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Jesse Owens to Hitler: Not So Fast, My Friend!
In 1936, the Olympic Games were held in Berlin, Germany, and the world was watching to see if Adolf Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy would prevail. But there was one athlete who had a different plan.
Jesse Owens, an African-American sprinter, arrived in Berlin ready to prove the Nazis wrong. And boy, did he ever. Owens won four gold medals, in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, 4×100-meter relay, and long jump, breaking records along the way.
But the best part? Hitler had to watch it all happen. Owens’ victory was a stunning rebuke to the Nazi regime and a moment of triumph for African-American athletes and the United States.
When asked how he felt about the victories, Owens famously replied, “I wasn’t invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either.”
Despite Owens’ snarky response, his success at the 1936 Olympics helped pave the way for future generations of black athletes and left a lasting legacy in the world of sports.
Jesse Owens’ performances at the 1936 Olympic Games, despite the challenges he encountered, continue to be some of the most iconic and unforgettable moments in Olympic history.
More fun facts about Jesse Owens and his Olympic accomplishments
- Owens was the first American track and field athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympic Games.
- Owens’ long jump world record of 8.13 meters (26 feet, 8.25 inches) stood for 25 years.
- During the long jump competition, Owens fouled on his first two attempts, putting him in danger of being eliminated. But on his third and final jump, he set a new Olympic record and secured the gold medal.
- After his victories, Owens was not invited to the White House to meet President Franklin D. Roosevelt, despite his status as an American hero.
- Owens’ success at the 1936 Olympics was not without controversy. Some members of the African-American community criticized him for participating in the Games, arguing that it was inappropriate to support a country that continued to discriminate against black people.