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50 Facts About Jesse Owens - The Greatest And Most Famous Athlete In Track & Field History

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Jesse Owens was an American track and field athlete, specialized in the sprints and the long jump. He was a four-time Olympic gold medalist, with three world records and tying another in less than an hour. Here are 50 facts about the famous athlete:

Jesse Owens (1913 - 1980) won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, 100 metre sprint in 10.3 seconds, equalling the Olympic record set a new Olympic and world record of 20.7 seconds in the 200 metre sprint, long jump with a leap of 8.05 metre setting a new Olympic record and as member of the US 4 x 100 metre relay team which set a new Olympic and world record of 39.8 seconds.
(Photo : Topical Press Agency/Getty Images) Jesse Owens (1913 - 1980) won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, 100 metre sprint in 10.3 seconds, equalling the Olympic record set a new Olympic and world record of 20.7 seconds in the 200 metre sprint, long jump with a leap of 8.05 metre setting a new Olympic record and as member of the US 4 x 100 metre relay team which set a new Olympic and world record of 39.8 seconds.
  1. Jesse Owens is credited with single handedly crushing Adolf Hitler’s myth of Aryan Supremacy during the 1996 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.
  2. He won 4 gold medals in the Berlin Olympics, one each in 100 meters, 200 meters long jump and 4X100 meter relay.
  3. When he reached Berlin in 1936, he was greeted by many girl fans chanting “Wo ist Jesse?” and started snapping on his clothes with scissors. He had to have soldiers around him whenever he left Olympic village.
  4. He credits his long jump victory in 1936 Olympics to advice received from German long jumper Luz Long. Long was also the first to embrace Owens on long jump victory in front of Hitler.
  5. He created World Record in Long Jump on 25 May 1935 with the ump of 26ft 8 ¼ inch (8.13 Meters). This record lasted for 25 years.
    American track and field athlete Jesse Owens (1913 - 1980) smiles as he poses with the four gold medals he won at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, late 1950s.
    (Photo : Hulton Archive/Getty Images) American track and field athlete Jesse Owens (1913 - 1980) smiles as he poses with the four gold medals he won at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, late 1950s.
  6. He also set 3 more records in the same day he created the long jump world record. He equaled 100 yard sprint at 9.4 sec created record in 220 yard sprint at 20.3 sec and 220 yard low hurdle at 22.3 sec.
  7. After his triumph at Berlin Olympics, a ticker tape parade in New York was arranged in his honor. During the parade he was handed a paper bag by unknown person, which later turned out to be filled with $10000.
  8. According to German journalist Siegfried Mischer, Owens carried a photograph in his wallet of the Fuhrer shaking hands with him.
  9. British Fighter pilot Eric Brown had stated in a BBC documentary “I actually witnessed Hitler shaking hands with Jesse Owens and congratulating him on what he had achieved.
  10. He was born as James Cleveland Owens on 12 September 1913 to Henry Cleveland and Mary Emma Fitzgerald in Oakville, Alabama.
  11. He was the youngest of the ten children, seven boys and three girls. He was fondly called as J.C.
    Jesse Owens (1913 - 1980) American track and field athlete. He participated in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, where he achieved international fame by winning four gold medals: one each in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the long jump, and as
    (Photo : Universal History Archive/Getty Images) Jesse Owens (1913 - 1980) American track and field athlete. He participated in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, where he achieved international fame by winning four gold medals: one each in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the long jump, and as
  12. When the school teacher asked his name to enter in roll book, he said J.C Owens, but due to his southern accent she thought Jesse Owens and he was known as such for rest of his life.
  13. He worked in a shoe repair shop after school while his father and older brother worked in Steel mills. He found his passion for running at that time.
  14. He attributes his success in track and field to his junior high school track coach Charles Riley, who encouraged him and allowed him to practice before school.
  15. His first success as an athlete was when he equaled the world record of 9.4 sec in 100 yard sprint and jumped to 24ft 9 ½ inches in long jump as a student of East Technical High School.
  16. He was affectionately called as “Buckeye Bullet” during his days at Ohio State University. He joined college after his father got regular employment.
  17. He made a record by winning 8 gold medals at NCAA meets (National Collegiate Athletic Association), four each in 1935 and 1936. It was equaled by Xavier Carter in 2006.
    James Cleveland (Jesse) OWENS, *1913-1980+, American athlete - 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin: portrait with three gold medals - August 5, 1936
    (Photo : ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images) James Cleveland (Jesse) OWENS, *1913-1980+, American athlete - 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin: portrait with three gold medals - August 5, 1936
  18. Although he enjoyed success as an athlete, he wasn’t allowed to live in campus and nor was he provided a sports scholarship. He lived off-campus with other African- Americans and ate at “black only” restaurant.
  19. During Berlin Olympics he was on the verge of being eliminated in the qualifiers even though he was the world record holder. He got a valuable technical advice from Luz Long ultimately resulting in his gold medal victory.
  20. Owens was visited in the Olympic village (at Berlin Olympic) by the founder of Adidas shoe, Adi Dassler to persuade him to use Gebruder Dassler Schuhfabrik shoes and thus becoming first sponsor for a male African-American athlete.
  21. According to Owens’s wife Ruth, he was never invited by the then President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the White House after his victory at 1936 Berlin Olympics.
  22. During an election campaign on 15 October 1936 in Kansas City, Owens campaigning for Presidential candidate form Republican Party Alf Landon said, “Hitler didn’t snub me, and it was our President who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram.
  23. He competed against race horses and won it. When asked about the secret, he revealed that the trick lived in racing a thoroughbred that would be frightened by the shotgun and would give him a bad jump.
  24. “What was I supposed to do? I had 4 gold medals but you can’t eat four gold medals”, was what he said when asked about how degrading it is for an Olympic Champion to run against horses.
  25. He refused to go to Sweden for track and field competitions after his success in Berlin Olympics. He was looking for more lucrative commercial offers. The US athletic officials revoked his amateur status ending his career.
  26. He formed the “West Coast Baseball Association” (WCBA), a Negro Baseball League for which he was the vice president. After just two months the WCBA was disbanded.
  27. He tried many things for a living including, as a sports promoter. He would give local sprinters a head start of 20 yards and beat them easily in the 100 yard dash.
  28. He owned a dry cleaning business, as well as worked as a gas station attendant.
    Jesse Owens of the USA in action in the mens 200m at the 1936 Summer Olympic Games held in Berlin, Germany. Owens won a total of four gold medals in the Olympics, winning the mens 100m final, 200m final and the long jump competiton as well as being part of the victorious USA 4x100m relay team.
    (Photo : Getty Images/Getty Images) Jesse Owens of the USA in action in the mens 200m at the 1936 Summer Olympic Games held in Berlin, Germany. Owens won a total of four gold medals in the Olympics, winning the mens 100m final, 200m final and the long jump competiton as well as being part of the victorious USA 4x100m relay team.
  29. He filed for bankruptcy during 1965. He was also prosecuted for the tax evasion in 1966.
  30. He refused to support the “Black Salute” by the African-American sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith during the 1968 Summer Olympics.
  31. In support of the refusal to the “Black Power Salute” he said, “The Black fist is a meaningless symbol. When you open it, you have nothing but fingers: weak, empty fingers. The only time black fist has significance is when there is money inside. There is where the power lies.”
  32. He tried unsuccessfully to convince President Jimmy Carter not to boycott 1980 Moscow Olympics. He argued that Olympics were a time out from war and it is above politics.
  33. He helped in promoting the exploitation movie “Mom and Dad” in 1945. The movie was the most successful in its genre of “Sex Hygiene.”
  34. In Germany the dormitory used by Owens during Berlin Olympics has been turned into a living museum with his pictures of accomplishments on display.
  35. An unknown fan had sent Owens a letter before 1936 Olympics started that was intercepted by Gestapo. The fan urged him to refrain from shaking hands with Hitler.
    Close-up of US champion 'Jesse' (James Cleveland) Owens during Olympic Games in Berlin, August 1936, where he captured 4 gold medals, 100m, 200m, 4x100m and long jump. Grandson of a slave and legendary athlet, Jesse Owens established 6 world records in 1935. 'Jesse' Owens retained his 100m world record for 20 years and his long jump world record for 25 years (until 1960).
    (Photo : CORR/AFP/Getty Images) Close-up of US champion 'Jesse' (James Cleveland) Owens during Olympic Games in Berlin, August 1936, where he captured 4 gold medals, 100m, 200m, 4x100m and long jump. Grandson of a slave and legendary athlet, Jesse Owens established 6 world records in 1935. 'Jesse' Owens retained his 100m world record for 20 years and his long jump world record for 25 years (until 1960).
  36. He was inducted into Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1970.
  37. He became part of the Olympic Order in 1976 for he was instrumental in fight against racism during 1936 Berlin Olympics.
  38. In his honor a new Asteroid discovered in 1980 was named as 6758 Jesseowens.
  39. He also has Award named after him in 1981. It is given to country’s top athlete in Track and Field annually.
  40. A movie “The Jesse Owens Story” was released in 1984 which won an Emmy Award. Dorian Harewood portrayed as Owens.
  41. He was also honored by Germans when they named a street near Olympic Stadium as Jesse Owens Allee in 1984.
  42. G.W.Bush awarded Owens with Congressional Gold medal on 28 March 1990.
  43. He was further honored by US Government in 1990 and 1998 when two Postage Stamps were issued with his photo.
  44. 60 years after his victory in Olympics, the Olympic torch came through the community at his hometown of Oakville, Alabama in 1996.
  45. United States track and field team wore badges with “JO” inscribed during the 2009 World Championship in Berlin. It was to commemorate the victory by Owens 73 years ago in the same stadium.
  46. During 2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony in London, 80000 individual pixels in the audience seating area were used to show video of Owens running around the stadium.
    American athlete Jesse Owens (1913 - 1980) the greatest sprinter of his generation. At the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin he won 4 gold medals. In 1976 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
    (Photo : Fox Photos/Getty Images) American athlete Jesse Owens (1913 - 1980) the greatest sprinter of his generation. At the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin he won 4 gold medals. In 1976 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  47. A feature film Race is set to be released in 2016 about Owens. Stephen James is set to portray him.
  48. The State of Arizona in honor of Owens named their hospital as Jesse Owens Medical Plaza and also Jesse Owens Park.
  49. He was listed among the 100 Greatest African-Americans in 2002 by scholar Molefi Kete Asante.
  50. Owens died on 31 March 1980 at the age of 66 due to drug resistance lung cancer. He used to smoke one whole packet of cigarette and has been in and out of hospital since 1979.

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