9 Photos Of Jesse Owens At The 1936 Olympics Show What An American Hero Looks Like
The story of American hero Jesse Owens will be told on the big screen surprisingly for the first time ever in the new film Race, which is set to premiere on February 19. The movie will focus especially on Jesse Owens' victories at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Those games were notable, and highly controversial, for taking place in Nazi Germany during Adolf Hitler's reign. In the years before World War II, there were murmurings about terrible things happening in the country, specifically relating to anti-semitism and racism, but Germany was not prohibited from hosting the games. These were also the first Olympic games to be televised, and the games' radio broadcasts were heard all over the world. The two factors of Nazi politics and the increased visibility of the games set the stage for Jesse Owens and what might be the greatest moment in sports history.
It was widely accepted that Hitler planned to use the games as a showcase for his German athletes, as proof that the Aryan race was more superior than others. If he had succeeded, the Nazis likely would have used the games as evidence that their cause was just. But Hitler didn't count on one person: Jesse Owens. Owens was a black 22-year-old from Oakville, Alabama who would become the most successful athlete at the games. Competing in four Track & Field events: the 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, long jump, and 4x100 meter relay, Owens won gold medals in all of them — a feat that wouldn't be matched until Carl Lewis did it at the 1984 Olympics (which the formidable Soviet Union athletes boycotted).
Owens' victories are believed to have enraged Hitler, who held the belief that people of color were inferior and would not stand a chance against his Aryan athletes. With his record-setting dominance, Owens showed that the Nazis' theories on race were wholly unfounded, and his spectacular and heroic performance has become the stuff of legend. So to commemorate the man, here are nine photos of Jesse Owens competing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
1. The Long Jump
Owens' leap of 26-5½ feet was enough to grant him victory over German Luz Long, whom Owens claimed actually gave him advice during the event. "It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler," Owens said of Long, according to ESPN. "You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment. Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace."
2. Owens Accepts Gold
Owens stands in stark contrast to Long on the long jump podium, as he gives an American salute compared to the silver medalist's Nazi Salute. Long was later killed in action fighting for the Nazis during World War II, despite apparently not sharing their ideology. The two athletes are joined here by bronze medalist Naoto Tajima of Japan.
3. Too Fast
Owens flies through the 200 meter dash in 20.7 seconds, besting fellow American Mack Robinson, whose brother Jackie would go on to break baseball's color barrier in 1947.
4. Warming Up
On the S.S. Manhattan before heading to Germany, Owens (left) and fellow Team U.S.A. sprinters Ralph Metcalfe and Frank Wykoff warm up on the ship's deck. The three men teamed up with Foy Draper to set a new world record of 39.8 seconds in the 4x100 meter relay.
5. Dream Team
Owens (left) and his gold medal-winning, record-setting relay team.
6. A Star Is Born
Owens poses for a photo with Serbian soccer star Rodoljub Malenčić.
7. Angering the Germans
The look on that judges face says it all as Owens lands his impressive long jump.
8. The Before Portrait
A smiling Owens is seen here just a couple weeks before the Olympics that would change history. I wonder if he knew then what kind of success would await him?
9. The After Portrait
That is the face of a hero.
A Jesse Owens big screen biopic is far overdue, but it's quite possible that the reason there hasn't been one yet is because he's such a larger-than-life figure. Here's hoping that Race does justice to the most inspirational athlete of all time.