Owens, Jesse

orig. James Cleveland Owens

born Sept. 12, 1913, Oakville, Ala., U.S.
died March 31, 1980, Phoenix, Ariz.

U.S. track-and-field athlete.

At Ohio State University in 1935, he broke or equaled four world track records in one day, setting a new long-jump record that would stand for 25 years. In the 1936 Olympics in Berlin he won four gold medals, tying the Olympic record in the 100-m run, breaking the Olympic record in the 200-m run, running the final segment for the world-record-breaking U.S. 400-m relay team, and breaking the listed world record for the long jump. This performance by an African American dramatically foiled Adolf Hitler's intention to use the games to show Aryan racial superiority. For a time, Owens held alone or shared the world records for all sprint distances recognized by the International Amateur Athletic Federation.

Jesse Owens, 1936.

AP/Wide World Photos

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▪ American athlete
byname of  James Cleveland Owens  
born September 12, 1913, Oakville, Alabama, U.S.
died March 31, 1980, Phoenix, Arizona
 American track-and-field athlete, who set a world record in the running broad jump (also called long jump) that stood for 25 years and who won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. His four Olympic victories were a blow to Adolf Hitler (Hitler, Adolf)'s intention to use the Games to demonstrate Aryan superiority.

      As a student in a Cleveland, Ohio, high school, Owens won three events at the 1933 National Interscholastic Championships in Chicago. In one day, May 25, 1935, while competing for Ohio State University (Columbus) in a Western (later Big Ten) Conference track-and-field meet at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), Owens equaled the world record for the 100-yard dash (9.4 sec) and broke the world records for the 220-yard dash (20.3 sec), the 220-yard low hurdles (22.6 sec), and the long jump (8.13 metres [26.67 feet]).

      Owens's performance at the 1936 Berlin Olympics has become legend, both for his brilliant gold-medal efforts in the 100-metre run (10.3 sec, an Olympic record), the 200-metre run (20.7 sec, a world record), the long jump (8.06 metres [26.4 feet]), and the 4 × 100-metre relay (39.8 sec) and for events away from the track. One popular tale that arose from Owens's victories was that of the “snub,” the notion that Hitler refused to shake hands with Owens because he was an African American. In truth, by the second day of competition, when Owens won the 100-metre final, Hitler had decided to no longer publicly congratulate any of the athletes. The previous day the International Olympic Committee president, angry that Hitler had publicly congratulated only a few German and Finnish winners before leaving the stadium after the German competitors were eliminated from the day's final event, insisted that the German chancellor congratulate all or none of the victors. Unaware of the situation, American papers reported the “snub,” and the myth grew over the years.

      Despite the politically charged atmosphere of the Berlin Games, Owens was adored by the German public, and it was German long jumper Carl Ludwig (“Luz”) Long who 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. Unsettled, he foot-faulted the second attempt. Before Owens's 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.

      For a time, Owens held alone or shared the world records for all sprint distances recognized by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF; later International Association of Athletics Federations).

      After retiring from competitive track, Owens engaged in boys' guidance activities, made goodwill visits to India and East Asia for the U.S. Department of State, served as secretary of the Illinois State Athletic Commission, and worked in public relations.

Additional Reading
A recent biography is William J. Baker, Jesse Owens: An American Life (1986).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Owens, Jesse — orig. James Cleveland Owens (12 sep. 1913, Oakville, Ala., EE.UU.–31 mar. 1980, Phoenix, Ariz.). Atleta estadounidense. En 1935, mientras competía por la Universidad del estado de Ohio, quebró o igualó cuatro récords mundiales de atletismo en un… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Owens, Jesse (James) — (1913 1980)    The African American champion athlete was born James Owens in Alabama, but his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, when he was young. After studying at a local high school, he went to Ohio State University, where he quickly excelled… …   Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era

  • Jesse Owens — in 1936 Personal information Full name James Cleveland Owens Nationality American Born September 12 …   Wikipedia

  • Jesse Owens — al inicio de la carrera de 200 metros lisos donde rompió el récord mundial en las Olimpiadas de Berlín. James Cleveland Jesse Owens (Oakville, 12 de septiembre de 1913 Tucsón, 31 de marzo de 1980) fue un popular atleta estadounidense de origen… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Jesse Owens — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Owens. Jesse Owens …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Jesse Owens — noun United States athlete and Black American whose success in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin outraged Hitler (1913 1980) • Syn: ↑Owens, ↑James Cleveland Owens • Instance Hypernyms: ↑athlete, ↑jock * * * Jesse Owens …   Useful english dictionary

  • Jesse — /jes ee/, n. 1. the father of David. I Sam. 16. 2. a male given name: from a Hebrew word meaning God exists. * * * (as used in expressions) Jackson Jesse Louis Jesse Louis Burns Owens Jesse James Jesse and James Frank Jesse Woodson James and… …   Universalium

  • Jesse — (as used in expressions) Jackson, Jesse (Louis) Jesse Louis Burns James, Jesse y James, Frank Jesse Woodson James y Alexander Franklin James Owens, Jesse …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Jesse Owens — beim Start in Berlin bei den Olympischen Spielen 1936 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium — Location 2450 Fred Taylor Drive Columbus, OH 43210 Broke ground October 13, 1998 Opened August 4, 2001 Closed Open …   Wikipedia

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