Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jesse Owens Meets Adolf Hitler

Setting many records at the Big Ten Championships in 1935 prepared Jesse for competition in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Much fanfare had been made of Adolf Hitler's belief that the German "Aryan" people were the dominant race and would, therefore, excel at the Olympic games. By the time the games were over, Owens had won four gold medals:

The 100-meter run (10.3 seconds, an Olympic record)
The 200-meter run (20.7 seconds, a world record)
The Long Jump (8.06 meters)
The 4 x 100 meter relay (39.8 seconds)

The German people were completely enthralled by Jesse Owens, if Hitler was not. It was rumored that Hitler refused to shake hands with Owens because of his race.  This may not be entirely true, however. By the second day of the competition Hitler had already decided to no longer publicly congratulate any of the athletes. Perhaps he saw the writing on the wall.

Owens' competition in the long jump was assisted by a German athlete, Carl Ludwig Long. Apparently Owens had jumped what he thought was a practice jump, only to learn that it had been counted as his first attempt. He foot-faulted his second attempt. Prior to his final jump, Long suggested that he place a towel in front of the take-off board. It worked. Eventually Owens went on to beat Long for the gold medal in the event.

More to come....
Biographical information courtesy of

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