Remembering Owens's Dash

Jesse Owens
It was August 3, 2003 -- the day that a young African-American named Jesse Owens flew 100 meters down the inside lane of a hard clay track in Berlin to win his first gold medal at the 1936 Olympics.

Commissioned by Adolf Hitler to produce a celebration of German athletic supremacy, documentary filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl instead found herself capturing the power and beauty of Owens' every stride. It was, however, not quite what Hitler had in mind.

But Owens' 100-meter sprint was just the beginning. He won his second gold medal in the long jump with a leap of over 26 feet.

"I decided I wasn't going to come down," Owens said afterwards.

Once he finally did come down he won a third gold medal in the 200-meter dash, and he won a fourth by leading the US team to victory in the 400-meter relay.

Although Owens' victories in Germany won him headlines, interviews and a tickertape parade back home, they did not end discrimination in America. Therefore, Jesse Owens labored with dignity and grace the rest of his life.

And for his efforts he was to receive one more medal -- when in 1976 President Gerald Ford awarded him the Medal of Freedom -- America's highest civilian honor.