Jesse Owen, the phenomenal American track and field athlete was a sporting legend. His exceptional achievements got his name etched in history, and how! The remarkable champion passed away at only 66, due to lung cancer on March 31, 1980. This year marks the legend’s 42nd death anniversary. As we fondly remember Jesse Owen, let’s take a look at some rare, surprising facts about the brilliant sports personality’s life as a tribute.
Here are some facts one may not know about the Hero of the 1936 Berlin Olympics:
1. Change in name due to an incident of mispronunciation- Born as James Cleveland Owens, the athlete was called ‘JC’ by his family. At the age of 9, when he went to Bolton Elementary School after moving to Cleveland, his teacher thought he was “Jesse” instead but the latter being too shy did not correct his new teacher.
2. This renowned athlete was the first black captain of an Ohio State University sports team. During a time when black athletes were not allowed to live on campus, Owen had procured this title by virtue of his merit.
3. Owens earned the title of the “Buckeye Bullet”, after smashing records for the Ohio State Buckeyes track team.
4. In 1999, Owen was on the six-man short-list for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Century.
5. In honour of the track star, there is an award named after him. It is called the Jesse Owens Award which is the USA Track and Field’s topmost accolade given to the year’s best track and field athlete.
6. Olympic track and field champion, Jesse Owen had won 4 gold medals at a single Olympiad (1936 Summer Olympics, Berlin, Germany): 100 meters, long jump, 200 meters, and 4 × 100-meter relay.
7. This iconic track star single-handedly disproved Hitler’s myth of Aryan racial supremacy by consistently stunning the world by his achievements. He was the most accomplished athlete, a black man who left an indelible imprint on that eventful year of 1936 games.
8. In 1935, at the Big Ten Championships in Ann Arbor, Jesse had set 3 world records and tied another; and all of it in less than 60 minutes at this 1935 Big Ten track meet in Michigan. This extraordinary feat was said to be ‘the greatest 45 minutes ever in sport’.
9. Owen ran in Berlin games wearing handcrafted shoes by the founder of Adidas. German shoemaker Adolf “Adi” Dassler had handcrafted his leather track shoes with extra long spikes.
10. In order to earn money, Owen participated in stunt races against dogs, motorcycles and even horses during halftime of soccer matches and in between doubleheaders of Negro League baseball games. Despite his fame, he faced trouble with money.