James Cleveland Owens is one of the most famed record breaking athletes in the world.
In 1913, James Cleveland Owens was born as the seventh child of Henry and Emma Owens in Oakville, Alabama. Right away, the family started calling him J.C. and the name stuck. As a result, when the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio and James started at a new school, he introduced himself as J.C. The only problem was that his southern drawl got in the way. His teacher and fellow students were unable to understand James’ thick southern accent. So J.C. sounded to them like Jesse and this situation is what forced J.C. Owens to eventually go by Jesse Owens.
As most of you probably know, Jesse Owens is one of the greatest record breaking runners of all time. One of his most celebrated moments was in 1935 at the Big Ten held in Ann Arbor Big. After falling down a flight of stairs earlier that week and still reeling from back pain, he ran well enough to break 3 world records. They are as follows:
- 220-yard dash in 20.3 seconds
- 220-yard low hurdles in 22.6 seconds
- Broad Jump at 26 feet 8¼ inches
These record breaking events convinced Jesse Owens, who was a sophomore at Ohio State at the time, that he was ready for the 1936 Olympics. It was a moment that inspired him as well as others.
A year later at the 1936 Olympics held in Nazi Germany, Jesse Owens continued to break records. As a consequence, he ended up winning four gold medals and being the first American in History to do this in a single Olympic meet. It was an event that showed his strong athleticism and bucked against Hitler’s idea that his Aryan nation was superior.
From this point on, Jesse Owens name was a staple in American history. Although he wasn’t offered endorsements and other deals Olympic athletes get today, he didn’t let this stop him. He used his athleticism to provide for his family in a variety of ways including as a motivational speaker up unto his death in 1980. However, even in death, he triumphed. Ten years after his death, he was awarded (posthumously) the Congressional Gold Medal by President George H.W. Bush. It was an honor well deserved because Owens showed humanity that when hard work meets up with opportunity it can do great things regardless of all of the barriers put in front of it. Therefore, he is a role model for anyone trying to do big things in life.