Themain idea of the book was ‘perseverance’, which aimed to cutthrough the legendary tale that came up in the wake of Owens’astounding performance at the 1936 Berlin-Olympics. Schaap tries totell the story through Owens’ view while examining everything fromthe nature of the unlikely acquaintance between Owens and Luz Long,the German long-jumper, to Hitler’s supposed snubbing of blackathletes. Owens background was grappled with discrimination andpoverty this was the situation for most African-Americans during the1930’s. While at Ohio State, Owens worked at a gas station tosupport his young child and wife, despite having to his name severalworld records from his high school performances, he was not awarded ascholarship (Schaap 2).
Thebook has many accounts of racism which aids the reader to comprehendand recognize just how perseverance can help one endure suchadversity. Owens defining moment was during the Berlin SummerOlympics participation where he was feted as the greatest Olympicathlete in history. Against a background of race segregation, stormtroopers marching, and swastikas flying, Owens won four Olympic goldmedals crushing Hitler’s Aryan supremacy myth. As a boy Owens waspassionate about running, his gym coach took notice of him in school,mainly because of the perfect physique of his legs (Schaap 4). Jeremypresents Owens as an extraordinary and natural talent who stayedhumble about his accomplishments and striving to surpass hisachievements.
InMay of 1935 in Michigan at the Big Ten Championships, he burst ontothe scene. At this event, Larry Snyder was concerned about Owens’health as he was supposed to be warming up but instead was moaning inpain (Schaap 3). His perseverance was evident as he was willing tocompete on the track even when in pain. This could be credited toOwens determination to ensure the survival of his family (Schaap113). Five days before the event Owens had fallen from a flight ofstairs while playing with the fraternity brothers in Columbus (Schaap5). Owens’ performance at the competition was exceptional andconsequently unrivaled in athletic history.
Throughouthis life, Owens faced many challenges the most obvious being thecolor of his skin. With the race segregation of the 1930’s coupledwith Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy, this proved the Olympicswould be a challenging affair for black athletes. From the book,Schaap tells of the treatment black athletes received, “they couldnot reside with their fellow players who were whites, live on campusor even get proper shoes” (Schaap 86). Nazi Germany believed andshared the same notion that Jews and people of African descent werenot welcome to participate in the Olympics (Schaap 183). Owens’resilience and perseverance defined him as he allowed only to becompared to his personal achievements.
Idid enjoy reading this book as it has two remarkable entwined storiesof perseverance. The first is that of Owens’ impoverishedbackground going on to overcome prejudice and excel as one ofAmerica’s top field and track athlete. The second is that of theBerlin-Olympics organized by Hitler to portray his redefined Germanyand the presumed dominance of the Aryan race. Hitler wanted to provehis theory that whites were superior and could outclass blacks at theOlympics. The black athletes performed well at the games despitebeing discriminated against and prevailed with some of the mostoutstanding performances in the Olympic history.
Schaap,Jeremy. Triumph:The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler`s Olympics.Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007. Print.