John Akii-Bua

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John Akii-Bua
John Akii-Bua c. 1972
Personal information
Born3 December 1949
Lira, Uganda
Died20 June 1997 (aged 47)
Kampala, Uganda
Height1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
Weight77 kg (170 lb)
Event(s)400 m, 400 m hurdles
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)400 m – 45.82 (1976)
400 mH – 47.82 (1972)
Medal record
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 Uganda and Africa at large.[1] In 1986, he was a recipient of the Silver Olympic Order.[2]


Akii-Bua was raised in a family of 43 children from one father and his eight wives.[3][4] Akii-Bua started his athletic career as a short-distance hurdler, but failed to qualify for the 1968 Olympics.[4] Coached by British-born athletics coach Malcolm Arnold, he was introduced to the 400 meter hurdles.[5] After finishing fourth in the 1970 Commonwealth Games and running the fastest time of 1971, he was not a big favourite for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, having limited competitive experience. Nevertheless, he won the final there, setting a world record time of 47.82 seconds despite running on the inside lane. He missed the 1976 Olympics and a showdown with United States rival Edwin Moses because of the boycott by Uganda and other African nations.[4]

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,[6] 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. He represented Uganda once again at the 1980 Summer Olympics.[4] Later he returned to Uganda and became a coach.[7]

Akii-Bua died a widower, at the age of 47, survived by eleven children. He was given a state funeral.[5] His nephew is international footballer David Obua, and his brother Lawrence Ogwang competed in the long jump and triple jump at the 1956 Olympics.[4]

The phrase "akii-buas" has come to colloquially mean "runs" in Uganda.[8]


  1. ^ "Uganda to remember Olympic hurdler John Akii Bua". World Athletics. Retrieved 19 August 2021.
  2. ^ "John Akii-Bua". Olympedia. Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  3. ^ "Personalities at Olympics: Akii-Bua the Best in Vest". The New York Times. 4 September 1972. pp. 10 Section: Sports. He is one of a family of 43 children. His father had eight wives.
  4. ^ a b c d e John Akii-Bua Archived 22 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ a b IAAF, 5 June 2008: Inzikuru to return to action in Akii Bua CAA Grand Prix
  6. ^ "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
  7. ^ The John Akii-Bua Story: an African Tragedy, documentary by Dan Gordon, BBC2, 10 August 2008
  8. ^ Tim Crothers (9 October 2012). The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster. Scribner. ISBN 9781451657814.

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by Men's 400 m Hurdles Best Year Performance
1972 – 1973
Succeeded by