Jesse Owens to Hitler: Not So Fast, My Friend!

Fun Fact Monk Fun Fact Monk
March 2, 2023
In 1936, the Olympics were held in Nazi Germany, and African-American athlete Jesse Owens won four gold medals, disproving Hitler's theory of Aryan supremacy.

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.

1936 Olympics had more stories beyond Jesse Owens vs. Hitler

At the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, there was another story playing out behind the scenes that was just as remarkable as Jesse Owens’ triumph over Hitler.
It involved two women, Gretel Bergmann and Margaret Lambert, who were both high jumpers from Germany. Bergmann was Jewish and had fled the country to escape persecution, while Lambert was a non-Jewish German citizen.
Bergmann was initially left off the German Olympic team due to her religion, but after an international outcry, she was added to the team at the last minute. However, on the day of the high jump competition, she was pulled from the lineup and replaced by Lambert.
The decision was widely believed to have been made by the Nazi regime, which wanted to avoid the embarrassment of a Jewish athlete winning a medal on their home turf. Despite the switch, Lambert failed to medal, finishing fourth in the competition.
After the Games, Bergmann moved to the United States and became a physical education teacher. She later said of the incident, “The Nazis thought they would own the world, but we showed them differently. We didn’t win medals, but we won something much more important.”
The story of Bergmann and Lambert is a powerful reminder of the impact that discrimination and prejudice can have, even in the world of sports. But it also shows the resilience and courage of those who refuse to be silenced or erased.
Source: Andscape

Fun Fact Monk
Author Fun Fact Monk

I am the master of my domain. Fun Fact Thursdays? This is my house!