This world-class athlete was a true champion of the people!
Jesse Owens was an American track and field athlete who became an international superstar after winning four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He broke down racial barriers and became a symbol of hope for Black people during a time of deep racial segregation in the United States. Here’s the story of Jesse Owens and his incredible achievements, courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica.
Owens was born on September 12, 1913, in Oakville, Alabama. He grew up in poverty and faced many challenges because of racism. Owens was a natural athlete, and he showed promise in various sports from a young age. However, he quickly realized that track and field was his true calling.
In high school, Owens set multiple records in track and field events, quickly becoming a standout athlete among his peers. Shortly after, he was recruited to attend Ohio State University, where he continued to dominate in track and field events. Owens would go on to set world records in the long jump and 100-meter dash, and he became the first person to break the 10-second barrier in the 100-meter dash.
In 1936, Owens was selected to compete in the Olympics in Berlin, Germany. At the time, Germany was under the rule of Adolf Hitler, a sadistic and violent dictator. Owens’ mere presence at the Olympics was seen as a challenge to Hitler’s racist beliefs. As a result, Owens was extremely pressured going into the Games.
However, he did not bow to pressure, in fact, quite the opposite. He excelled. Owens went on to win four gold medals in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, long jump, and 4×100-meter relay. He broke two Olympic records and one world record in the process. His performance was a triumph not only for Owens but also for Black people everywhere who were struggling for equality and recognition.
After the Olympics, Owens returned to the United States to a hero’s welcome. However, despite his incredible achievements, Owens still faced discrimination and prejudice because of his race and struggled to find work, forced to take on menial jobs to support his family. Owens continued to work as an athlete and an advocate for racial equality throughout his life. He served as a goodwill ambassador for the United States and traveled around the world to promote the Olympic ideals of friendship and unity.
Owens passed away on March 31, 1980, at the age of 66. He left behind a legacy as one of the greatest athletes in history and a symbol of hope and inspiration for generations of people. His performance at the 1936 Olympics will be etched in time to always be remembered. Owens’ story is a reminder of the power of perseverance and the ability of sports to break down barriers and bring people together.
Thank you for everything Mr. Owens.
Cover photo: Here’s the story of 4x Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens/Jesse Owens at 1936 Olympic Summer Games in Berlin/Photo Courtesy of ullstein bild/Getty Images