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As a student and athlete in Depression-era America, Jesse Owens bears the weight of family expectations, racial tension at college, and his own high standards for competition. At Ohio State University, Jesse finds a savvy coach and stalwart friend in Larry Snyder, who is unafraid to push the young man to his limits. Bolstered by the love and support of Ruth Solomon, with whom he has a young daughter, Jesse's success in intercollegiate competitions earns him a place on the U.S. Olympics team, if there is to be a team going to the 1936 Olympics at all. The American Olympics committee weighs a boycott in protest against Hitler with committee president Jeremiah Mahoney and millionaire industrialist Avery Brundage debating the issue. Once Brundage prevails with the committee and U.S. participation is confirmed, Jesse enters a new racial and political minefield after he arrives in Berlin with his fellow athletes.