orig. James Cleveland Owens
Jesse Owens, 1936.
(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.
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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.