“Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics” by Jeremy Schapp
Track and Field, history, Olympics, race
March 3, 2015 (electronic version – original publication date February 1, 2007)
4 ½ of 5 stars (excellent)
The accomplishments of Jesse Owens in the 1936 Summer Olympics is still revered and celebrated now, eighty years later. Not just for the athletic achievement of earning four gold medals, but also for dispelling the myth of Adolf Hitler’s notion of Aryan superiority is this feat remembered. In this excellent book by Jeremy Schapp, the reader will learn more about what made a humble black man from Ohio turn into the fastest man on Earth.
There are many aspects about Owen’s story that Schapp writes about beyond the wins on the track. From the coaching of Larry Snyder at Ohio State to the story about how Owens became one of the members of the 4 x 100-yard relay team to the alleged “snub” by Hitler after Owns won his first medal, there are many different subplots that are recalled in great detail. The story of the “snub” is very interesting in that the myth is dispelled by Owens himself by recalling that Hitler waved at him after his first medal. It was only later during the lecture circuit did the story of the snub become well known.
Not everything written is about Owens, either. Schapp wrote very good pieces about filmmaker Leni Reifenstahl, the American boycott of the games that almost happened and the controversy about leaving the two American Jewish runners off of the relay team in which Owens replaced one of them and won his fourth medal. Avery Brundage is also prominently portrayed in the book. These and other aspects of the 1936 Olympics make the book complete and an excellent source of information on this topic.
The only thing that could have made this better would have been a little more coverage of life after the Olympics for Owens as the book does not make it clear what really became of Owens after that historic event. But if the reader wants to learn about the Jesse Owens story of how he became a person who singlehandedly dispelled a dictator’s vision of domination through the simple acts of running and jumping, then this is the book to read.
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