Monday, April 10, 2017

An Olympic Friendship

Last night I watched the movie Race, a biographical sports drama about African American athlete Jesse Owens, who won a record-breaking four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Great movie, by the way, and afterwards, I wanted to learn more about the friendship between Luz Long and Jesse Owens. Below is what I found in Wikipedia:
Carl Ludwig "Lu(t)z" Long was a German Olympic long-jumper, notable for winning Silver in the event at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin and for giving advice to his competitor, Jesse Owens, who went on to win the gold medal for the broad jump.
By the summer of 1936, Long held the European record in the long jump and was eager to compete for the first time against Jesse Owens, the American world-record holder. The long jump on August 4 was Long's first event against Owens, and Long met his expectations by setting an Olympic record during the preliminary round. In contrast, Owens fouled on his first two jumps. Knowing that he needed to reach at least 7.15 m (about 23 feet 3 inches) on his third jump in order to advance to the finals in the afternoon, Owens sat on the field, dejected.

Speaking to Long's son, Owens said in 1964 that Long went to him and told him to try to jump from a spot several inches behind the take-off board. Since Owens routinely made distances far greater than the minimum of 7.15 m required to advance, Long surmised that Owens would be able to advance safely to the next round without risking a foul trying to push for a greater distance. On his third qualifying jump, Owens was calm and jumped with at least four inches (10 centimeters) to spare, easily qualifying for the finals.
In the finals competition later that day, the jumpers exceeded the old Olympic record five times. Owens went on to win the gold medal in the long jump with 8.06 m while besting Long's own record of 7.87 m. Long won the silver medal for second place and was the first to congratulate Owens: they posed together for photos and walked arm-in-arm to the dressing room. Owens said, "It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler... You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be a plating on the twenty-four karat friendship that I felt for Luz Long at that moment".

Long served in the Wehrmacht during World War II, having the rank of Obergefreiter. During the Allied invasion of Sicily, Long was killed in action on 14 July 1943. He was survived by two sons, Kai-Heinrich and Wolfgang. Kai was born on 13 November 1941 and Wolfgang was born on 30 May 1943, but died on 6 March 1944.
Long and Owens corresponded after 1936. In his last letter, Long wrote to Owens and asked him to contact his son after the war and tell him about his father and "what times were like when we were not separated by war. I am saying—tell him how things can be between men on this earth". After the war, Owens traveled to Germany to meet Kai Long, who is seen with Owens in the 1966 documentary Jesse Owens Returns to Berlin, where he is in conversation with Owens in the Berlin Olympic Stadium. Owens later served as Kai Long's best man at his wedding.
Touching story! Were you familiar with it?
Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

4 comments:

William Kendall said...

I've heard of the movie, but I was not familiar with this story.

Maria McKenzie said...

It was new to me too. I knew that Long helped Owens, but I didn't realize the friendship that happened as a result.

Norma Beishir said...

I never knew, either....

Maria McKenzie said...

Yeah; fascinating story:).