Long’s sportsmanship was not case of race, says son
By Pirate Irwin (AFP) – 1 hour ago
BERLIN — A world famous legend recalling how German Luz Long crossed racial barriers to help American rival Jesse Owens qualify for the long jump final at the 1936 Olympics has been downplayed by Long’s son Kai.
Kai Long said his father, whose actions helped Owens win the gold, prompting a furious Adolf Hitler to leave the stadium early, had simply acted within the old tradition of amateur sportsmanship.
“It was not a question of race, of being black and white,” said Long, who is attending the world athletics to watch the long jump final.
The 1936 Games, which the United States came close to boycotting because of concerns over anti-semitism, were marked by the performances of Owens. The son of an American slave, the “Black Pearl” won four gold medals from the 100m and 200m, the men’s relay and the long jump.
Long was one of several athletes held up as a symbol of Hitler’s supposedly superior Aryan race but his actions appeared to demonstrate his dismissal of that notion, giving Owens advice which, ultimately, led to the American’s victory and the German settling for silver.
According to Owens, Long went to Owens and advised him to jump from a spot several inches behind the line – advice which allowed the American to advance safely to the next round without risking another foul.
Owens won the gold, thus ridiculing Hitler’s claims of Aryan superiority, and went on to build a friendship with Long, who died during the Second World War.
His son Kai insisted his father, who died of his wounds in 1943 in Sicily, was not making a political statement to Hitler that black and white people were equals.
“It was the normal attitude of pure amateur sportsmen in those days,” he added.
“It was absolutely normal to help each other so what he did was not deemed then to be extraordinary.”
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