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4 Олимпийские медали
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Jesse OWENS: биография
Some might argue for Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps when it comes to selecting the greatest male Olympian of all time – but arguably nobody made a greater impact, or personified Olympic values, than Jesse Owens.
An astonishingly gifted athlete who excelled in the 100m, 200m, long jump and relay, Owens’ track record speaks for itself. In 1935, he managed to set three world records within the space of an hour at a meeting in Michigan. It remains a feat that has never been equalled.
His greatest moment, however, came a year later, in a politically charged environment. Owens travelled to Berlin to take part in the 1936 Olympics – an event overseen by Adolf Hitler, which the new German chancellor hoped would profile the supremacy of the Aryan ‘master race’.
It wasn’t to be: the African-American Owens stole the show. He won the 100m in 10.30 seconds, the 200m in 20.70 seconds, and then the long jump, with an impressive leap of 8.06 metres – apparently after getting some advice about his run-up from a German competitor, Luz Long. His fourth gold came in the 4x100m relay, in which Owens formed a key part of the team that set a new world record of 39.80 seconds.
The significance of Owens’ performance has resonated through the years and has meant different things to different people. It was not lost on Owens that in many ways, he was treated better by the supremacists of Nazi Germany – who allowed him to stay in the same hotel and mix with other athletes – than he was back in racially-segregated America. His achievements were barely acknowledged by his own government (“Although I wasn't invited to shake hands with Hitler, I wasn't invited to the White House to shake hands with the President either”, he later said), and despite becoming famous in America, he struggled to find lucrative work. Owens became an important symbol in the struggle for equality.
His lasting friendship with German long jump silver medallist Long – who died in WWII fighting for the Nazi regime – was reflective of how friendships formed at the Games crossed all boundaries.
War denied Owens the chance to extend his Olympic legend and garner further medals – who knows what he might have achieved at a 1940 or 1944 Games. But he did more than enough during that week in Berlin. His record of four athletic golds wasn’t equalled until Carl Lewis did so at Los Angeles 1984. His legacy, meanwhile, will probably never be surpassed.