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Jesse Owens: from Hitler’s busy schedule to the cold silence of Roosevelt and the White House

Jesse Owens: from Hitler's busy schedule to the cold silence of Roosevelt and the White House

Jesse Owens, during the Berlin Olympics.Ullstein Bild Dtl.WORLD

When James Cleveland Owens (Jesse Owens) came to Berlin in the summer of 1936 to participate in the Olympics of Nazi propaganda grandeur, his fame had long preceded him. It was awaited with genuine anticipation.

On May 25, 1935, that grandson of slaves born in Danville (Alabama) on September 12, 1913 had entered the history of the sport by beating, in Ann Arbor (Michigan), in 45 minutes, five world records (in smooth yards or hurdles and long jump) and equal another. In Berlin, a year later, Owens would take part in the 100 meters, the 200 and the long jump.

Not in the 4×100 relays. ly Ralph metcalfe, the second best sprinter USA, had not practiced the baton changes and, in addition, according to the coach, they should leave a portion of glory to others. The team will be formed Sam stoller, Marty glickman, Frank Wykoff (fourth in the individual race) and Foy draper. But the president of the American Olympic Committee, the ultraconservative Avery brundageHe drew Stoller and Glickman, the only Jews in the American expedition, from the quartet to flatter Hitler, in an episode that still raises hives. Owens and Metcalfe replaced them. Owens, oblivious to the maneuver, would thus reach a fourth gold.

The first, the 100 meters, on August 3. In the qualifying series, Owens showed off without squeezing himself. Perform 10.3 in the first; 10.2 with a downwind in the second; and 10.4 in the semifinals. The final, six lanes, was served with three Americans, a Dutchman, a German and a Swede. Owens won with 10.3, ahead of Ralph Metcalfe (10.4), also silver four years earlier in Los Angeles, and the Dutch Martinus Osendarp (10.5). It was, in a way, a very politicized final. Metcalfe would be elected 34 years later to the US Congress. As for Osendarp, he would join the SS and spend seven years in prison after the German defeat.

Neither letter nor acknowledgment

The myth is widespread that Hitler He left the stadium so as not to greet Owens when he had congratulated the medalists from three previous events. In reality, the event occurred, the day before, with the winners in the high jump. Hitler had congratulated the winners of the first two finals of the day, Germans and Finns. But he left the venue before the high jumpers award ceremony, the Americans Cornelius johnson, David albritton Y Delos Thurber, because the first two were black.

Owens always defended that Hitler, because of his occupations, had a very strict schedule in his assistances to the stadium and had to leave before the 100-meter honors. Even so they waved at each other as the athlete passed him to address a television intervention. Perhaps. What does not admit of doubt is that the American president, Franklin Delano RooseveltHe never invited Owens to the White House or sent him any letter of recognition and tribute.