He was born in Danville, Alabama. While competing for the Ohio State University team in 1935, he set three world records and equalled another (all within the space of an hour), including the long jump (26ft 8in), which lasted for 25 years. At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin he won four gold medals (100m, 200m, long jump, and 4100m relay) which caused the German Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, to leave the stadium, apparently to avoid having to congratulate a black athlete. Back in the USA, Owens gained no recognition for his feat and was reduced to running 'freak' races against horses and dogs. Later he held an executive position with the Illinois Athletic Commission, and attended the 1956 Olympics as President Dwight Eisenhower's personal representative. In 1976 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is considered the greatest sprinter of his generation.