decided to run without shoes because he trained barefoot.
Bikila entered the Olympics late, so when he got Rome, Adidas, sponsor for the 1960 Summer Olympics, had limited shoe options left. Bikila couldn’t find a pair of shoes that fit well, so a few hours prior to the race, Bikila opted to run barefoot.
Apparently, running barefoot over cobblestones was more comfortable than an ill fitting pair of shoes.
Bikila beat the Olympic record with a time of 2:15:16.2. He was the first Sub-Saharan African to receive a gold medal. Shortly after the event, when Bikila was asked the motivation for running in his bare feet, he answered, “I wanted the world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism.”
There is even a style of shoes from Vibram called the Bikila after the Olympic athlete. What a barefoot legacy!
I was hoping to see some runners or even other athletes using minimalist footwear – or perhaps some going barefoot – in the Olympics this year.
Aside from the usual gymnasts and swimmers, I haven’t seen any yet.
I’m still holding out a little hope.