An astonishingly gifted athlete who excelled in the 100m, 200m, long jump and relay, Owens’ track record speaks for itself. In 1935, he managed to set three world records within the space of an hour at a meeting in Michigan. It remains a feat that has never been equalled.
His greatest moment, however, came a year later, in a politically charged environment. Owens travelled to Berlin to take part in the 1936 Olympics – an event overseen by Adolf Hitler, which the new German chancellor hoped would profile the supremacy of the Aryan ‘master race’.
It wasn’t to be: the African-American Owens stole the show. He won the 100m in 10.30 seconds, the 200m in 20.70 seconds, and then the long jump, with an impressive leap of 8.06 metres – apparently after getting some advice about his run-up from a German competitor, Luz Long. His fourth gold came in the 4x100m relay, in which Owens formed a key part of the team that set a new world record of 39.80 seconds.