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7 Facts About Jesse Owens You Probably Didn’t Know


Jesse Owens was an American track & field athlete who participated in the long jump and sprints. He participated in the Olympics and set world records. Owens also won multiple medals throughout his illustrious career and was considered to be one of the most famous athletes of his time. In this article, we’ll outline more facts about Jesse Owens.

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A look at Jesse Owens’ career. Video Credit: Grunge

Mispronunciation Led to His Name, Jesse

One of the most interesting facts about Jesse Owens has to do with his name. His birth name was James Cleveland Owens. He lived with his family in Oakville, Alabama, when he was nine, they moved to Cleveland, Ohio,  and went to school there. 

During a class session, the teacher asked him his name, to which he said J.C. However, the teacher heard Jesse, and this name stuck, hence Jesse Owens.

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High School Sensation

Owens was a student at East Technical High School, where he took part in track & field competitions. Throughout his school life, he participated in sports and met coach Charles Riley as a student at Fairmount Junior High School

Although he wasn’t known at this level, he burst onto the scene when he was in high school. Owens competed in the 100-yard dash and also the long jump at the 1933 high school games.

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Held the Long Jump Record

7 Facts About Jesse Owens You Probably Didn’t Know
Jesse Owens in a broad jump midair. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-4.0

After his high school records, Jesse Owens took his talents to the world stage. In 1935, he set a long jump record after a 26 feet 8 ¼ inch. His world record stood for 25 years. Ralph Boston jumped 8.21 meters to surpass Owens and become the world record holder.

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Won 4 Olympic Medals

This is a must in the list of facts about Jesse Owens. The 1936 Berlin Olympics was a breakthrough for him on the international stage. Owens won four Olympic gold medals. Owens completed the 100m and 200m sprints in 10.3 seconds and 20.7 seconds, respectively. 

He then won the 4 by 100m relay with his teammates and the long jump after leaping to 8.06 meters. His record of winning 4 medals in the same event wasn’t equaled until the 1984 Olympics when Carl Lewis matched this. 

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First Black Captain of the Ohio Varsity Team

Jesse Owens joined Ohio State University. He continued his record-breaking performances, winning eight National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Championships in 1935 and 1936. As a result, he earned himself the captaincy of the Ohio Varsity Team, the first black person to hold the position. 

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Worked as a Baseball Running Coach

The New York Mets baseball team asked for Jesse Owens services to improve the sprinting technique of its players. However, things were so bad for them that not even Owens could help them.

Jesse Owens Didn’t Benefit Financially From His Career

One of the saddest facts about Jesse Owens was that he struggled financially despite winning multiple medals. After 1936, he took up different jobs like a playground janitor, gas station attendant, and dry cleaning firm, racing against trucks, motorbikes, cars, and horses for cash prizes. 

Owens was one of the best athletes of his generation. Unfortunately, racial segregation held him back, and wasn’t able to fully get the benefits of being an elite athlete. 

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