American painter Steven Lester will unveil a series of original Olympic-themed paintings during a solo exhibition at the prestigious Tokyo-American Club concurrent with the upcoming Summer Games in Tokyo in 2021.

Known for his paintings that depict action sports themes that resonate with vibrant life and elicit a visceral and emotional response, Lester was named the United States Sports Academy’s 2019 Sport Artist of the Year. The artist’s latest series, titled “The Olympic Spirit,” depict the underdogs, scrappers and overcomers who defy the odds, deal with adversity, and make the impossible seem impossible.

“While talent and technique are remarkable, the real contest is the test of the spirit – the divine spark – the ferocious fire that burns in the heart to be a true champion,” Lester said. “Champions may be larger than life, but they are never above life. Those are the stories I illustrate. The untold and under-reported stories that fuse hard work and the relentless determination to excel again.”

Lester’s latest entry in “The Olympic Spirit” series – a piece called “Race Against Hate” – depicts famed African American athlete Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Owens, the grandson of a slave and son of a sharecropper in rural Alabama, won four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics and single-handedly upstaged Adolf Hitler’s plan to prove the superiority of the “Aryan” people at the games.

Remarkably, when Owens returned to America after his win, he couldn’t find a job, sit in the front of the bus, or use a “whites only” water fountain. Sadly, even President Franklin D. Roosevelt never invited Owens to the White House, sent a telegram or acknowledged his triumphs. A decade after Owens’ death, President George H.W. Bush awarded Owens the Congressional Medal of Honor and called his victories in Berlin “an unrivaled athletic triumph, but more than that, a triumph for all humanity.”

Lester’s new Owens piece joins paintings depicting Olympic Refugee Team swimmer Yusra Mardini, Sudanese runner Lopez Lomong, Japanese gymnast Shun Fujimoto, British sprinter Derek Redmond, American sprinter Wilma Rudolph, Equatorial Guinea swimmer Eric Moussambani, American gymnast Simone Biles, South Korean blind archer Im Dong Hyun, American athlete Jim Thorpe, American swimmer Michael Phelps, and English athlete and artist Roald Bradstock.

Lester’s works can be viewed online here.