John Akii-Bua

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John Akii-Bua
John Akii-Bua.jpg
Medal record
Men's Athletics
Representing  Uganda
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1972 Munich 400 m hurdles
All-Africa Games
Gold medal – first place 1973 Lagos 400 m hurdles
Silver medal – second place 1978 Algiers 400 m hurdles

John Akii-Bua (3 December 1949 – 20 June 1997) was a Ugandan hurdler and the first Olympic champion from his country.


Having been raised in a large family, including 43 children,[1] Akii-Bua started his athletic career as a hurdler on the short distance. Coached by British-born athletics coach Malcolm Arnold, he was introduced to the 400 m hurdles.[2] After finishing 4th in the 1970 Commonwealth Games and running the fastest season time in 1971, he was not a big favourite for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, having limited competition experience. Nevertheless he won the final there, running the inside lane, setting a world record time of 47.82 seconds. He missed the 1976 Olympics and a show down with American rival Edwin Moses due to a boycott by African nations including Uganda.

As a police officer, Akii-Bua was promoted by Ugandan president Idi Amin, and given a house, as a reward for his athletic prowess. When the Amin regime was collapsing, he fled to Kenya with his family, fearful that he would be seen as a collaborator; this was more likely because he was a member of the Langi tribe, many of whom were persecuted by Amin,[3] whereas Akii-Bua was cited by Amin as an example of a Langi who was doing well. However, in Kenya he was put into a refugee camp. From there, he was freed by his shoe-manufacturer Puma and lived in Germany working for Puma for 3–4 years before returning to Uganda and becoming a coach.[4]

Akii-Bua died a widower, at the age of 47, survived by 11 of his children. He was given a state funeral.[2]

His nephew is international footballer David Obua.


  1. ^ "Personalities at Olympics: Akii-Bua the Best in Vest". The New York Times. 4 Sep 1972. pp. 10 Section: Sports. He in one of a family of 43 children. His father had eight wives. 
  2. ^ a b IAAF, 5 June 2008: Inzikuru to return to action in Akii Bua CAA Grand Prix
  3. ^ "John Akii-Bua, 47 Is Dead; Ugandan Won Olympic Gold". The New York Times. 25 June 1997. p. D20. Amin was purging the Lango tribe, and Akii-Bua was Lango 
  4. ^ The John Akii-Bua Story: an African Tragedy, documentary by Dan Gordon, BBC2 10 August 2008

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
United States Ralph Mann
Men's 400 m Hurdles Best Year Performance
1972 – 1973
Succeeded by
United States Jim Bolding