Track and field getting Hall of Fame

Updated: March 8, 2012, 10:14 AM ET
Associated Press

ISTANBUL -- Jesse Owens was named an inaugural member of the IAAF Hall of Fame on Thursday, more than 75 years after he won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and showed up Adolf Hitler's idea of Aryan supremacy.

Owens joined Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and nine others as the first athletes to be honored by the IAAF in the newly created Hall of Fame. The announcement is to mark the 100-year anniversary of the organization on July 17.

Joining Owens are Abebe Bikila, Paavo Nurmi, Emil Zatopek, Al Oerter, Adhemar da Silva, Edwin Moses, Fanny Blankers-Koen, Betty Cuthbert and Wang Junxia.

Another 12 athletes will make up the inaugural class, with those names announced throughout the year. The official induction ceremony will take place at the IAAF Centenary Gala on Nov. 24 in Barcelona.

"The creation of the IAAF Hall of Fame ... is an excellent way not only to honor the lifetime achievements of our greatest athletes, but also to heighten public awareness of our sport and its rich history," IAAF president Lamine Diack said in a statement, one day before the start of the world indoor championships.

Owens excelled at his only Olympics by winning the 100 meters, the 200, the 4x100 relay and the long jump. His success as a black athlete became a symbol of racial equality in sports during the days when Hitler promoted white Aryan supremacy.

Owens, who died in 1980, is also remembered for his amazing day on the track while still a student at Ohio State.

In one incredible afternoon, Owens set six world records, including in the 100-yard dash and the long jump. In the 220 yards and the 220-yard hurdles, he set records in both those events and in their metric equivalents.

The requirements for enshrinement include winning at least two Olympic or world championship gold medals and setting at least one world record. Athletes must be retired for 10 years before becoming eligible.

Lewis certainly has the numbers. The American sprinter won nine Olympic gold medals in his career, and equaled Owens' feat at the 1984 Los Angeles Games by winning the 100, 200, 4x100 relay and long jump. He also won the long jump gold at the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Games.

Americans dominated the opening list of 12 athletes with five representatives. Joyner-Kersee, a heptathlon and long jump gold medalist, and Moses, the 400 hurdles great, excelled at their respective sports for years.

Oerter, a four-time Olympic discus gold medalist, was the first man to win the same event in four straight Games.

Zatopek, who won the 10,000 meters at the 1948 London Games, pulled off one of the greatest individual achievements in track history at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. The Czech distance runner defended his 10,000 title and added the 5,000 and the marathon gold medals to his haul.

Bikila became known for winning the 1960 Olympic marathon in Rome while running barefoot. Four years later in Tokyo, with shoes on, he became the first to defend the gold medal at running's longest Olympic distance.

Nurmi and Wang were also distance runners. The Finnish great won golds at three straight Olympics in the 1920s, while Wang was the best of the Chinese runners that excelled in the 1990s.

Da Silva, a Brazilian triple jumper, won back-to-back gold medals at the 1952 and 1956 Games, and Cuthbert was an Australian sprinter that won the 100 and 200 at the 1956 Melbourne Games.

Blankers-Koen was a star at the 1948 London Olympics. "The Flying Housewife" from the Netherlands won 100, 200, 4x100 and the 80-meter hurdles, 12 years after her first Olympics in 1936 when she was 18.

One notable exception from the inaugural list was pole vaulter Sergei Bubka. The Soviet-Ukrainian great won six world titles, one Olympic gold medal and set dozens of world records.


Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press