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With the Winter Olympics soon to start, I (Sandy Kellin) wanted to share my personal story and appreciation for a great man whom we all cherish, Jesse Owens.
In November of 1976, I was at the first IBSF ( International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation) bobsled driver training school in Igls, Austria. Of 12 nations that sent athletes to this drivers school, my brakeman and I were the only bobsledders who had never even sat in a sled, much less gone down a bobrun. After a week of “two a day” trainings, we finished the weekend with a race to see who had the best time down the track. We crashed two times the first day of training but we finished the week posting the second fastest time on the track. I was hooked!
Back in Arizona where I lived and trained, I had no money to buy a bobsled. The best sleds were from Cortina, Italy, and even if I had the money, there was no money to ship it to Lake Placid, NY, where the only US Bobsled course at the time existed. After extensive attempts to raise money from so many groups and organizations, I was encouraged to call Jesse Owens. So I called his public relations office and guess who picked up the phone?
“Hi Jesse Owens”.
I was speechless. After a long pause I was able to tell Mr Owens my goal of becoming a USA bobsledder from Arizona. After hearing my story and the need to raise some money to continue training, he invited me to come to his office so he could learn more.
Jesse Owens not only helped with ideas, his time and energy, but when we went to train in Europe that following year, Jesse called the German Olympic committee and secured free training time on the bobsled track in Konigssee, Germany and a red BMW for my team and I to drive from track to track around Europe. With the great help I received from training on European tracks and the German Olympic committee, I was named US Bobsled Driver Rookie of the Year in 1978, thanks to Jesse Owens.
At the time of Jesse’s passing, my friend and former teammate, Olympic Gold medal winner, Herman Frazier, called and asked if I had an Olympic Flag for Jesse’s casket. Jesse was to lie in State at the AZ State Capitol. Luckily, I had been given a flag by ABC when they produced a segment if we were to make the 1980 Olympics.
The attached photo is that Olympic Flag. It proudly hung over Jesse Owen’s casket and is now hanging in the corporate offices of Xendurance, a sports nutrition company located in Scottsdale, AZ.
To share this memory is nothing compared to what Jesse Owens shared with the world. We must never forget what Jesse did for all sports and for the giving nature he gave to everyone who reached out for help.
Jesse Owens was recognized in his lifetime as "perhaps the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history".
Shared by Sandy Kellin