A moment that changed sport: Jesse Owens rips up the script at the 1936 Olympics

It’s just over 80 years to the date that the African-American sprinter stunned the world at the Olympic Games

A moment that changed sport: Jesse Owens rips up the script at the 1936 Olympics

/ AP/Press Association Images

It’s not often sporting legacy and social history intertwine.

In the autumn of 1936, Germany welcomed the world into its backyard and prepared to present it with the the globe’s finest athletes.

After being awarded the Olympic Games in 1931, Adolf Hitler was ready to showcase his thoroughbred Aryan competitors, determined to prove his athletes were the best on the planet.

Then came Jesse Owens.

Jesse Owens in a starting position. Image Credit: / AP/Press Association Images

The son of a sharecropper from Alabama, Owens was the 22-year-old African-American sprinter who was about to rip up Hitler’s script.

The message of "racial superiority" was one which Nazi Germany were keen to promote and their blonde-haired, blue-eyed supermen were preparing to blitz every competition they took part in.

So when they went to the 100m starting blocks that day, no one expected Owens to trouble these specimens of human conditioning.

But a mere 10.3 seconds later, the whole world would know his name.

The American proved too powerful for compatriot Ralph Metcalfe and Dutch sprinter Tinus Osendarp, and by equaling the standing world record, Owens went on to make a mockery of Hitler’s swastika toting athletes.

Against a backdrop of lavish Nazi pageantry, he then claimed gold in the 200m (in 20.7 seconds), 4x100m relay and long-jump (with an effort of 26 feet and 5 3/8 inches), setting new world records in each along the way.

"We all have dreams," Owens once famously said, "But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort."

The Ohio State athlete exemplified the spirit of the Olympic Games and will forever be remembered for his remarkable performance at the 1936 games, dispelling the notion of Hitler's superior Aryan race.

An version of this article was originally published on August 3 2015