Family name: Owens
Given names: James Cleveland known as “Jesse”
Nickname: The Buckeye Bullet
Date and place of birth: 12 September 1913 in Oakville, USA
Olympic titles: 4 gold medals in the 100m, 200m, long jump and 4 x 100m relay
The grandson of slaves, Jesse Owens entered the history of sport on 25 May 1935. In only 45 minutes, he beat three world records, including the long jump, which he held until 1960, and equalled a forth. At the Berlin Games, he confirmed his potential by winning four gold medals, a performance equalled only in 1984 at the Los Angeles Games by Carl Lewis.
Despite the presence of Adolf Hitler and a climate promoting the Aryan race, Jesse Owens was the hero of these Games. He earned the sympathy of the people of Berlin who rejected the Nazi propaganda, as well as that of German long jumper Luz Long.
On his return to the USA, he did not receive the welcome that he deserved, particularly from the US government, and his hopes for making his fortune faded.
To earn a living, Owens took part in exhibitions in which he raced against other athletes, and even horses or motorbikes. In 1976, he received one of the two highest US civil distinctions: the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He died on 31 March 1980 of lung cancer.