German track star Luz Long battled Black American star Jesse Owens during the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin — while Hitlerwatched — but instead of treating each other like enemies, the men became close friends.
And, now, Luz’s famed silver medal from the long jump is on the block at SCP Auctions … one of the most important medals in Olympic history.
Owens won four gold medals during the ’36 Games … and became a global superstar almost overnight. But, one of the medals almost never was … ’cause Jesse was one missed jump away from failing to qualify for the medal round of the long jump.
That’s when Carl Ludwig “Luz” Long — born across the world and in very different circumstances than Jesse — approached his competitor and offered him some advice.
“Why don’t you draw a line a few inches in back of the board and aim at making your take-off from there,” Luz said to Jesse, saying, “You’ll be sure not to foul, and you certainly ought to jump far enough to qualify. What does it matter if you’re not first in the trials?”
Owens later talked about what those words meant for him, and did for his performance.
“Suddenly all the tension seemed to ebb out of my body as the truth of what he said hit me. Confidently, I drew a line a full foot in back of the board and proceeded to jump from there. I qualified with almost a foot to spare.”
In the finals, Long and Owens battled, both breaking the previous Olympic record in the process. In the end, Jesse, with a jump of 8.06 meters, beat Luz, and won the gold medal … while LL took silver.
Luz, could’ve been mad, jealous, or even seen Jesse as the enemy, but instead was actually the first to embrace the man who just dashed his dreams of Olympic gold.
“You forced me to give my best,” Owens told Luz.
After receiving their medals, in one of the most courageous moments in Olympic history, Jesse and Luz walked side by side around the stadium, waving to the 110,000 spectators in attendance.
And remember, one of those people was Adolf Hitler … who was annoyed a Black man dominated the Games, exposing his lies about race.
“It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler,” Owens later said.
“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.”
Berlin, 1936, is the last time Jesse and Luz would see each other. The German track star was killed in 1943 during World War II at the age of 30.
However, shortly before his death, Long wrote a handwritten note to his friend Jesse, where he sadly predicted his impending death, and asked a favor.
“My heart tells me, if I be honest with you, that this is the last letter I shall ever write. If it is so, I ask you something. It is a something so very important to me. It is you go to Germany when this war done, someday find my [son], and tell him about his father. Tell him, Jesse, what times were like when we not separated by war. I am saying — tell him how things can be between men on this earth.”
In 1951, years after the letter, Owens fulfilled his promise and met Luz’s son. Jesse would later serve as his best man at his wedding.
Now, nearly 90 years after he won the medal, Luz’s granddaughter, Julia Kellner-Long, the daughter of the son Jesse befriended, has decided to put the medal on the block as a way to keep her grandpa’s memory alive.
The auction for the medal — estimated to be worth between $500K and $1 million — ends this weekend