Jesse Owens’ Olympic medal sells for nearly $1.5 million at auction

One of the four gold medals won by Jesse Owens at the 1936 Summer Olympics sold for $1,466,574 at an auction that ended early Sunday morning. It was the highest price ever paid for a piece of Olympic memorabilia.

(Associated Press)

It’s unknown which of Owens’ medals was auctioned on Sunday. There are no markings on the medal to indicate the event in which it was won and the whereabouts of the other three original medals are unknown. Ohio State, Owens’ alma mater, displays four replacement medals that were awarded 40 years after his Olympic triumph.

Owens, the son of a sharecropper and grandson of a slave, was 23 when he famously traveled to Berlin and won four golds in front of Adolf Hitler. The former Ohio State track star finished first in the 100 and 200 meters, 4×100 meter relay and long jump.

The long jump may have been his most impressive feat. Owens was in danger of missing the finals after fouling on his first two jumps when he says he received advice on how to take off behind the board from German jumper Luz Long, a blonde-hair, blue-eyed athlete that was the ideal of Hitler’s theory of Aryan supremacy. At the time, Owens held the world record in the event that stood for 25 years. That distance of 8.13 meters would have won bronze at last summer’s London Olympics.

The auctioned medal had belonged to the estate of the wife of late entertainer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, who was given the medal by Owens as a token of gratitude.