More than 80 years after bringing home four Olympic gold medals for Team USA in the 1936 Berlin Games, legendary track and field athlete Jesse Owens was honored posthumously with the inaugural AAU Gussie Crawford Lifetime Achievement Award.
Owens specialized in sprints and the long jump and was recognized in his lifetime as perhaps the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history. His achievement of setting three world records and tying another in less than an hour at the 1935 Big Ten track meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan has been called the greatest 45 minutes ever in sport and has never been equaled. He was the most successful athlete at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and, as an African American man, was credited with single-handedly crushing Hitler’s myth of supremacy.
Gina Hemphill-Strachan, granddaughter of Owens, was on-hand at the AAU Sullivan Award Ceremony on April 11 to accept the award on behalf of her grandfather.
“It’s a testament to the changes of growth and it’s a testament to the changes of progress that I’m able to stand here tonight and accept this award on behalf of my grandfather,” said Hemphill-Strachan. “It celebrates so much more than just his remarkable athletic accomplishments, but it celebrates the impact he made as a man in this world.”
The AAU Gussie Crawford Award was established by President Dr. Roger J. Goudy in 2017 to honor Crawford, voted the first female president of the AAU in 1988, as a trailblazer in amateur sports. The award is intended to recognize those athletes whose efforts, both on and off their playing surface on the national or international stage, have paved the way for great change in amateur sports.
A private reception was held the night prior on the top floor of the New York Athletic Club where various AAU leadership commented on the life and legacy of Gussie Crawford, a pioneer in the world of amateur sports.
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