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Essay: Jesse Owens: The Great American Who Won Four Olympic Gold Medals

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  • Published: 1 October 2019*
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  • Words: 874 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 4 (approx)

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Owens was the pioneering individual to get four Olympic gold medals. He was born on 13 the September 1913 in Oakville Alabama. During his junior high school years, Owens was a track sensation (Baker, 24). When he later joined the Ohio State University, he managed to win numerous NCAA titles. He has the accolade of being the first ever athlete to win four gold medals during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Owens can be regarded as a great American due to how he came to be. On top of winning the medals in Berlin, Owens also set three world records and managed to tie another fourth record.

It will support the notion that Jesse was a great American owing to his successes in the field of athletics, getting awarded a presidential medal and going on to be a successful businessman.


    The fact that Owens won so many awards during his lifetime has made him to be regarded as a great American. He was posthumously accorded the congressional gold medal by President Bush in 1990. Not many people have had the privilege of getting this award in the U.S. Owens was also presented with the presidential freedom medal which is highest ranked award given to any individual. During his studies at the Ohio State University, Owens won all the major tracks for three consecutive years which was not an easy fete (Schaap, 42).

    The grandson of slaves and son of a sharecropper, Owens was described as a frail toddler that was usually ill from struggles with chronic pneumonia and bronchial complications. He started working at a fairly young age of just seven. Owens picked over one hundred pounds of cotton daily to assist his family get food to eat. He moved out with his family to Cleveland at the age of nine where he came into contact with a society that was much different than the rural slower southern life he had grown accustomed to. One of the most notable changes he experienced was school. In the south, he was used to one-room schoolhouses while in Cleveland he had to contend with a far larger setting with teachers that were stricter.

    During his time at the East Technical School, Owen made a name for himself as a prolific sprinter. Owen set and broke records in the one hundred, two hundred yard runs as well as the long jump. He went on to join Ohio State University whereby he excelled as an athlete. During the 1935 Big 10 Championship, he overcame a nagging tailbone injury and managed to tie a world record in the one-hundred yard run. His long jump record of 26/8 ¼ stood for two and a half decades (Spivey, 28). Owen’s dominance during these games was just the beginning of a successful year. He went on to win four different events during the NCAA Championships, events during the AAU Championships as well as three others during the Olympics trials. He took part in forty two events during that year and won all of them.

    When it came to the 1936 Olympic games hosted in Berlin, Hitler expected them to be a German showcase as well as testament to Aryan superiority. He was against America including African American athletes in its entourage (Mandell and John, 51). However, it was the black athletes that cemented America’s reputation in the games by winning eleven gold medals with six having been won by African American athletes. He ended up being the most prolific athlete by capturing four gold medals and breaking two Olympic gold medals.

    While Owens assisted the U.S. cement its top position in the event, his return home was low key to the extent of being snubbed by President Roosevelt. He had to wait until 1976 when President Ford gave him the Presidential Freedom medal (Gentry and Heather, 41). The generally mild mannered athlete did not seem fazed by his home nation’s level of hypocrisy. He stated that when he came back after the Berlin games, he could not ride at the front of public buses. Owen was still forced to go to the rear door. He was also not free to live where he wanted within the United States due to deeply entrenched segregationist policies. Not getting invited to shake hands with Adolf Hitler was not a surprise since his triumphs at the Olympics still failed to earn him a invite to the White House (Gentry and Heather, 67). Owens retired from amateur athletics after his Olympic triumphs and began earning money for his physical exploits. He raced against horses as well as cars and at one time even played with the Harlem Globetrotters. During his later years, Owens eventually found his calling in the field of marketing and public relations. He established a business enterprise in the city of Chicago. His experiences accorded him the opportunities to travel around the United States to give talks at conventions and other business related gatherings.


    Jesse Owens passed away in Tucson, Arizona on 31st March 1980 due to lung cancer. He was a avid smoker using an entire pack of cigarettes a day during most of his life. Owens overcame numerous difficulties to compete and eventually thrive both in athletics and business. Jesse’s legacy include, setting or tying national high school records; Breaking three world records

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