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Jesse Owens

In the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Jesse Owens stood Adolf Hitler's theory of Aryan superiority on its head. The 400-strong German team won the most gold medals, but only five in athletics. The Americans, and among them, the Blacks, dominated the track and field and Owens was the undisputed star. He came into the Games with seven world records to his name (the one in the long jump stood for 25 years!). At Berlin, he won four gold medals in the space of ten days. And he did it in an unassuming and good-natured way. In an atmosphere created specially to intimidate black men, he gently reminded the world of their athletic prowess.
He won the 100 metres in 10.3 seconds, almost a metre ahead of his nearest rival. He then took the 200 m gold with fluid ease in an Olympic record of 20.7 seconds. He blazed off the blocks in the 4x100 m relay to give the team an invincible start. In the long jump he leaped 8.06 m, an Olympic record that stood till 1960.
It is said that Hitler was so put out by his success that he walked out of the stadium when the medals were being given. Perhaps the greatest irony of all was that when Owens returned home, he still had to sit in the segregated section of the bus.


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