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American athlete Jesse Owens competing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

There is no doubting that America's Jesse Owens was the star of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

The Buckeye Bullet - his nickname a reference to his Ohio roots - became the first man to win the 100m, 200m, long jump and 4x100m relay at the same Olympics.

He set three Olympic records, tied a fourth and became great friends with German long jumper Luz Long who offered him advice during qualifying.

Owens was in danger of not reaching the final, but Long told him to alter his run up and take off short of the board - he did and went on to beat Long.

Now we've got the initial facts out the way, let's get onto a few of the stories that arose out of the Games.

Much was made about Owens being a black athlete and destroying German leader Adolf Hitler's plans to use the Games to prove his theory of Aryan supremacy.

Whether that is completely true is open to debate

Certainly Hitler would not have been best pleased to see Owens win, but the fact that Berlin was hosting the Games was a publicity coup in itself and German athletes went on to top the medal table by some distance, so were Owens' four golds more of a blip?

Hitler did not directly snub Owens. He did shun black American athlete Cornelius Johnson on the first day of the Games by leaving early after receiving other medal winners.

He was later told by the International Olympic Committee that he had to acknowledge all athletes or none at all, and he chose the latter.

Owens himself said: "Hitler didn't snub me -it was [FDR] who snubbed me. The president didn't even send me a telegram."

He was referring to the fact that his achievements were not even acknowledged by the then American leader Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In Berlin, the Nazi press were scathing of the 'black auxiliaries' in the US team, but Owens was loved by the German spectators in the stadium, mobbed by autograph hunters, received over 100 marriage proposals and was allowed to stay in the same hotel as white athletes.

In his home country, it was a very different picture and following a ticker-tape parade in his honour in New York, he had to use a freight lift to attend his own reception at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.

Owens subsequently had his amateur status withdrawn by American officials who were angry that he had accepted commercial offers to race rather than going to Sweden with the rest of the team after the Games.

But when the offers failed to materialise, Owens was left racing horses, motorbikes and local townsfolk across America to make a living.

His achievements were finally recognised by American president Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955 and he was named Ambassador of Sports - he would later receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1976 by and, posthumously, the Congressional Gold Medal in 1990.

A street near the Olympic Stadium in Berlin was named after him in 1984, while there is also a secondary school in the German capital that is named in his honour.

Owens, who became a heavy smoker after his athletic days, had his life cut short by lung cancer in 1980, at the age of 66.

He wasn't the first American to win four gold medals at a single Olympics - that feat belongs to Alvin Kraenzlein, who won the 60m, 200m hurdles, 110m hurdles and long jump at the 1900 Olympics - Kraenzlein remains the only winner of four individual gold medals at one Games.

In the long jump. he beat Meyer Prinstein by one centimetre after Prinstein, who set his best mark in qualifying refused to compete in the final which was being held on a Sunday.

The two had had an informal agreement not to compete on the Sunday, but when Prinstein learned that Kraenzlein had, he became violent, and according to some accounts, punched his rival in the face.

But back to Owens - do you believe he destroyed Hitler's hopes for the Berlin Olympics?

Peter Scrivener is a BBC Sport Journalist. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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