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This Day in History – August 9, 1936

Jesse Owens wins four gold medals in the Berlin Olympics

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On this day in 1936, Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the Berlin Olympics. James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens was an American track and field athlete and four-time Olympic gold medalist in the 1936 Games.

Owens specialized in sprints and long jumps. He was recognized as “perhaps the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history.” His achievement of setting three world records and attempting a fourth in less than an hour at the 1935 Big Ten track meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been called “the greatest 45 minutes ever in sport.”

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At the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, Owens achieved international fame with four gold medals: 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump, and 4 × 100-meter relay. He was the most successful athlete at the Games and, as a black man, was credited with “single-handedly crushing Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy.”

The Jesse Owens Award is USA Track and Field’s highest accolade for the year’s best track and field athlete. Owens was ranked by ESPN as the sixth greatest North American athlete of the twentieth century and the highest-ranked in his sport. In 1999, he was on the six-man list for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Century.

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