On this day in 1990 Jesse Owens, possibly the greatest track athlete in history was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President George H.W. Bush.
In the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games Owens stuck it to Adolf Hitler by winning four in the 100 and 200 meter sprints, the long jump and in the 4X 100 meter relay events. When discussing the greatest sports events in American history it has to be right up there with Joe Louis knocking out Max Schmeling in for the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship in round 1 in 1938 and the 1980 USA Olympic Hockey-Miracle on Ice. Two things that all three events had in common- they were more than a sports event and all the country were involved in it, it was political. The first two events mentioned Owens and Louis pre-World War II when Hitler was on the rise, the Miracle On Ice- at the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. These events not only belong in the sports history books but the American history books as well.
Jesse Owens was an incredible athlete. In 2000 at the end of the 20th Century- ESPN named Owens the 6th greatest North American Athlete of the Century. The year before the ’36 Berlin Games- Owens at the Big Ten track meet set or tied three world records in 45 minutes.
Jesse Owens was 22 at the ’36 Berlin Games, due to World War II there would be no games in 1940 or 1944. You have to think Jesse would have been a favorite to win more goal if the 1940 games had been held, at age 26 he would still be close to or at his prime.
Owens a pack a day smoker for 35 years died of lung cancer in 1980 at the age of 66.