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Jesse Owens
An Athlete for All Time

Jesse Owens has been called the greatest track athlete in history. Four of his Big Ten records still stand unbroken in the conference; his last world record didn't fall until 1960-a full 25 years after Owens' spectacular two years of sprinting, hurdling and broad jumping in 1935 and 1936 as an Ohio State University and U.S. Olympic track team member.

His greatness, however, as it is with some chosen few, appeared to be preordained for him. How else would this particular son in a family of nine children of poverty-ridden Alabama sharecropper rise to walk literally with kings, and then to die mantled with the glory of everyone's Hall of Fame-for track, citizenship and other qualities which magnify a man towards immortality.

Owens began setting records for his age group in junior high school and won three high school state championships while a member of the Cleveland East Technical High School track team. He set three National Scholastic Records as a high school athlete. His time for the 100-yard dash, 9.4 seconds, matched the world record at that time. 

Owens continued to earn national attention from the moment he joined the track team at Ohio State as a freshman in 1933-34. Called "The Buckeye Bullet," he finished his college track career with a record of eight Big Ten and eight NCAA championships. But his greatest sports achievements came in a two-year period after he spurted to international recognition with the "The Greatest Single Day Ever in Track History," as one sports magazine headlined it.

In a 1935 Big Ten meet at Ann Arbor, Owens set three world records (220-yard dash, 220-yard low hurdles and broad jump) and tied a fourth, (100-yard dash), a performance never again matched by a track athlete. His times in the 220-yard dash and 220-yard hurdles also were world record times for the same events at the 200-meter distance, which is about a yard shorter than 220 yards. Under 1935 rules, credit for both event records was not allowed. Had he made those runs today, Owens would have been credited with records for both the 220-yard and 200-meter times in both events, for a total of five new world records in a single meet. All that transpired within a span of about 70 minutes. No other track athlete ever had such a day. 

Owens' Olympic feats the following year in Berlin-four gold medals and four Olympic records, three individual and the 400-meter relay gained greater world and national acclaim. New York accorded Owens a ticker tape parade-the ultimate in recognition in those days-when he returned from Germany.

Owens at one time held five world records in officially sanctioned track and field events, and set several more for his indoor performances. His record events were the 60-yard dash (6.1 seconds), the 100-yard dash (9.4 seconds), the 220-yard and 200-meter yard dashes (20.3 seconds), the 220-yard and 200-meter low hurdles (22.6 seconds), the broad jump (25'9" indoors and 26'8  1/4" outdoors) and the 400-meter relay (39.8 seconds). His broad jump record in 1935 remained the longest in the world until 1960; even his own winning Olympic jump the following year fell three inches short of that monumental leap.

A 1950 Associated Press national poll selected Owens as the greatest track athlete of the first half of the 20th century. As late as 1964, a survey by a national magazine of track and field coaches around the country singled out Owens as the best track athlete in history. The National Collegiate Athletic Association presented him with its highest honor, the Theodore Roosevelt Award in 1974. That same year, Owens was [[image]] inducted into the Track and Field Hall of Fame. In the recently announced USOC Hall of Fame, Owens garnered the most points of any Olympian. To this day, no athlete has emerged to challenge Jesse Owens' place in history as the greatest all-time performer the sport has ever seen.

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