Wisconsin athletes played big roles in 1936 "Hitler's Olympics"

Wis. athletes played big roles in '36 Olympics
Posted at 7:33 PM, Mar 21, 2016

The movie "Race" is about Olympic sprinter Jesse Owens, but it mentions a pair of Wisconsin athletes. Jessie Garcia introduces us to two runners we should never forget.

Growing up in Milwaukee in the late 1800's was a young athlete named Alvin Kraenzlein. He went to UW-Madison before being lured away to the University of Pennsylvania. It was there that Alvin perfected the modern hurdling technique still employed today, where a runner puts one lead leg forward. Prior to his invention, hurdlers simply hopped.

Alvin changed track and field forever. He was also a long jumper and in 1900 went to the second modern Olympic Games in Paris, where he won 4 gold medals. Back in the streets of Milwaukee, they must have been cheering their hometown hero. Alvin remains the only track and field athlete to ever win four individual gold medals in one Olympics and he is known as the 'Father of Modern Hurdling.' His name is mentioned several times in the movie "Race."

The 1936 games will forever be known as Hitler's Olympics. It was there that a Marquette student named Ralph Metcalfe teamed with Jesse Owens to help shatter Hitler's dream of dominance. Metcalfe took home a silver in the 100 meters and then teamed with Owens to win gold for America in the 4 x 100 relay.

Both of these events are depicted in the movie, the latter involving controversy as two Jewish athletes were replaced at the last minute. Metcalfe and Owens stayed above the fray, delivered an historic relay and remained good friends for life. Metcalfe went on to a long and rewarding career as a politician in Illinois. He has two schools, a park, a neighborhood and a federal building named after him.

Two of the best athletes in Wisconsin history - now immortalized on the big screen. As the Summer Olympics of 2016 approach, it's a good time to remember and appreciate them.

Jessie wrote a book about Wisconsin Olympians called "Going for Wisconsin Gold" that comes out this summer.