Here is a great inspirational story that has circulated in the Olympic community.
During the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, when the Nazis controlled Germany, two Olympic athletes from opposite sides of the Atlantic each sought to be the best long jumper in the world. They both dreamed of being a Gold medalist. One, the famous American Jesse Owens, a world record holder, faced some challenges competing as a black athlete at the Hitler Olympic Games. The other athlete, the famous German Lutz Long, was the European champion and he set an Olympic record in a preliminary round.
While trying to qualify for the critical long jump finals, Jesse Owens found himself faced with a bad situation. He had faulted twice during his qualification jumps. One more fault and he would be eliminated from competition and his dreams of medaling. In later years he said that Lutz Long, his fierce competitor, advised him to jump from several inches back. On his last chance, Jesse Owens did jump successfully and made the finals.
Also in later years, Jesse Owens sometimes said that Long had used his own shirt to mark the takeoff spot; but in 1965, Jesse told a reporter that that hadn’t happened and no one had helped him. Nevertheless, what is sure is that in the long jump finals later that day in 1936, after Jesse Owens had beaten Lutz Long and captured the Gold Medal for the USA, Long came over and was the first to congratulate him. The two of them then posed for photos, and they ended up walking arm in arm to the dressing rooms. They became good friends during the Games.
Long became a lawyer in Hamburg. In 1943, fighting in the German army in Sicily in World War II, he was badly wounded, and he died in a British hospital. It is said that years later his daughter was to be married to a German man. Because of the family friendship that was initiated by Lutz Long’s act of Olympianism in 1936, the man to walk his daughter down the aisle was their family friend for many years, Jesse Owens.
It’s amazing how many people are watching you, just as you might have watched others such as your role models or mentors. As we accomplish our goals and pass through adversities in life, we gather a remarkable wealth of knowledge and experience. It’s almost like a “tool belt” of life’s lessons. Each time we are challenged with an adversity or goal, we learn something new about ourselves. These challenges often shape our character and define who we are. One key to acknowledging our success is how we pass on these skills to others who might need assistance or are just observers. Ultimately, we are the ambassador. We leverage our knowledge and skills to inspire others to overcome adversity and provide a springboard to further success. This is our role within our community. That is Olympianism…