James Cleveland "Jesse" Owens (September 12, 1913 – March 31, 1980) was an American track and field athlete who won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games.
Owens specialized in the sprints and the long jump and was recognized in his lifetime as "perhaps the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history." He set three world records and tied another, all in less than an hour, at the 1935 Big Ten track meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan—a feat that has never been equaled and has been called "the greatest 45 minutes ever in sport".
At the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, he achieved international fame by winning four gold medals: 100 meters, long jump, 200 meters, and four × 100-meter relay. He was the most successful athlete at the Games and, as a black American man, was credited with "single-handedly crushing Hitler's myth of Aryan supremacy." However, Owens commented that he was "snubbed" by the U.S. president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, as he was not invited to the White House to shake Roosevelt's hand.
The Jesse Owens Award in the U.S.A. Track and Field's highest accolade for the year's best track and field athlete. ESPN ranked Owens as the sixth greatest North American athlete of the 20th century and the highest-ranked sport. In 1999, he was on the six-man shortlist for the B.B.C.'s Sports Personality of the Century.