1936, 100m, Men, Olympic Games, Berlin
Jesse Owens in a series of 100m races at the Berlin Olympics culminating in his gold medal race.
Date: 2 August 1936 / 3 August 1936
Rank Name Nation Time
1 Jesse Owens USA 10.3
2 Ralph Metcalfe USA 10.4
3 Martinus Osendarp NED 10.5
4 Frank Wykoff USA
5 Erich Borchmeyer GER
6 Lennart Strandberg SWE
In early 1936 Owens lost three times to the great Alabama-born sprinter Eulace Peacock. And it wasn't until one week before the Olympic trials that Jesse was able to defeat Ralph Metcalfe. But he peaked when he needed to, winning the 100, 200, and long jump at the trials, and he went to Berlin as the favourite in all three events.
Before the week was out, Jesse Owens had earned three more gold medals.
After the Olympics Jesse worked as a paid campaigner for presidential candidate, Alf Landon. When Landon lost to Roosevelt in a landslide, Owens took a $130-a-month job as a playground instructor in Cleveland. In an attempt to make ends meet, the hero of Berlin, allowed promoters to stage exhibitions in which he raced against horses, dogs, and motorcycles. Tiring of this, he returned to his job as a playground instructor. Then he lent his name to a chain of cleaning stores which went bankrupt, leaving Jesse $114,000 in debt. In the 1950s he finally achieved financial security when he opened a public relations firm and -became a public speaker on behalf of various corporate sponsors. He developed a repertoire of five basic speeches including ones on religion, patriotism, and marketing for salesmen. "In the words of writer William Oscar Johnson, Jesse Owens had become "a professional good example."
In 1968 Owens took the side of the U.S. Olympic Committee in its struggle with militant black athletes and two years later he wrote a book called Blackthink, which criticized racial militancy. However in 1972 he published another book, I Have Changed, retracting his earlier criticisms. After 35 years of pack-a-day cigarette smoking, Jesse Owens died of lung cancer in Tucson, Arizona, on March 31, 1980. Four years later a street in Berlin was renamed in his honour.
Would-be Olympic sprint champions might be interested to know the secret of Owens' success. In 1936 he told one London reporter, "I let my feet spend as little time on the ground as possible. From the air, fast down, and from the ground, fast up. My foot is only a fraction of the time on the track."
Extracted from "The Complete Book Of The Olympics" by David Wallechinsky