Jesse Owens – Track and Field Athlete in 1936.
The son of a sharecropper and the grandson of a slave, Jesse became the first American track and field athlete to win four gold medals – in front of Hitler in Nazi germany and in a time marked by rampant racism in America and abroad. He is a true American Hero.
I had a striking realization in 2012, during my first week of training with the National Team at the Olympic Training Center. Powerful pictures of monumental USA All-Stars dressed every wall of every building, reminding me (almost intimidating me) that mediocrity is a foreign concept around here. I remember staring specifically at a picture of Jesse Owens (same as below), and there was something about it that drew me in. It wasn’t an image of him on the track shedding greatness. Rather, it was a simple image of him walking in U-S-A sweats with a smile on his face.
The picture made him “human” to me. It made me think of a young Jesse Owens, before a glimmer of fame, who ran as fast as he could for the very first time, and fell in love with it.
It was Jesse Owens’ love for the game that made him ordinary. And it was the odds he overcame, that made him extraordinary. It is important to differentiate the two. Many have passed by that picture and have only seen some untouchable greatness. However, when I saw that image 3 years ago, I could see me – a hard working athlete with a passion, and I could see hope – that no matter what stands in my way, all odds can be overcome.