Jesse Owens

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It all goes so fast, and character makes the difference when it's close.

James Cleveland Owens (12 September 1913 - 31 March 1980) African-American athlete and civic leader; winner of 4 Gold medals in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany; he used the name Jesse beginning in childhood, when he gave his name as "J.C. Owens" and was misheard.

Sourced

  • Another old friend gone!
    • Reported response to learning that his last remaining world record had been broken (31 December 1960); as quoted in Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations (1988) compiled by James B. Simpson.
File:JesseOwensPD.JPG
The battles that count aren't the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself — the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us — that's where it's at.
  • The battles that count aren't the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself — the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us — that's where it's at.
  • When I passed the Chancellor he arose, waved his hand at me, and I waved back at him. I think the writers showed bad taste in criticizing the man of the hour in Germany.
    • On reports that Hitler had deliberately avoided acknowledging his victories, and had refused to shake his hand, in The Jesse Owens Story (1970) ISBN 0399603158
  • People say that it was degrading for an Olympic champion to run against a horse, but what was I supposed to do? I had four gold medals, but you can't eat four gold medals. There was no television, no big advertising, no endorsements then. Not for a black man, anyway.
  • I realized now that militancy in the best sense of the word was the only answer where the black man was concerned, that any black man who wasn't a militant in 1970 was either blind or a coward.
    • I Have Changed (1972)
  • Joe Louis and I were the first modern national sports figures who were black... But neither of us could do national advertising because the South wouldn't buy it. That was the social stigma we lived under.
    • The Tampa Tribune (1 April 1980)
The road to the Olympics, leads to no city, no country. It goes far beyond New York or Moscow, ancient Greece or Nazi Germany. The road to the Olympics leads — in the end — to the best within us.
  • The road to the Olympics, leads to no city, no country. It goes far beyond New York or Moscow, ancient Greece or Nazi Germany. The road to the Olympics leads — in the end — to the best within us.
  • It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler... You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Lutz Long at that moment. Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace. The sad part of the story is I never saw Long again. He was killed in World War II.
    • On the congratulations given by German athlete Lutz Long, a competitor in the long jump, who in some accounts he credited with giving him some friendly advice that helped him to win against him; as quoted in "Owens pierced a myth" by Larry Schwartz in ESPN SportsCentury. (2005)
  • When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about Hitler, I couldn't ride in the front of the bus. I had to go to the back door. I couldn't live where I wanted. I wasn't invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn't invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either.
    • As quoted in "Owens pierced a myth" by Larry Schwartz in ESPN SportsCentury. (2005)

Jesse Owens, Champion Athlete (1990)

Quotations of Owens from Jesse Owens, Champion Athlete (1990) by Tony Gentry ISBN 0791083721
  • We used to have a lot of fun. We never had any problems. We always ate. The fact that we didn't have steak? Who had steak?
  • She was unusual because even though I knew her family was as poor as ours, nothing she said or did seemed touched by that. Or by prejudice. Or by anything the world said or did. It was as if she had something inside her that somehow made all that not count. I fell in love with her some the first time we ever talked, and a little bit more every time after that until I thought I couldn't love her more than I did. And when I felt that way, I asked her to marry me ... and she said she would.
    • On his wife, Minnie Ruth Solomon
  • It all goes so fast, and character makes the difference when it's close.
  • I wanted no part of politics. And I wasn't in Berlin to compete against any one athlete. The purpose of the Olympics, anyway, was to do your best. As I'd learned long ago... the only victory that counts is the one over yourself.
  • To a sprinter, the hundred-yard dash is over in three seconds, not nine or ten. The first "second" is when you come out of the blocks. The next is when you look up and take your first few strides to attain gain position. By that time the race is actually about half over. The final "second" — the longest slice of time in the world for an athlete — is that last half of the race, when you really bear down and see what you're made of. It seems to take an eternity, yet is all over before you can think what's happening.
  • I decided I wasn't going to come down. I was going to fly. I was going to stay up in the air forever.
    • On his final record-breaking leap in the long-jump competition.
  • It dawned on me with blinding brightness. I realized: I had jumped into another rare kind of stratosphere — one that only a handful of people in every generation are lucky enough to know.
  • After I came home from the 1936 Olympics with my four medals, it became increasingly apparent that everyone was going to slap me on the back, want to shake my hand or have me up to their suite. But no one was going to offer me a job.
  • It was bad enough to have toppled from the Olympic heights to make my living competing with animals. But the competition wasn't even fair. No man could beat a race horse, not even for 100 yards. ... The secret is, first, get a thoroughbred horse because they are the most nervous animals on earth. Then get the biggest gun you can find and make sure the starter fires that big gun right by the nervous thoroughbred's ear.
  • We'd get into these little towns and tell 'em to get out the fastest guy in town and Jesse Owens would spot him ten yards and beat him.
  • People who worked with me or knew me still called me the "world's fastest human" because I almost never stopped. I'd found that I could get more done with no regular job or regular hours at all, but by being on my own, flying to speak here, help with a public relations campaign for some client there, tape my regular jazz radio show one morning at 5:00 a.m. before leaving on a plane for another city or another continent three hours later to preside over a major sporting event.
  • It's like having a pet dog for a long time. You get attached to it, and when it dies you miss it.
    • On having his world records beaten
  • The black fist is a meaningless symbol. When you open it, you have nothing but fingers — weak, empty fingers. The only time the black fist has significance is when there's money inside. There's where the power lies.

Unsourced

  • Find the good. It's all around you. Find it, showcase it and you'll start believing in it.
  • For a time, at least, I was the most famous person in the entire world.
  • Friendships are born on the field of athletic strife and the real gold of competition. Awards become corroded, friends gather no dust.
  • I always loved running — it was something you could do by yourself and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.
  • I let my feet spend as little time on the ground as possible. From the air, fast down, and from the ground, fast up.
  • If you don't try to win you might as well hold the Olympics in somebody's back yard. The thrill of competing carries with it the thrill of a gold medal. One wants to win to prove himself the best.
  • In the end, it’s extra effort that separates a winner from second place. But winning takes a lot more that that, too. It starts with complete command of the fundamentals. Then it takes desire, determination, discipline, and self-sacrifice. And finally, it takes a great deal of love, fairness and respect for your fellow man. Put all these together, and even if you don’t win, how can you lose?
  • It all goes so fast, and character makes the difference when it's close.
  • Life doesn't give you all the practice races you need.
  • One chance is all you need.
  • People come out to see you perform and you've got to give them the best you have within you. The lives of most men are patchwork quilts. Or at best one matching outfit with a closet and a laundry bag full of incongruous accumulations. A lifetime of training for just 10 seconds.
  • The only bond worth anything between human beings is their humanness.
  • To me, we must learn to spell the word RESPECT. We must respect the rights and properties of our fellowman. And then learn to play the game of life, as well as the game of athletics, according to the rules of society. If you can take that and put it into practice in the community in which you live, then, to me you have won the greatest championship.
  • We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.
    • Variant: We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.

External links

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