Jesse Owens

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameJames Cleveland "Jesse"•Owens
Used nameJesse•Owens
Nick/petnamesThe Buckeye Bullet, The Ebony Antelope
Born12 September 1913 in Danville, Alabama (USA)
Died31 March 1980 in Tucson, Arizona (USA)
Measurements178 cm / 71 kg
AffiliationsThe Ohio State Buckeyes, Columbus (USA)
NOC United States
Medals OG
Gold 4
Silver 0
Bronze 0
Total 4


By any definition, Jesse Owens was one of the greatest athletes of all-time. Many outstanding sportsmen have been given that sobriquet, but Owens was one of the very few deserving of the title. Two feats in particular ensured his place among sports immortals.

At Ann Arbor, Michigan, on 25 May 1935, he set five world records and equalled another within the space of one hour. The occasion was the Big Ten Championships and Owens started with a record-equalling 9.4 in the 100 y. Ten minutes later he took his only trial in the long jump and set a world record of 26-8¼ (8.13), which would remain unbeaten for 25 years. After another 10-minute break, Owens ran 20.3 for 220 yards on the straight. Fifteen minutes later, he clocked 22.6 for the 220 y hurdles, again on the straightaway. Because the times for both the 220 y flat race and hurdles bettered the existing records for the marginally shorter 200 m distances, Owens was also credited with the metric world records.

Owens’ second great triumph came at the Berlin Olympics the following year, when he won four gold medals and set a world record of 20.7 for 200 m around a turn and contributed to a second world record in the 4×100 m relay. At Berlin he was the leader of what the Germans termed “America’s Black Auxiliaries” and his dominance made a mockery of Hitler’s theories of Aryan supremacy.

Jesse Owens was the second youngest of the 11 children of an impoverished Alabama sharecropper; when he was nine, the family moved to Cleveland. Owens first showed his outstanding sporting talent at East Tech High School in Cleveland and then attended The Ohio State University. In addition to his above triumphs, he won several AAU and NCAA championships while a student at Ohio State.

Shortly after the Berlin Olympics, Owens turned professional at the age of 23 and experienced many years of financial hardship and racial discrimination. Eventually his public relations firm prospered and his last years were spent as a successful businessman. He became a member of the USOC, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1976, and was a dedicated and much sought-after speaker for the causes of Olympism and racial harmony. With Joe Louis, Jesse Owens was one of the first athletes in the United States to see his popularity cross racial lines.

Personal Bests: 100 – 10.2 (1936); 200 – 20.7 (1936); LJ – 8.13 (1935).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1936 Summer Olympics Athletics USA Jesse Owens
100 metres, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
200 metres, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
4 × 100 metres Relay, Men (Olympic) United States 1 Gold
Long Jump, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold

Olympic family relations

Special Notes