Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics Paperback – 5 Feb 2008
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'Schaap leaves readers with a vivid portrait not just of Owens but of '30s Germany and America.' Sports Illustrated. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Jeremy Schaap is the author of the New York Times bestseller Cinderella Man. An ESPN anchor and national correspondent, his work has been published in Sports Illustrated, ESPN the Magazine, Time, Parade, TV Guide, and the New York Times. He has also appeared on ABC's World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News. He is the son of the award-winning journalist Dick Schaap.
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This book also the details who 'discovered' Jesse Owens, who helped him hone his God-given talents, a day-by-day detailing of the Berlin political and sports environment and Owens' 1936 Olympic triumphs, the AAU incident, what happened to Jesse Owens when he triumphantly returned from the 'Hitler Olympic Games' and how differently he was treated as opposed to today's self-possessed, rich athletes; what he did to earn money after track & field; and what he ultimately died from. Along the way, the author debunks one of the greatest myths in Olympic history and Owen's role in it. And, truth be told, the book details the racism of that period. This is a marvelous, well-written book by Jeremy Schaap that spotlights a singular athlete and human being: a man who 'wrote' a chapter of sports history that every true sports fan should know. Jesse Owens was the quintessential "amateur athlete" of the 20th Century. My Highest Recommendation!!
Jeremy Schaap's book is a good balance of the travails of Jesse Owens leading up to the 1936 games; including his then-rivals in the sprints/broad jump (long jump), his coaching, and development as an athletic star and bona fide celebrity despite the racial prejudice which infested the USA at the time. This is intertwined with the grandiose ambitions of Hitler and his associates in stamping their authority in the games, and their intention to do so long after 1936.
The book gives a very good insight into the double standards of the American government and sporting bodies at the time, particularly in the middle of the book where we learn the potential US boycott of the 1936 games was a very real possibility.
Whilst the book doesn't exactly give much personal opinion on Owens, it does give real depth to the impact of both his participation and his subsequent achievements. Schaap, on the whole, gives a very good balance to all aspects of the Owens' story, without over-indulging either the athlete or the ideals.
I personally enjoyed the book immensely; however, potential buyers should be aware that more politics and historical social commentary is present than in the vast majority of books on notable sportspeople. If you don't mind the frequent history lessons - which do serve to put Owens' games in context - then I would recommend this book without reservation. Those only interested in tales of sporting prowess may find difficulty digesting much of this work.
Otherwise, one character in the book briefly mentioned is a Dr. Wilhelm Gustloff. Not mentioned in the book, is that a Ship was named after him and that ship sunk in 1945 to be the largest Maritime disaster ever recorded, it may have been a hospital ship in fact. Of course, Gustloff was associated with the Nazi party.
All of this might go to say, this book is more than about Jesse Owens and the 1936 Olympics, Luz Long being another part of the whole story, a German Long jumper who in fact, was Owens competitor but selflessly aided Owens with advice that may have helped Owens to another gold medal. Long seems to be a true hero who became a fatality during World War II.
Yes, I've read the other reviews and perhaps Schaap has interjected some personal views but I'd still grade this the full five stars for telling us this vibrant story. The build up is fascinating and concise in telling of some of Owens' early life and the build up of the Olympics. Too, I'm happy that Schaap relates to us information about the Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage and the AAU. Clearly, we frown upon people saying Olympics should be boycotted from time to time such as to our efforts in China or the 1980 games. But Schaap and other authors point out information that I believe shows that some of our American Olympic officials may not be fair as well. One example was the treatment of Jim Thorpe and there are many others throughout the years. Schaap gives press accounts from back then and then, to the year 2008: I will read Epoch Times on the internet in covering the Beijing Olympics and I see parallels though in this case, attending the Olympics seems to have been the best thing to do. As for the 1936 question, maybe we should have passed on those Olympics that the Nazis hosted; but from the book, it seems the German public were truly enamored with Owens, the world's greatest athlete.
Lastly, the book does build up to the Olympics, maybe it is like the first 2/3rds of the book is the build up and then once in Berlin, the book seems to go at a very fast pace, understandably but it does cover Jesse Owens and what a sprinter, I appreciate him even more after this book as opposed to the modern sprinters we might have seen in Beijing or Athens or Sydney in recent years. On the back of the book is the quote: "You think you know about Jesse Owens, you think you know the whole story about the '36 Olympics. Think again"- Mike Lupica. To this, I only thought, I wouldn't claim to know about those '36 Olympics barely an iota. All we hear about it seems is how Jesse won those gold medals back then. This book informs us about that event extremely well.
Just to add slightly to this review, Great Britain is in fact mentioned in the book a few times as the winter games are briefly covered where Team GB won the ice hockey competition though not specifically mentioned and also there reception in Berlin at the opening games ceremony when all of the teams march. In fact, I believe Jesse found himself short of a pair of kangaroo leather running shoes in Germany and so they first opted to try to get some purchased and sent over from Great Britain, so this book should be of interest to readers over there as well.
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