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Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics Hardcover – February 1, 2007

4 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Written as though the film treatment were already completed, Schaap's chronicle of Jesse Owens's journey to and glorious triumph at the 1936 Berlin Olympics is snappy and dramatic, with an eye for the rousing climax, through curiously slight on follow-through. Starting with Owens as the well-feted ex-athlete in the 1950s, Schaap (an ESPN anchor and author of Cinderella Man) flashes back to Owens's childhood in 1920s Cleveland, where junior high coach Charles Riley spotted his astounding physique and near limitless potential for track and field. Owens seems so perfectly made for running and jumping that the following years of ever-increasing athletic and popular success are less exciting than preordained. By the time the "Ebony Antelope" (as one of many adoring newspapermen had anointed him) was ready for Berlin, his success was practically guaranteed. The real drama of Schaap's book, which surprisingly skimps on Owens the person, comes in the politically fractious runup to Berlin (for the ceremony-obsessed Hitler, "a fascist fantasy come true"). While the story has been told many times, Schaap makes good use of his prodigious research and access to the Owens family, even digging up the fact that Owens's oft-repeated claim he was snubbed by Hitler and the Berlin crowd was very likely untrue. (Feb.)
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"Michael Kramer's no-nonsense delivery greatly enhances the production." ---AudioFile --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First edition (February 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618688226
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618688227
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #364,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a very entertaining and well-written account of Jesse Owens' track career culminating in his 4 gold medals at the notorious 1936 Olympics hosted in Berlin by the Nazi regime. Given Owens' iconic and historic importance, Schaap needs to exercise the skills of an historian in parsing through the evidence and sifting fact from legend. In this regard, Schaap does an excellent job.

In particular, Schaap dispels the myth of Hitler's supposed "snub" of Owens. What really happened is that on Day 1, Hitler congratulated only a select few Nordic athletes. The Olympic officials told Hitler that he had to congratulate everyone or no one at all. Hitler complied with this directive, so he had a good excuse for not meeting with Owens after his first victory on Day 2. Indeed, the evidence is that Hitler waved congratulations to Owens. Years later, Owens retracted this version to tell a more marketable "snub" story on the lecture circuit.

Schaap is also excellent at recounting the controversy regarding Marty Glickman and one other fellow American Jew left off the 4x100 relay team at the last minute. Legend has it that this was a craven effort by the Avery Brundage crew to appease Hitler. But Schaap tells the facts and it seems that, while this angle may have helped the strategy go through, the real reasons were twofold. First, Owens' celebrity was such that there was a desire to accommodate his expressed desire for a fourth medal. At the time, American runners were so dominant that the U.S. usually fielded a relay team that did not include the best four runners, but instead used the relay as a device for spreading medals around. But as the star of the Games, how could Owens be left off this event? And second, the Olympic track coach was head coach at U.S.C.
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Format: Hardcover
Sports writer and ESPN "Sports Center" anchor Jeremy Schaap reveals Jesse Owens as not just a beloved American 'sports icon', but also a towering figure on both the international sports and world history stages. The only athlete to be singled out in the world history books for his very notable international athletic achievements during the Olympic Games just prior to Hitler's scourging of Europe in the runup to World War II. Mr Schaap reveals new insights about Jesse Owens in Berlin. And the Jesse Owens/Lutz Long friendship and it's aftermath are truly moving. He is also the central figure in the greatest one-hour period of individual sports achievements, ever.

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!!
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By John Orlowski on December 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent book. Jeremy Schapp is a wonderful sports historian. Lots of good information about America, Europe, and the tenious situation that the world was facing in the midst of the depression and during the age of the rise of mnodern dictatorships. Great insights into the fascist leanings of Avery Brundage - a modern dictator, himself!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Schaap has sifted through the myth and legend of Jesse Owens and the Berlin Olympics and given us a compelling account of these extraordinary games. He presents a balanced account of the man and athlete Mr. Owens was, from his humble beginnings in Alabama to his record setting Olympic performance. He sets the tone early by recounting the legendary day of days in Ann Arbor when Mr. Owens achieved one of the greatest athletic accomplishments of all time by tying one and setting FOUR WORLD RECORDS in the span of one hour. He takes us through the politics of race and the olympics. He transports us back to a moment in time when the world was on the precipice of war. For such a small book this is A STUNNING ACHIEVEMENT!!!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Really loved this. Jeremy Schaap has obviously spent his life around sports (I've seen him on ESPN hosting Outside the Lines a lot, and other thoughtful stuff), but he obviously got amazing access here. Interviews with people who knew Owens best, archival photos I haven't seen anywhere else, and so on. But what I llked about it most was the surprises -- so many myths around Owens's life, which I thought I knew, and which Schaap corrected. Schaap painted a picture of that strange moment with Hitler at the Olympics, for example, which itself was stunning to me, Plus, his description of racism at the time -- in Germany AND in the US -- helped me get clearer understanding of the way things were, and the way things still are, and even why. A sports story for people who love great stories.
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