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Berlin 1936 - Key Moments

Hail Jesse

Adolf Hitler and his generals saw the Berlin Games as the perfect opportunity to "prove" Nazi propaganda -- especialy their theories on the supremacy of the Aryan race over Jews, blacks and other non-Germans. American Jesse Owens had other ideas.

In a matter of days, the "Black Pearl" shattered this propaganda like a house of cards by achieving an unprecedented run of four gold medals in the 100-meter and 200-meter runs, the long jump and the 4x100 relay. Much to Hitler's disappointment.

For Owens, it was the result of pure athletic ability that first was noticed on the track of Fairmont Junior High School in Cleveland one afternoon in 1928. Only 15 years old, he ran the 100-yard dash in 9.8 seconds before jumping 1.85 meters in the high jump and 7.65 meters in the long jump.

A few weeks before the Berlin meeting, Owens gave notice of his intention to shine by smashing the 100 world record with a time of 10.2 seconds. This son of a sharecropper had two objectives tied to the Games: to win a medal for his country, but above all, to establish the fact that all races are equal.

Hitler in disarray

His first move came with his first medal in the 100 final, in which he set an Olympic record of 10.3 seconds, pulling ahead of his compatriot Ralph Metcalfe.

In the 200, he beat another compatriot, Matthew Robinson. Then, in the long jump, he overtook Lutz Long on his last attempt with a distance of 8.06 meters to win his third title -- much to the disappointment of Hitler who, having already welcomed and congratulated many victorious athletes, left the stadium quickly to avoid congratulating Owens.

Owens continued his haul with a team win in the 4x100, helping establish a world record of 39.8 seconds.

Unfortunately, on his return to his homeland, the shine soon wore off for Owens. In short, the rest of his career was less fruitful, and he was accused of professionalism. At only 24, he was denied the right to participate in further Olympic competition.

Owens subsequently spent his time working for the improvement of the treatment of black Americans, meriting him the title "United States ambassador for the Third World" by President Dwight Eisenhower.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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