• August 3 down the years

Gold for Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens won four gold medals in Berlin © Getty Images

Jesse Owens won his first Olympic gold medal. And it wasn't such a big deal. Eulace Peacock's a forgotten name by now (shame, because it would look good on a roll of honour), but he'd recently beaten Owens four times in a row. Luckily for the legend, a pulled muscle wrecked Peacock's career and he didn't make the Olympics. In the 100 metres final today, Owens's only rival was yet another American, Ralph Metcalfe. But Metcalfe was a chronically bad starter (no-one had ever coached him how to do it well), while Owens had a smooth start and very economical style, all pitter-patter steps and correct hand positions. He took a two-yard lead at the start and won by half that, Metcalfe finishing second for the second Games in a row. All that remained was the story of Hitler snubbing the black athlete - but that had already happened the day before. And it was Owens' own boss who did the snubbing. After the Games, he didn't get an invite to the White House or a telegram from President Franklin Roosevelt. Here in Berlin, Owens took part in a famous long-jump duel (August 4).

Spare another thought for Ralph Metcalfe. Two days after losing the 100 metres by an inch or two, he finished third in the 200 - after being made to dig his starting holes a metre further back than he should have! While Eddie Tolan did the sprint double, Metcalfe had to wait another four years for his last chance of gold (August 9).

Britain's Tommy Green (born March 30 1894) won the inaugural Olympic 50-kilometre walk. He was 38 by then and hadn't taken part in a walking race until he was 32. Here in Los Angeles, he took the lead late on and drew away to win by more than seven minutes. Pert little Italian bronze medallist Ugo Frigerio had won three gold medals in much shorter events in the early 1920s.

Some of the officials really didn't keep their wits about them at those LA Olympics. In the discus, Jules Noël of France hit a throw that seemed to land beyond the gold medal mark. But the markers in charge were apparently engrossed in the pole vault, so they simply didn't see where Noël's throw landed. When this happened in the same event at the 1980 Olympics, Soviet officials were accused of cheating. When it happened it America, it was put down to negligence. Each time, a thrower from the host country won the event, John Anderson in this case. Noël was granted another throw but finished only fourth.

The nearest Britain came to a gold medal in track and field at these 1996 Olympics. Two silvers on the same day.

Steve Backley won the European Championships four times, while the best Jan Železný could manage was a couple of bronze medals. But it was all vice-versa at the Olympics. After a close silver in 1988 (September 25), Železný won three golds in a row, the second of them today, when he reached 88.16 in the second round. Poor Backley had won bronze in 1992 and had to settle for a second successive silver behind Železný in 2000 (September 23).

Even without Michael Johnson and disgraced world record holder Harry 'Butch' Reynolds, the USA beat Britain in the 4x400 metres relay. A strong team of Iwan Thomas, Jamie Baulch, and Mark Richardson was anchored by Roger Black, silver medallist behind Johnson in the individual event. But he was too far behind Anthuan Maybank at the final change-over.

Canada became the first team to beat the USA in an Olympic men's sprint relay. The only other times the Americans hadn't won gold was via disqualifications or dropping of batons. Donovan Bailey, who'd won the individual 100 metres in a world record time, brought Canada home. Like two of his team mates, he was born in Jamaica; the other was born in Haiti. The next time the USA were beaten fair and square in an Olympic Final was by a bunch of Brits in 2004 (August 28).

Louis Chiron was born in Monte Carlo. The only racing driver from Monaco to win the Monaco Grand Prix ( April 19 1931), he was one of the all-time giants of the sport, winner of all the major Continental grands prix: the Italian in 1928, German in 1929, Spanish three times, and the French four times from 1931 to 1947. He won a Formula One race for the last time when he was very nearly fifty (July 17 1949).

Another Formula One driver died on the same day in 1958. Peter Collins was one of Britain's best. He'd already finished third in the 1956 World Championship, winning two races. In 1958 he added the British Grand Prix - only to be killed during the very next event, at the dreaded Nürburgring, when his Ferrari ran off the track and somersaulted. The race was won by another British driver, Tony Brooks, and two others vied for the title in the last race (October 19). At the time of this German Grand Prix, Collins lay third in the standings again. He was 26.

British high hurdles maestro Colin Jackson won two world outdoor titles and set a world record that lasted nearly 13 years. But he never won Olympic gold, despite reaching four finals. After a laudable silver medal behind defending champion Roger Kingdom in 1988, he missed his best chance today. In one of the weakest fields in any Olympics, Jackson struggled with a slight injury that unbalanced him at each hurdle and kept him down to seventh place. His gold went to Canada's Mark McKoy, who admitted to taking steroids in the wake of the Ben Johnson scandal (September 24 1988). After serving a two-year ban, he trained with Jackson in Wales and even moved into his house.