a guiding light into the past, illuminating athletes
who pioneered the way to the future.”
For Immediate Release
MARCH 27, 2009
Contact: LA Jones & Associates
USA AFRICAN-AMERICAN SPORTS HALL OF FAME TO INDUCT ETHIOPIAN ATHLETES
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA (USA) – The African American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame (AAESHOF), a USA based organization, which is dedicated to honoring USA, African, and other sports legends of color, will induct Abebe Bikila, Mamo Wolde, and Haile G. Selassie at its Historic Induction Ceremony at Science Faculty, Addis Ababa University, Arat Kilo on Friday May 8, 2009. Our theme: “Return to the Motherland. We Have To Look At The Past To Change The Future.”
Abebe Bikila was born on August 7, 1932, the day of the Los Angeles Olympic Marathon, in the village of Jato, Ethiopia, located 9 kilometers outside the town of Mendida. Bikila was added to the Ethiopian Olympic team only at the last moment, as the plane to Rome was about to leave, as a replacement for Warmi Biratu, who had broken his ankle in a soccer match.
Adidas, the shoe sponsor at the 1960 Summer Olympics, had few shoes left when Bikila went to try out shoes and he ended up with a pair that didn’t fit comfortably, so he couldn’t use them. A couple of hours before the race the decision was taken by Abebe to run barefoot, the way he’d trained for the race. During the race Bikila passed numerous runners, and by about 20 km, Bikila and another runner had created a gap from the rest of the pack. Bikila ran alongside of number 26, and they stayed together until the last 500 meters, when Abebe sprinted to the finish line.
Bikila won a record time of 2:15:16.2, becoming the first black African to win an Olympic gold medal. He finished 26 seconds ahead of Rhadi Ben Abdesselam from Morocco, who was favored to win. After the race, when Bikila was asked why he had run barefoot, he replied, “I wanted the world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism.” Bikila returned to Ethiopia as a hero and remain so today. The saying quickly swept the country that “it took a million Italians to invade Ethiopia but only one Ethiopian to conquer Rome.”
Mamo Waldo–his given name -was born in a village 40 miles south of Addis Ababa in 1951. He took part in government-sponsored athletic events, hoping to emulate his countryman, Abebe Bikila, and became his training partner. “Abebe Bikila made me want to run, “Wolde once said. “He was my guiding light.” Wolde first competed in the Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, in 1956, in the 800 and the 1,500 meters, and the 4 x 400 relay, but finished last in the heats.
He ran in the 10,000 meters and in the marathon at the 1964 Tokyo Games without winning a medal. Beginning in the 1960, Wolde’s focus changed from middle distance races to long distances. He placed fourth in the 10,000 meters at the 1964 Summer Olympics. After Abebe Bikila had won the 1964 Olympic marathon, Wolde became the second Ethiopian to win the title in that race. Earlier in that same Olympics, Wolde had already won the silver medal in the 10,000 meters. Wolde won a third Olympic medal at the age of 40.
Haile G. Selassie is regarded as the greatest distance runner of all times. Haile has built an extraordinary reputation as an exceptional athlete who is setting a new level in long-distance races. Haile was born in the province of Arsi in Central Ethiopia. Arsi has produced great long-distance runners like Derartu Tulu, Fatuma Roba, and of course, Haile Selassie.
Abebe Bikila and 10k Olympic gold medalist Miruts Yifter, too, inspired Haile. As a child he had to run 10 kilometers a day each way to go and come back from school. At age 16, without any formal training, he entered the Addis Ababa marathon, and finished in 2:42. Haile rose to international prominence in 1992 when he won the 5000 meters and 10,000 meters World Junior championship. In 1993 at the Stuttgart World championships, he won the 10,000 meters and got second in the 5000 meters. Haile set his first World Record in the 5000 meters in 12:56.96 in Hengelo, Holland in 1994.
“Our plans are to bring two Ethiopian athletes to the USA to become acquainted with people in the African-American community,” said Arif Khatib, President and Founder of AAESHOF. “These visits could result in business opportunities for the Ethiopian athletes.” “And this historic event, which will have national, continental and international impact, is the perfect vehicle to reach our common commitment to create Peace and Goodwill, and to honor the incredible athletes of Ethiopia,” Khatib said.
AAESHOF (www.afrosportshall.com) has partnered with People2People’s President and Founder, Dr. Enawgaw Mehari and their cooperation will result in the presentation of the ceremony in conjunction with People2People’s (www.peoplepeople.org) 10th anniversary international conference in Addis on May 8. “We are delighted to be part of this historical occasion of honoring these most deserving Ethiopian athletes,” said Dr. Mehari. The conference will begin at 9 A.M. and the induction ceremony will begin at 1PM.
“Recognition of these athletes is long overdue, said Dr. John Carlos, 1968 Olympian. “The Ethiopians and Africans in general have paid their dues, worked hard and have been successful. As a board member of the African American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame, I am pleased to support this history-making event”.
AAESHOF is a 501 (c) (3) USA nonprofit organization, and is dedicated to the development of opportunities for young, less fortunate youth to gain exposure to positive aspects of life. And to broaden the public’s understanding about African American and African history and the role of diversity and cultural tolerance in the growth of professional sports. And to give the world the opportunity to better understand the impact of African-American and African athletes have had on American sports and society. The event is sponsored by Ethiopian Airlines and People2people.
For more information please call 510-508-3309 firstname.lastname@example.org.