Track and Field and the Olympics

Who are the black stars in track and field?

Black stars dominate in the sport of track and field, including sprints, relays, long jump, broad jump, triple jump, and much more. Icons in the sport include legendary Jesse Owens (1913–1980), who broke five world records in 1935, setting the stage for his greatest athletic achievement. In 1936, at the Berlin Olympics, he won four gold medals and disproved the rhetoric of black inferiority endorsed by Adolf Hitler, who refused to acknowledge his superiority or that of fellow black athletes. Ralph Boston (1939–) won three Olympic medals—gold in 1960, silver in 1964, and bronze in 1968. The first Olympic performer since Jesse Owens to win four track and field gold medals in one Olympiad was Carl Lewis (1961–), in 1984. Other stars were William DeHart Hubbard (1903–1976), Rafer Lewis Johnson (1935–), Edwin Corley Moses (1955–), Michael Duane Johnson (1967–), and Maurice Greene (1974–). Perhaps the brightest contemporary star is Jamaican sprinter—and five-time World and six-time Olympic gold medalist—Usain Bolt (1986–). He became the first black to hold simultaneous world and Olympic records in the 100-meter and 200-meter competitions, in 2008. When the London Olympics was held in 2012, Bolt became the first man in modern Olympic history to win gold in the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 4 x 100-meter relays in consecutive Olympics. He is popularly known as “Lightning Bolt.”


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