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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Superfan HOF--Jesse Owens

(To all the mouth-breathing Star Wars collectors out there: Yes, I know i's worth more if it's still in the packaging. You think I'm parting with this?)

Born September 12, 1913, Danville AL
Died March 31, 1980, Tucson AZ

Official site -- Wikipedia -- Foundation -- Museum -- Olympic Oak -- Ferry Field marker

Owens might be the best-known athlete* of the period between the wars, certainly the best-known American athlete. Partly this is due to his superior accomplishments, and partly due to time and place. He qualifies for the Hall of Fame on his three individual Olympic gold medals alone, and then there's the world records and AAU titles as well. He's the second-highest scoring pre-WWII athlete in the Supefan HOF system (after Paavo Nurmi).
(*athlete=one who competes in the sport of athletics)

There are quite a few myths floating around out there about Owens, many put forth by the man himself. Jeremy Schaap's recent book Triumph puts them to rest. But another myth is that he was a dominant sprinter.

The fact is that he was the world's top 100 man for just one year, 1936 (this according to the indesputable Maxwell Stiles). He ran the first official 10.2 clocking, but Charley Paddock undoubtedly ran the same time fifteen years earlier. Owens was much better in the 200, as he was at least the equal of Ralph Metcalfe in the pre-Olympic years. His famous five-world-record day rested partly on a rarely-competed event (220y hurdles), partly on getting two-for-one records (yards/meters), and also on being the umpteenth man to tie the 100y record.

In the long jump his dominance can not be overstated. He was the world's best long jumper starting with his senior year at Cleveland's East Tech High School and extending to the premature end to his career. His world-record jump in the midst of his five-record day was a leap into the future--it stood longer than Bob Beamon's record. Owens could have matched Carl Lewis's long-term dominance of the event had he not been prematurely kicked out of the sport.

Year Event Rank Mark Meets, etc.
1933 100 n/a 9.4y 3)AAU
200 n/a 20.7yS
LJ 1 24' 11¼" 1)AAU
1934 100 n/a 9.4y / 10.4 2)AAU
200 n/a 21.0yS
LJ 1 25' 7/8" 1)AAU
1935 100 n/a 9.4y 1)NCAA, 3)AAU
200 1 20.3yS WR 1)NCAA
LJ 1 26' 8¼" WR 1)NCAA, 2)AAU
would have been Athlete of the Year
1936 100 1 9.4y / 10.2 WR 1)NCAA, 1)AAU, 1)Oly Trials, 1)Oly Gms
200 1 20.7 WR 1)NCAA, 1)Oly Trials, 1)Oly Gms
LJ 1 26' 3" 1)NCAA, 1)AAU, 1)Oly Trials, 1)Oly Gms
would have been Athlete of the Year
S = race on a straightaway

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