I know Michael Phelps has 800 Gold Medals and countless others that have spanned 5 Olympics. He probably stores them in boxes in the garage. I know Simone Biles lived up to incredible expectations, none of that is wasted on me. I admire all of the athletes who exceeded the pressures that were put on them externally or internally. It was huge for the Brazilian Men’s beach volleyball team to win it at home, the pressure and the ecstasy of their victory go hand in hand. Michael Phelps might have the most medals ever but to me he is not the greatest Olympian ever, that honor I believe belongs to Jesse Owens.
Not only did Jesse have athletic expectations that were imposed on him, he had some small other events that were swirling around him and world as well. The leader of the country hosting the Olympic games had stated and I am paraphrasing that Ayrans were the master race. Huh, talk about pressure, you take a ship across the Atlantic, and I’m sure not everyone on the U.S Olympic team was leading the cause for racial equality. You show up in a foreign country, teetering on the brink of a war that is bent on exterminating races of people and where I’m not believing the red carpet was entirely rolled out for you. So what does he do? He goes out and crushes the competition to win 4 Gold Medals. That’s what I’m talking about!
I don’t think we can compare the pressure he faced with an athlete who goes to the games and is worried that their sponsorship deal might fall apart if they don’t win some gold. It was a different day and by all accounts Jesse Owens was such a gracious man and I believe downplayed any racial tension that existed. To me he has all the hallmarks of a true champion; natural talent, work ethic and true grace under pressure I don’t think any of us can imagine. My hat will always be off to the great Jesse Owens.