A word called Encouragement

Jesse Owens and Luz Long




What a good word: encouragement. I could list various definitions.

Instead, I’ll do what I do (and love) best. I’ll tell a story:

The 1936 Berlin Olympics are among the most famous Olympiads of the 20th century.

Its location was Germany

Its time: Europe was building toward another war, less than twenty years since the last one.

There wouldn’t be another Olympics until after the worst war in history ended.

Then, there’s the setting: Hitler wanted to use the backdrop of this event to showcase his Nazi party and the country of Germany.

My story is not well-known, but it’s worth telling.

The most famous athlete of the Berlin games was a black American named Jesse Owens. He won gold medals in three running events.

But our story is about what happened in the long jump semifinals.

Owens had fouled on his first attempts at the jump. His approach steps were off, causing him to overstep the foul line at the beginning of the jump pit.

As a frustrated Jesse Owens pondered his final attempt, a fellow competitor approached him.

His name was Luz Long, a German long jumper. Long talked to Owens about adjusting his steps and jump-off point to avoid fouling again.

Using this information, Jesse Owens made a clean final jump and advanced to the finals where he won the gold medal. Luz Long finished second, winning the silver medal.  His advice to Owens probably cost him first place. He expressed no regret over helping a rival.

Jesse Owens remains one of the most famous Olympians of all time.

Luz Long is largely forgotten. He later died fighting in World War II.


But 85 years after his act of encouragement, Luz Long lives on in this story.

Encouragement. It’s something all of us can do.

It’s something all of us should practice daily.


Jesse Owens and Luz Long



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