SEATTLE (AP) — The family of an Ethiopian runner who famously won an Olympic marathon barefoot is suing Vibram, the maker of a popular line of minimalist running shoes, saying it used his name without permission.
Abebe Bikila, who died in 1973, was a last-minute entrant in the 1960 Olympics in Rome and didn't like the fit of the shoes he'd been provided. Running barefoot over the cobbled streets, he shattered the existing Olympic record, finishing in just over two hours, 15 minutes.
Vibram named some models of its Five Fingers foot-glove style running shoes after him, and even trademarked the name "Bikila" in 2010, as barefoot or nearly barefoot running became more popular in the United States.
But in a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Tacoma, Bikila's son, Teferi Bikila, of Tigard, Oregon, said the company didn't have permission to do so.
"He won the Rome marathon with bare feet, and nobody did it before then or since then," Bikila, 45, said in a phone interview Tuesday. "It's important that his legacy be respected."
The family is seeking at least $15 million in damages, said their attorney, Alex Trauman.