Carl Ludwig ‘Luz’ Long and Jesse Owens – Love Your Neighbour

Carl Ludwig ‘Luz’ Long (Germany) [Athlete, 1936 Berlin: Silver – Long Jump]

Jesse Owens (USA) [Athlete, 1936 Berlin: four time gold medallist – Long Jump; 100 m; 200 m; 4×100 m relay]

(illustration by Simon Smith, © Simon Smith 2011, used with permission)

“Friendships born on the filed of athletic strife are the real gold of competition. Awards become corroded, friends gather no dust.” [Jesse Owens]

It was Hitler’s Summer Games in Berlin, in 1936. It was the 4th of August, the day of the Long Jump final. It was the clash of the titans, in more than one sense. Carl Luz Long representing Germany, the European record holder was eager to compete against Jesse Owens of the USA who held the world record.

Luz set his expectations by setting an Olympic Record during the preliminaries.  He was in great form.  Owens, on the other hand struggled. As a warmup practice, he ran through the pit. To his astonishment it was counted as a foul jump. This threw him, he just could not concentrate. Owens fouled his second jump! Something was not right. He knew he must jump beyond 7.15 m at his third attempt if he wants to be in the final in the afternoon. Owens sat on the field dejected, not knowing what to do. They already called his name when someone touched his shoulder.  He thought it was one of the officials urging him to take his place to jump. He turned around and to his great surprise it was the German athlete, the man he had to beat. Luz Long said to him: ‘I think I know what is wrong. You are like me, trying to give your all. But you are afraid that you will be fouling again.’ Owens nodded. ‘You just need to take-off from further back. That way you can give your all.  I’ll put my towel to mark the place for you.’

It seemed so simple, but it needed Owens’ toughest opponent to point it out to him, it is about the take-off. The towel was placed some six inches before the board. Jesse Owens started slowly, then his stride became faster, and after then the take-off. It was a clean jump! But was it enough? It was! Jesse Owens was in the final! Thanks to his opponent

The final was nail-biting! Gradually the other opponents all fell short, and it was clear the gold medal will be decided between Luz and Owens. Luz was taking his final jump, an amazing effort. He flew through the air, landed – and set a new Olympic record (7.87 m)! The stadium cheered! Now it was Owens last jump.  He ran, he leapt into the air, flew, and landed even further than Luz. It was a new Olympic Record: 8.06 metres! Throughout the competition they equalled the old record once and crashed it five times! Jesse Owens crashed not only an Olympic Record, but an evil ideology. After the event the new champion Jesse Owens and the runner-up, Luz Lost posed together for photos and walked arm-in-arm off to the dressing rooms. Jesse Owens won four gold medals in Berlin (Long Jump, 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay)!

Jesse Owens and Luz Lost became good friends. ‘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 carat friendship that I felt for Luz Long at that moment.’ – said Jesse Owens later.  Luz and Jesse kept in touch afterwards by writing letters.

‘Who is my neighbour?’ is a common question, it was in Jesus’ time, and so it is today. Jesus responded to it by the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37). The answer is obvious: ‘The one that has mercy on the other one.’ Luz Lost responded by embracing Jesse Owens. In his last letter, written as a soldier shortly before he died in World War II Luz asked Jesse contact his son after the war ‘tell him about how things can be between men on this Earth.’

People of God go and do likewise, go and tell how things can be –should be– between people on Earth!

[from GV; based on ‘Who Comes First?’ by Chris Hudson]

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