With Black History Month upon us, there are many heroes that have impacted us. James Cleveland Owens, better known as Jesse Owens, was an influential track athlete in the 20th century. His four Olympic victories were a blow to Adolf Hitler’s intention to use the Games to demonstrate Aryan superiority (Britannica).
While at Cleveland High School at the 1933 National Interscholastic Championships, Owens won three events. Owens then started running at Ohio State and ran the 100-yard dash (9.4 sec) and broke the world records for the 220-yard dash (20.3 sec), and the 220-yard low hurdles (22.6 sec) and the long jump (26.67 feet). On May 25, 1935, with those times and lengths, Owens was able to run in the Olympics. In the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Owens’ races became legendary. A popular tale about Owens was that Hitler refused to shake Owens’ hand because he was African American. The truth about it was Hitler decided not to publicly congratulate any of the athletes.
Owens was not phased by the rudeness of Hitler because of how fond he was of the German people. He gained help with his jumps when he learned about not being able to have a practice jump in the long jump by a German long jumper, Carl Ludwig Long. Owens then used the help he gained and went for the gold medal. His way of ignoring Hitler’s hatred towards him is what led him to victory in the Olympic Games.
Jesse Owens faced adversity throughout his track career, but he did not let that bother him from being successful in his events. Owens teaches other African American athletes to persevere through any challenge that is faced.