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Widow of Jesse Owens dies

CHICAGO -- Ruth S. Owens, the widow of Olympian Jesse Owens and longtime chairwoman of the foundation honoring his legacy, has died. She was 86.

She died of heart failure in her home in the Hyde Park neighborhood. She was married to Jesse Owens for nearly 48 years until his death in 1980.

Jesse Owens jumped and ran his way to four gold medals at the Olympics in 1936, defeating Adolf Hitler's claims of Aryan racial superiority. The trip to the games in Germany was too expensive for Ruth Owens to attend, and she stayed at home with their first child.

"She protected his legacy and guarded it with all of her being," Marlene Owens Rankin said of her mother. "It was sort of the embodiment of him and how he spent his life. She was at the center of it."

Ruth Owens was board chairwoman and an active fund-raiser for the foundation formed 21 years ago to give scholarships to average students active in the community. She also was an ambassador of the ARCO/Jesse Owens Games, a summer track and field competition that granted scholarships to children across the country. She is survived by two other daughters, Gloria Hemphill and Beverly Prather; five grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.

In a related story, Jack F. Kellner, who competed against Jesse Owens and later was inducted into the University of Wisconsin's Athletic Hall of Fame, died at age 85 in Milwaukee. Kellner qualified for the 1936 Olympics but did not attend.

Buffalo fighter loses on TKO in 12th

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Buffalo native Ross Thompson, fighting for the first time since losing to Fernando Vargas in a world title bid last August, lost to Eric Mitchell on a technical knockout in the 12th round Friday night at the Sands hotel-casino.

Thompson, who in 1991 graduated from South Park High and won a national Golden Gloves title, dropped to 24-5-1 with 16 KOs. Mitchell's mark is now 14-3-1 with six KOs.

The bout originally was for the WBA's minor-league North American 160-pound (middleweight) belt and was supposed to be Thompson's debut in that weight class.

Thompson, however, weighed in seven pounds over the limit, a matter that could have killed the fight. But Mitchell, who weighed 160, still agreed to fight Thompson anyway.

Russian sets world breaststroke mark

MOSCOW -- Although Russian swimmer Roman Sludnov didn't take much time to get ready for his return to competition, he's the new world record-holder in the men's 100-meter breaststroke.

His mother and coach, Natalia Roshchina, said Sludnov took a long break after last year's Olympics and resumed training only in January. Still, he set the mark at the national championships.

The 21-year-old Sludnov, a student from Omsk, broke American Ed Moses' record by three-hundredths of a second by finishing in 1 minute, 0.26 seconds. Roshchina said Sludnov is planning to compete in the 100-meter and 50-meter breaststroke events at the world championships next month in Japan.

Ali still a hit with autograph seekers

CLEVELAND -- Muhammad Ali can draw a crowd -- even for a fee.

Ali was the biggest attraction at the 22nd National Sports Collectors' Convention, where dozens of well-known athletes and lesser-known luminaries signed cards, bats and posters for a price.

About 125 collectors paid $300 each to get Ali's signature, $350 if it was on a boxing glove or other equipment, according to event organizers.

Now, wracked by Parkinson's disease, his hands tremble, his walk is a stooped shuffle and he does not speak in public.

Harlan Werner of Sports Placement Service, Ali's manager, said the former heavyweight champion appears at shows "because he wants the public to know that he's physically capable of signing autographs."

Greene, Jones cruise in 100 meters

ROME -- Maurice Greene and Marion Jones cruised to victories over 100 meters with solid times at the Golden Gala track and field meet.

Greene, the world-record holder, led out of the blocks on his way to a time of 10.01 seconds at the summer's first major meet ahead of the world championships.

He appeared to limp through his victory lap at Stadio Olimpico. "I had problems with my knee," the Olympic gold medalist said. "But (the trainers) managed to make me feel good."

Jones won the women's dash in 10.96.

Here and there

Purdue's Tim Stratton, who won the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end last season, was arrested after a fight in West Lafayette, Ind. that sent another student to the hospital. Stratton was arrested after witnesses told police the senior hit another student.

Mark Smith, the fourth-leading career scorer for the University of Illinois basketball team, has died. Smith, who was 41, scored 1,653 points while playing at Illinois from 1978-81. His death was the result of years of substance abuse, according to his brother, Duane Smith.

Five-time United States gymnastics champion Blaine Wilson will miss the national and world championships because of a torn rotator cuff. Wilson, a two-time Olympian, was injured on June 11 while training at Ohio State. He'll have surgery on July 16.

The Buffalo Bandits Booster Club is sponsoring a two-hour autograph session featuring National Lacrosse League most valuable player John Tavares, Shawn Williams and D'Arcy Sweet from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at Lou Ann's Smoke Shop, 1949 Richardson Road, Gowanda. The Bandettes, the team's cheerleaders, will be signing autographs and the team mascot, Rax, will also be present. A drawing for a 20-inch Freestyle BMX bicycle will take place and the event will include food specials.

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