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    1960 Olympic marathon favourites
    #1
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    As a teenager I first became interested in track and field because of the 1958 European championships. There Sergei Popov won the marathon with an amazing world record of 2:15 and change.

    i assumed he was invincible and I was totally shocked by the 1960 Olympics, with a (to me) unknown Ethiopian and Moroccan taking the first two places.

    I now wonder: Was Bikila Abebe in fact an unknown, or did the experts realize he was a medal threat? Same for Abdessalem Rhadi?
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    #2
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    Good question. Abebe Bikila came to Rome in 1960 largely an unknown runner internationally. Of course if you had followed African running in 1959/1960, you might have known that Bikila had won the Ethiopian Trials marathon one month before the Rome Olympic marathon. At the Ethiopian Trials, he ran 2:21:23 and second place was nine minutes in back of Abebe. What you might not have known then was that Bikila ran the Trials marathon at altitude. To come back from that race in one month and run 2:15:16 in Rome was amazing. I'm pretty sure that most people did not know much about Rhadi ben Abdesselem as well. Remember that in 1960 personal communication was a lot slower than it is today. The 1960 Rome Olympics was the first to be televised in the U.S. and even then it was not televised live.
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    #3
    Quote Originally Posted by DoubleRBar View Post
    The 1960 Rome Olympics was the first to be televised in the U.S. and even then it was not televised live.
    In 1960 the tapes were flown to New York from Rome and the next day Jim McKay, announcing for CBS, did voice-overs on the events they chose to televise. That's not a typo - Jim McKay was with CBS in 1960.
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    #4
    Bikila actually ran 3 marathons in 1960. The first two were in Addis Ababa at altitude - one in July and one in August, and then ran the Roma marathon in September. As DoubleRBar said, he ran 2-21:23 in August. In July he ran 2-39 and change but was still the winner of the race. 3 marathons in just a little over 2 months
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    #5
    From Wikipedia
    Rhadi ben Abdesselem: He also ran in the International Cross Country Championships in 1958–1963. In March 1960, he and Belgium's Gaston Roelants quickly broke away from the field, and he became the first African athlete to win the individual gold medal in that event, defeating Roelants by 40 yards.
    Basil Heatley (silver in 64) was in that race as well as Tullah, Frederick Norris, and Alain Mimoun.
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    #6
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    I remember when I was in high school in the 1960s reading a chapter in one of NZ athletic books from those days in which Barry Magee, Jeff Julian and Ray Puckett (our 3 entrants in the 1960 marathon) were with Arthur Lydiard sizing up their competition.

    One of them observed and referred to a "skinny barefoot African runner" relieving himself on the side of the road a few minutes before the race started. "well, that's one guy we don't have to worry about" as they all dismissed Abebe Bikila out of hand.

    Magee finished in 3rd place.
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    #7
    Quote Originally Posted by noone View Post
    As a teenager I first became interested in track and field because of the 1958 European championships. There Sergei Popov won the marathon with an amazing world record of 2:15 and change.

    i assumed he was invincible and I was totally shocked by the 1960 Olympics, with a (to me) unknown Ethiopian and Moroccan taking the first two places.

    I now wonder: Was Bikila Abebe in fact an unknown, or did the experts realize he was a medal threat? Same for Abdessalem Rhadi?
    Track and Field News described Rhadi as one of the medal favorites at the time.
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    #8
    Quote Originally Posted by bambam1729 View Post
    Bikila actually ran 3 marathons in 1960. The first two were in Addis Ababa at altitude - one in July and one in August, and then ran the Roma marathon in September. As DoubleRBar said, he ran 2-21:23 in August. In July he ran 2-39 and change but was still the winner of the race. 3 marathons in just a little over 2 months
    Addis Ababa, by the way, is at 2,355m altitude (7725 ft) - even worse than Mexico City for distance runners, which gives some idea of the 2-21:23 marathon he ran in August 1960
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    #9
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    I still consider Abebe to be the GOAT for the marathon.

    This is from Wikipedia describing his performance in 1968 at Mexico City.

    "A week before the race, Abebe developed pain in his left leg. Doctors discovered a fracture in his fibula, and he was advised to stay off his feet until the day of the race.[80] Abebe had to drop out of the race after approximately 16 km (10 mi) and Mamo Wolde won in 2:20:26.4. This was Abebe's last marathon appearance."

    How the hell could he run as far as he did with a stress fracture?
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    #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tuariki View Post
    I still consider Abebe to be the GOAT for the marathon.
    Olympic GOAT, certainly, but how much did he win otherwise? Apart from 1960 and 1964, the only year when he was ranked no. 1 was 1961.
    Było smaszno, a jaszmije smukwijne...
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