Birth of Superstar Athlete Jesse Owens 

U.S. #2496 – Owens claimed the secret to his success was that “I let my feet spend as little time on the ground as possible. From the air, fast down, and from the ground, fast up.”

Born on September 12, 1913, Jesse Owens broke several track and field records and won four Olympic gold medals. He was ranked as the greatest athlete in the history of his sport.

The youngest of ten children, Owens spent his childhood in Alabama and then Ohio. He took on various jobs as a child to help out the family, including delivering groceries, loading freight cars, and working in a shoe repair store. He discovered his passion for running at an early age, which eventually earned him national attention in high school when he tied the world record for the 100-yard dash.

Owens’ star continued to shine in college. He won a record eight individual NCAA championships. Then, on May 25, 1935, at the Big Ten Track Meet, he set three world records (long jump, 220-yard sprint, and 220-yard low hurdles) and tied a fourth (100-yard dash) in the course of just 45 minutes. It’s been called “the greatest 45 minutes ever in sport.”

U.S. #3185j – Click this image to read more about Owens’ 1936 Olympic appearance.

The following year Owens competed in the Berlin Olympics in Germany. Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler had planned to use the games as a display of German power and superiority. Owens won four gold medals at those games, making him the most successful athlete of the competition credited with obliterating Hitler’s claims of Aryan superiority.

After the Olympics, Owens and the rest of the Olympic team were invited to compete in Switzerland. Owens declined, opting to return to the U.S. to take advantage of commercial offers he’d received. However, this upset American athletic officials who withdrew his amateur status, ending his career.

Owens was unable to formally compete for the rest of his life, though he remained connected to sports. He helped form the West Coast Baseball Association (WCBA) and was vice president of one of the teams. He toured with the team and entertained audiences between doubleheaders by racing against horses. He went on to try out other business ventures and was later a U.S. goodwill ambassador.

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  1. Thank you for this posting. It is important to remember and celebrate Jesse Owens and his achievements in the face of rising Nazi infamy.

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