Many of you probably don’t know the story of Jesse Owens and Luz Long. These are two gentleman who competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin and who would be forever associated with the Olympic games of the brutal Nazi regime. Out of the tyranny of the games, came a wonderful display of true sportsmanship and friendship that meant more than the Olympic Games themselves.
Both of these gentleman came from different backgrounds and circumstances. Owens was an African American who suffered the indignity of segregation and ridicule because of the color of his skin. Long was a beloved White German who could have anything he wanted and was a beloved son of Germany who was one of the stars that would show the world the Aryan supremacy in the world of track and field.
Jesse Owens would become the most decorated Olympian at the 1936 games by winning the gold medal in the 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump and the 4*100 meter relay events. Luz Long would only secure a silver medal in the long jump. Owens was the most successful athlete at the games and as such has been credited with “single-handedly crushing Hitlers myth of Aryan supremacy.
During the long jump competition, Long was competing against Owens and just recorded a jump that became an Olympic record. Owens struggling, was down to his final jump. Long sensing that Owens was feeling dejected, offered him some assistance and told him to try and jump from a spot several inches behind the take-off board.
Since Owens routinely made distances far greater than the minimum of 7.15m required to advance to the final round, 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, both Owens and Long exceeded the old Olympic record five times. Owens went on to win the gold medal in the long jump with 8.06m while besting Long’s own record of 7.87m. 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”.
We all can learn from Jesse Owens and Luz Long that winning should be a secondary thing and that doing the right thing, helping each other and working together are all that truly matter in sports, business and in life.
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Paul is President and CEO of One World Consulting Group, LLC. Paul is a career coach, recruiter, business developer and sales strategist who serves individuals and companies from around the world.