Race is a multi-layered film depicting Jessie Owen's Olympic wins
The story of Jessie Owens
Jesse Owens was an American track and field athlete and four-time Olympic gold medalist, who for a period of some 25 years, was — quite literally — the fastest man alive. Owens specialized in both the 100 and 200 meter dashes as well as the long jump and in his lifetime was universally recognized as “perhaps the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history”.
“The greatest 45 minutes ever in sport”
This film documents Owens’ (James) arrival at Ohio State University and his tutelage under Larry Snyder (Sudeikis) and how under Snyder’s coaching skill was able to achieve setting three world records and tying another in less than an hour on May 25, 1935, at the 1935 Big Ten track meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan. That accomplishment has been referred to “The greatest 45 minutes ever in sport” and has never been equaled. From the moment he arrived at Ohio State, Snyder recognized Owens as a natural and began training him for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany.
Getting ready to run
The Politics of Running
For his own part, Owens too felt the pressure of societal forces (most notably from the NAACP) to not attend the games. He was told that by participating in the games would be inappropriate for a Black Man in Germany given the way it was treating its own (Jewish) citizens, Needless to say, Owens did go over to Germany and (as we know) wound up winning four gold medals (the 100 and 200 meter dashes, the Long jump, and the 400-meter relay. Needless to say, Hitler was using the games as a way to re-establish Aryan superiority, and was understandably upset to see Owens defeating his “superior” Germans. Owens’ victories were documented, along with many other 1936 events, in the 1938 film Olympia by the German film director Leni Riefenstahl. As an interesting side note Owens defeated Mack Robinson (the older brother of famed baseball player Jackie Robinson) in the 200-meter dash.
On your marks...
The Importance of Participating
In retrospect, Owens attending the games was the best possible outcome, and not just because he did win four Gold Medals. But because, contrary to what the NAACP told Owens and what Mahoney told the Olympic Committee, boycotting the games would have merely helped hide the atrocities and the segregation perpetrated by the Germans against so-called “inferior” races. By appearing at the games, Owens, Robinson (and even the two Jewish American sprinters Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller) made a very visible protest against the Nazi regime, and set an example for others to follow.
The Fastest Man Alive
the Jesse Owens Award
Today, the Jesse Owens Award is USA Track and Field’s highest accolade for the year’s best track and field athlete. Owens was ranked by ESPN as the sixth greatest North American athlete of the 20th century and the highest-ranked in his sport.
The Long Jump
Olympia: The Complete Original Version (The Leni Riefenstahl Archival Collection)
Commissioned by Hitler as propaganda, this film of the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics is a tribute to human grace. Directed by Leni Riefenstahl.