Jesse Owens, four-time gold medalist at the 1936 Olympics, raced a horse in Havana, Cuba, winning with a 40-yard lead. After losing his amateur status, Owens struggled financially and later participated in various races. He died at 66 from lung cancer.
Four months after winning an unprecedented four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Jesse Owens found himself in Havana, Cuba for a race that the promoters were calling the “Race of the Century.” This time, however, the heroic 23-year-old American sprinter was pitted against a horse for entertainment during halftime of a Cuban soccer match. Owens was given a 40-yard (37 m) lead in the 100-yard (91 m) sprint, and as the gun went off to start the race, Julio McCaw hesitated before galloping to the finish line. Owens burst out of the blocks and ran a 9.9 second race, beating his four-legged challenger.
A talented athlete, down on his luck:
Shortly after the 1936 Olympics, Owens lost his amateur status after accepting some lucrative sponsorship deals. He would struggle with economic uncertainty for the rest of his life.
In the years since the man versus horse stunt, Owens has raced trains, cars, motorcycles, baseball players, even a dog. “Those races made me sick,” Owens later said. “I felt like a monster.”
Owens later ran a dry cleaning business and worked as a gas station attendant just to make a living. He was a cigarette smoker for 35 years and died in 1980 at the age of 66, succumbing to an aggressive type of lung cancer.