James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens (September 12, 1913 – March 31, 1980), also known as “The Buckeye Bullet” was an American track-and-field athlete that won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. He was recognized for his sprints and long jumps and he is known to be the “greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history”. Owen’s abilities to run fast were noticed by his track coach in junior high and that’s when he realized his passion for running. He continued to work as he attended high school and in college, when he attended the Ohio State University as he wasn’t offered any scholarship due to racial discrimination. He continued to participate in NCAA championships winning titles and medals.
Greatest Sporting Achievements
Jesse Owen’s greatest achievement happened on May 25, 1935 during the Big Ten meet at Ferry Field in Michigan where he set three world records and tied a fourth, all in a span of about 45 minutes. He set the bar high with his 100 yard dash in 9.4 seconds, long jump with 26 ft 8 ¼ in – a world record that lasted for 25 years, 220-yard sprint in 20.3 sec and 220-yard low hurdles in 22.6 sec.
During the 1936 Olympics held in Nazi Germany, he shocked everyone for being the first American track and field athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympiad.
1936 Berlin Olympics - 4 gold
- 100 meters in 10.3 seconds (tying the world record)
- Long jump with a jump of 26' 5 1/4" (Olympic record)
- 200 meters in 20.7 seconds (Olympic record)
- 400 meter relay (first leg) in 39.8 seconds (Olympic and world record).
Why Was He So Good?
Throughout the time of deep-rooted isolation, Jesse Owens not only dishonored Adolf Hitler’s racing presumption but also acknowledged that it is a person’s excellence, rather than his race or nationality differentiates one person from another. Although he was a son of a sharecropper and a grandson of a slave, he accomplished what no Olympian before him had achieved.
What You May Not Know
- After Owens retired, he started racing against cars, horses and played with the Harlem Globetrotters a few times, but later worked in public relations and marketing, started a business in Chicago and traveled often to speak at conventions and other business gatherings.
- Throughout Jesse Owen’s life, he worked with youths. It gave him a great satisfaction helping with underprivileged youth.
- He didn’t get any advertising or product endorsements, so he supported his family with different jobs.
- He smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. Owens died of lung cancer in March 31, 1980.
Was he a legend?
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