August 4, 1936: Jesse Owens wins the Men's Olympic Long Jump competition with a leap of 26-foot-5.
Having set a long jump world record of 26-foot-8 just a year prior while competing for Ohio State at the Big Ten Championships, Jesse Owens had every reason to be the heavy favorite entering his Olympic debut in 1936.
However, the 1936 Games were taking place in Berlin, Germany, a country on the verge of starting World War II under the leadership of Adolf Hitler. Furthermore, the biggest threat to Owens in the long jump pit, Luz Long, was from Germany, making Owens' performance in the event even more crucial.
Owens had momentum from winning the 100-meter race earlier in the week, but he fouled on his first pair of qualifying jumps, putting him on the verge of a stunning elimination before the final round.
Then, in a remarkable display of sportsmanship, Long encouraged Owens to intentionally set his takeoff mark several inches behind the board, and Owens converted to advance to the finals.
From there, the two favorites continued to succeed, as Owens held a 7.94-meter to 7.87-meter lead over Long entering the sixth and final round. With the competition on the line, Owens set an Olympic record with a jump of 8.06 meters (approximately 26-foot-5), clinching his second gold medal of the week.
"It took a lot of courage for [Long] to befriend me in front of Hitler," Owens said after the competition, according to ESPN's Larry Schwartz. "Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace."
Owens went on to also win gold medals in the 200-meter race and the 4x100 relay, ultimately going 4-for-4 in his events. A highlight reel of all of his Olympic performances can be seen here:
Owens' legendary performances created a strong legacy, as Schwartz wrote in 2000 that the 5-foot-10 athlete "had single-handedly crushed Hitler's myth of Aryan supremacy."
In 1976, then-president Gerald Ford awarded Owens the "Presidential Medal of Freedom," and in 1981, USA Track and Field created the "Jesse Owens Award," which has since been annually given to the nation’s top athlete.
Long, who won the silver medal in the long jump, was also honored, being posthumously given the "True Spirit of Sportsmanship" medal by the IOC after he was killed in battle during World War II.
Owens held both the Olympic record and world record in the long jump until 1960, when fellow American Ralph Boston broke both marks. Owens passed away at the age of 66 in 1980 after losing a battle to lung cancer.