A hero who grabbed his chance and ran with it, African American track athlete James Cleveland Owens (1913-1980) was born on this day. His father was a poor Alabama sharecropper and his grandfather had been a slave.
"Find the good. It's all around you. Find it, showcase it, and you'll start believing in it," said the Olympic legend.
The star from Ohio State set a long-jump world record (26' 8-1/4") that stood for 25 years. "A lifetime of training for just ten seconds," he described.
Of Owen's ability, one spectator said, "He is a floating wonder, just like he has wings." Others called him a "black arrow" and "whirlwind."
Owens won four gold medals--the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, the broad jump, and with the 400-meter relay team--in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, shattering Adolf Hitler's claim of Aryan supremacy. "That's a grand feeling, standing up there. I never felt like that before," remembered Owens about accepting his laurel wreath and medal.
Film footage of that historical moment captured him standing erect, proud, and confident. In his autobiography, he admitted to holding back the tears.
"Friendships born on the field of athletic strife are the real gold of competition. Awards become corroded, friends gather no dust," he said.
About his remarkable sprint technique he explained, "I hold my breath during the last stretch. I stick with the field, breathing naturally until 30 yards from the finish. Then I take one big breath, tense all my abdominal muscles and set sail."
Awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1974, Owens said, "People come out to see you perform and you've got to give them the best you have within you."
Take your chance and run with it!