Jesse Owens

James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens (12th September 1913 – 31st March 1980) was an American track and field athlete who clinched four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games.

Owens specialised in the sprints and the long jump and was hailed during his lifetime as “perhaps the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history”. He set three world records and tied another, all within less than an hour, at the 1935 Big Ten track meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a feat that remains unequalled and has been described as “the greatest 45 minutes ever in sport”.

His international acclaim came at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, where he secured four gold medals: 100 meters, long jump, 200 meters, and 4 × 100-meter relay. As a black American man, he emerged as the most successful athlete at the Games and was credited with “single-handedly crushing Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy”.

The Jesse Owens Award stands as USA Track & Field’s highest honour for the year’s premier track and field athlete. Owens was ranked by ESPN as the sixth-greatest North American athlete of the 20th century and the highest-ranked in his sport. In 1999, he was among the six-man short-list for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Century.

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