Profile of Jesse Owens
His immense success during the 1936 games further
Hi, I'm Ben Arrona, and I'm here for About.com. I'm a historian with a Master's degree in American History, and this is a profile of Jesse Owens.The grandson of a slave, Owens rose to prominence during his college years, achieving legendary status with his performance in the 1936 Olympics. Let's take a closer look.Born in Alabama in 1913 to a sharecropper, Owens began his athletic career in junior high school. His talent was immediately noticeable as he set junior high records in the broad jump and the high jump. His track and field success continued to grow during his high school years, as he matched the world record at the time for the 100-yard dash. Only one week earlier, he had also set the broad jump world record.These feats garnered the young Jesse Owens national attention, and shortly thereafter he was running track at Ohio State University. Owens' athletic star continued to rise in college. The Buckeye Bullet, as he came to be known, ended up setting three more world records at the Big Ten Championships in 1935. Between 1935 and 1936, he also won an unprecedented eight individual NCAA championships.With the momentum at his back, Owens headed to the 1936 Olympic Games, held in Berlin, Germany. The 1936 Olympics were viewed by German leader, Adolf Hitler, as a platform by which he could show off Nazi Germany, and what he believed to be superior German athletes. Unfortunately for Hitler, no one informed Jesse Owens. With a performance that would go down in athletic lore, Owens won gold medals in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter sprint, the long jump, and in the 4-by-100 meter relay. It wouldn't be until Carl Lewis' performance in the 1984 Olympics that Owens' performance would be matched. His immense success during the 1936 games further repudiated Hitler's claims of race superiority.Despite the gold medals Owens won representing the United States, he was still subject to the same segregation practices that his fellow African Americans had to deal with. It wasn't until President Dwight D. Eisenhower named Owens "Ambassador of Sports," nearly 20 years after his Olympic success, that he was honored by his own government. Jesse Owens lived out his days as a national hero, and died at the age of 66 from lung cancer in 1980.Thanks for watching. To learn more, visit us on the web at About.com.