It was this versatility which on May 25, 1935 electrified the sports world as it hadn't been in decades. The setting: the Western Conference Outdoor Track and Field meet at Ann Arbor, Mich., and the expectation that the Ohio State sophomore sensation would give them something to remember had brought out the largest crowd yet to see a Big Ten meet - more than 10,000 people, packed into Michigan's ancient Ferry Field wooden stands.
For three weeks Jesse had had an aching back which hadn't responded too well to treatment. Therefore, it must have been pure adrenalin which, in the space of 45 minutes, took his mind off his ache and enabled him to put on the greatest one-man, one-day performance the sport had ever known. Jesse broke three world records and tied a fourth.
The time-table went like this:
At 3:15 he flashed down the track to win the 100-yard dash in 9.4 seconds, tying the world mark.
At 3:25 Jesse removed his sweat suit, bent over at the top of the broad jump runway and hurtled forward toward the take-off board. In his first and what was to be his only jump of the day he rocketed out 26 feet 8 ¼ inches, breaking the world record by more than half a foot.
At 3:34, just nine minutes later, Owens again slipped out of his sweats, this time for the 220-yard dash. He took his mark, went to the set position, was off with the gun and streaked home almost 15 yards ahead of the second man in 20.3 seconds, slashing three-tenths of a second from the world mark.
At exactly 4:00 p.m., 16 minutes later, he again took off his sweats and eyed the long row of barriers placed in position for the 220-yard low hurdles. Again the gun, and again there was Owens ripping away from the field, flying over the timbers to the tape. The time: 22.6 seconds, four-tenths of a second shaved from the world record.
The 5-10, 165-pound paragon of poetry in motion was to add verse upon verse to his accomplishments. A few weeks after the Conference meet, he scored an unprec...