Who is Jesse Owens?

Who is Jesse Owens

James Cleveland Owens, better known as Jesse Owens, was one of the most famous American track and field athletes of all time. He is best known for his exploits at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics, where he won 4 gold medals, one each in 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, 4X100 meter relay and long jump. In doing so, he also became the first African-American athlete to win a gold medal in the history of the Modern Olympics.

In the year 1936, Jesse Owens came to Berlin to represent the United States in the Olympics. The chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler, was manipulating the games in order to portray a resurgent Nazi Germany to the world. He had a lot of faith in the German athletes and thought that they would help their country top the medal tally. Therefore, he went on to criticize ethnic Africans for the racial inferiority and maintained that the Aryans were the racially superior to all other races. However, Hitler was in for a shocker when Jesse Owens went on to win 4 gold medals on the trot, defeating Ralph Metcalfe in the 100 meter dash. He also won the long jump the very next day and humbly credited Luz Long for some useful and friendly advice. Incidentally, Owens beat Luz Long in the same event when it came between the two of them. He later went on to win the 200 meter dash and the 4X100 meter relay, a performance which was unequalled until Carl Lewis won the same events in 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Owens also became the first African-American athlete to receive a sponsorship, when Adi Dassler, the founder of prominent footwear company, Adidas, visited him in the Olympic Village before the games and persuaded him to wear Adidas shoes in the games. He became an instant favorite with the fans and was cheered whole heartedly by all the spectators who had come to witness the games. Even while walking on the streets, numerous German people came to seek his autograph. He was also one of the rare African-American athletes who enjoyed the same rights which the whites did.

In the year 1955, Jesse Owns was honored by President Dwight Eisenhower, who made him the Ambassador of Sports.


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