James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens (September 12, 1913 – March 31, 1980) was an American track and field athlete and four-time Olympic gold medalist.
Owens specialized in the sprints and the long jump and was recognized in his lifetime as “perhaps the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history”. His achievement of setting three world records and tying another in less than an hour at the 1935 Big Ten track meet has been called “the greatest 45 minutes ever in sport” and has never been equaled. At the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, Owens won international fame with four gold medals: 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump, and 4×100 meter relay. He was the most successful athlete at the games and as such has been credited with “single-handedly crushing Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy.”
The Jesse Owens Award, USA Track and Field’s highest accolade for the year’s best track and field athlete, is named after him, and he was ranked by ESPN as the sixth greatest North American athlete of the twentieth century and the highest-ranked in his sport.