Thursday, June 3, 2010

Great Moments in American Sports- Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics

At the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in Berlin, Germany, Adolf Hitler intended to demonstrate to the world that his Aryan race was superior to all others. However, a great American athlete by the name of James Cleveland Owens (a.k.a- Jesse Owens) stood in the way of “Der Fuhrer’s” plan.

On August 2, the first day of the 1936 Olympic games, Hitler was pleased when Finnish athletes took gold, silver, and bronze in the shot put and German women won gold and silver in the javelin. Hitler was absent from the stadium, however, when Americans, two of whom were black, took all three medals in the high jump. Then, Jesse competed. He won gold in both the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter. After the latter win, Hitler stormed out of the stadium. Jesse’s next event was the long jump. He became frustrated when, what he thought was his practice jump, turned out to be his first official jump. He fouled his next jump. On his third jump, he qualified for the final. Jesse’s main competition in the final round was a tall, blond haired German named Luz Long. In physical appearance (only), Long personified Hitler’s ideal picture of the Aryan race. By the fifth round of the final, Long and Owens were tied at twenty-five feet, ten and a half inches--- a new Olympic record. With his final jump, Owens was able to snatch the gold, and the Olympic record. Then, in another blow to Hitler’s agenda, the “Aryan” Long and the black American strolled, arm-in-arm, around the stadium. It took a lot of courage for Long to befriend Owens on that world stage. It must have driven Hitler crazy.

After his victory in the long jump, Owens won a fourth gold in the 400-meter relay, which he was entered in, at the last minute. He had done the seemingly impossible--- four gold medals in one day. As expected, Hitler chose not to congratulate the victorious American athlete.

In a 1950 Associated Press poll, Owens was voted the greatest track and field star for the first half of century, outpolling Jim Thorpe by almost three to one.

In 1976, President Ford presented Owens with the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the U.S. can bestow upon a civilian

1 comment:

  1. Great post! The "Miracle on Ice" is probably the only moment in American Sports that compares with what Jesse Owens accomplished in 1936, but as an individual accomplishment nothing could compare.