Jesse Owens to be honoured in Berlin at world track championships

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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As a kid, Marlene Hemphill Dortch watched the grainy, black-and-white film footage from the 1936 Berlin Olympics in amazement, wondering how her grandfather was so much faster than everyone else.
There was Jesse Owens, darting down the track to win the 100-metre title, then smiling and waving at the cheering German crowd.
Now when she views that vintage footage, the 45-year-old Dortch does so in a different light, wondering how her grandfather prospered under such pressure.
In a stadium built by Adolf Hitler as a celebration of the Third Reich, Owens stole the show in '36 and made a mockery of Nazi claims of Aryan supremacy. He became the first American track athlete to win four gold medals at one Olympics.
"He was in his element," Dortch said. "He was so happy in that stadium."
Nearly 73 years later, Berlin is about to be the scene of another major international track meet, this time the world championships taking place Aug. 15-23 at Olympic Stadium - the site of Owens' achievements.
Dortch will be there as USA Track and Field, along with the IAAF and the Berlin Organizing Committee, pays tribute to Owens, who died in 1980 of lung cancer. The U.S. squad plans to wear a uniform that sports Owens' initials.
The organizations also will honor German long jump great Luz Long, who befriended Owens at the Berlin Games. Dortch and Long's son, Kai, will present the long jump medals on Aug. 22.
"I'm anticipating being overcome with emotion," Dortch said, who lives in Fort Washington, Md.
Her mom knows the feeling. When Gloria Owens Hemphill - the oldest of Owens' three daughters - travelled to Berlin for a ceremony nearly two decades ago and walked into the vacant stadium, she felt chills as she gazed around.
"It was like going back in time," said Hemphill, of Chicago. "I've seen the films, seen them over and over again. Being in that stadium was an out-of-body experience. It's like you can hear the people cheering for my dad."

Organizations: USA Track and Field, Berlin Organizing Committee

Geographic location: Berlin, Olympic Stadium, U.S. Fort Washington Chicago

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