At the 1960 Rome Olympics, a barefooted African athlete whose name nobody knew astounded the world by winning the marathon and that too in a record time of 2 hours and 15 minutes. With that, Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia became the first black African to win a track-and-field gold medal.
He was a member of the palace bodyguard of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. In 1964, at Tokyo, Bikila, this time wearing shoes, won the gold again, with a margin of more than four minutes. He relaxed a little before the others entered the stadium, lying on his back in the infield and bicycling his legs! He even did a smiling lap of honour. Few among the spectators knew that he'd had an appendix operation just five weeks earlier.
He could not participate in the 1968 Olympics due to a leg injury. The following year he was involved in a near-fatal car crash that left him wheelchair-bound. He died four years later.