Faster in 1964

Marathon runner icon and PUMA athlete Abebe Bikila won 1964 at the Tokyo Olympics

October 22, 2020

Marathon runner icon and PUMA athlete Abebe Bikila won 1964 at the Tokyo Olympics

October 22, 2020

The Olympic Games Tokyo 1964 represented everything ambitious athletes had dreamed of: glamour, world-class sport and diversity. If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, the Olympics would have been held in Tokyo for the second time this year. Time to look back. Spotlight on Olympic champion and PUMA athlete Abebe Bikila.


The story of Abebe Bikila is one Olympic fairy tail. He was the first athlete to win the Olympic marathon twice in a row. At the Olympics in Rome in 1960, Abebe purchased new running shoes, but they did not fit well and gave him blisters. So he consequently decided to run barefoot instead. And guess what happened? He won, setting a World Record time. With a gold medal in his pocket, Abebe returned to his homeland Ethiopia as a hero and as the first African Olympic gold medalist.

Four years later, Abebe returned to the Olympics in Tokyo and became the first Olympian ever to defend a gold medal. Like in Rome, it was another World Record. This time, however, Abebe did not run barefoot, but with the PUMA Osaka. He finished the 42.195 kilometres (26 miles 385 yards) in 2:12:11.2, three minutes faster than his World Record from 1960 without shoes.

Especially for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Rudolf Dassler and his shoe technicians developed a new running shoe that was light as a feather and extremely flexible. The PUMA Osaka was also equipped with a non-slip and special double profile sole.

Helmut Fischer

The PUMA Osaka in 1964 was equipped with an innovative marathon sole built with a light wedge. A minimal sole with maximum durability for a “barefoot feeling“.

Abebe Bikila continues to be considered a legend amongst runners across generations, as the story of his feats are retold. Abebe’s running style also appeared effortless. In fact, after crossing the finish line at both Rome and Tokyo races, instead of falling to the ground exhausted, he immediately started doing calisthenics. That’s the real PUMA spirit!

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