Jesse Owens


Jesse Owens

World record-holder Jesse Owens had one qualifying jump left at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. He had fouled on four of his first five tries. And he was angry because Nazi ruler Adolf Hitler, with his misguided notions of Aryan supremacy, had just delivered an insult by departing from the stadium as Owens began his jumps. Suddenly, quietly, his chief rival, German long jumper Luz Long, said to Owens, “…remeasure your steps… take off six inches behind the foul board.” Thus was an unlikely friendship born between an African-American and a German. And thus was Jesse Owens inspired to capture an unprecedented four Olympic gold medals with record performances in the long jump, the 100- and 200-meter dashes, and the 400-meter relay. Positive experiences such as the Olympic Games revelation by Luz, seemed to balance the racial-prejudice negatives in Jesse Owens’ life as an African American, leading too his moderate ideology and his admiration of the principles and practices of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Owens parlayed his international track-star reputation into jobs helping his people–such as national director of physical education for African-Americans with the Office of Civilian Defense (1940-42), which he called”the most gratifying work I’ve ever done.”” But for all his desire to help others, Jesse Owens was largely a self-made man. A frail,, sickly child, he developed into a strong runner, winning national high school titles inn three events. Dozens of colleges pursued Owens, but he chose to go to Ohio State,, where he had to work his way through school. Owens stunned the nation in 1935 when he set three world records and equaled another in one day, running a 20.3-second 220-yard dash, 22.6 in the 220-yard low hurdles, a record-tying 9.4-second 100 yard dash, and long-jumping 26′-8-1/4… a mark that was not surpassed for 25 years.. And amid all his deserved adulation, Jesse Owens maintained his perspective. “Life,”” he said, “is the real Olympics.”


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