Jesse Owens (September 12, 1913 - March 31, 1980) also known as "The Buckeye Bullet," was an African American track-and-field legend, remembered for setting a profound world record in the running long jump.
His record stood for 25 years and he received four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Owens's four Olympic victories were seen as a blow to Adolf Hitlerâs intention to use the Games to demonstrate Aryan superiority. Hitler lambasted America for including Black athletes on its Olympic roster, but it was the African American participants who helped cement America's success at the Olympic Games.
Despite political hostility, Owens was adored by the German public. The iconic story is fondly remembered when German long jumper, Carl âLuzâ Long, aided Owens through a bad start in the long jump competition. Owens was flustered to learn that what he had thought was a practice jump had been counted as his first attempt. Before Owensâs last jump, Long suggested that the American place a towel in front of the take-off board. Leaping from that point, Owens qualified for the finals, eventually beating Long (later his close friend) for the gold.
While Owens helped the United States triumph at the games, his return home was not met with the kind of fanfare one might expect. President Franklin D. Roosevelt failed to meet with Owens and congratulate him, as was typical for champions.
It was not until 1976, that Owens was properly recognized by receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 1990 he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
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