Three years ago, a German sportswriter came forward with a claim that Adolf Hitler did not snub Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, the ones where Owens won a then-unprecedented four track and field gold medals. In fact, the sportswriter revealed, Hitler privately shook Owens' hand after he'd won the 100 meters.
There is no photograph to prove the encounter happened, which even if it had wouldn't have changed the fact that at a time in history when Hitler was espousing Aryan racial superiority, Owens had gone out and showed the world he was wrong.
Owens' four-gold haul in the 1936 Games is the greatest up-yours performance in the history of sport, even if he didn't treat it that way. No one could have questioned Owens had he turned his back on Hitler as he stood on the medal stand those four times, Nazi salutes all around him. But he rose above that.
"I've always hoped to be a motivating force for good," he said, "because people have given so much to me."
The greatness of Jesse Owens wasn't just that he won four gold medals in Hitler's backyard. It's how he won – with class.
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