Lesson 3 : My Greatest Olympic Prize – Jesse Owens
UP Board class 10th Supplementary Reader lesson 3 My Greatest Olympic Prize written by Jesse Owens.
Passage – 1
It was the summer of 1936. The Olympic Games were being held in Berlin. Because Adolf Hitler childishly insisted that his performers were members of a “master race”, nationalistic feelings were running high.
Passage – 2
I wasn’t too worried about all this. I’d trained, sweated and disciplined myself for six years, with Games in mind. While I was going over in the boat, all I could think about was taking home one or two of those gold medals. I had my eyes especially on the long jump. A year before I’d set the world record of 26 feet 8.5 inches. Everyone expected me to win that Olympic event easily.
Passage – 3
I was in for a surprise. When the time came for the long-jump trails, I was startled to see a tall boy hitting the pit as almost 26 feet on his practice leaps. He happened to be a German named Luz Long. I was told that Hitler had kept him hidden away, evidently hoping he would win the jump.
Passage – 4
I thought if Long won, it would add some new support to the Nazis’ Aryan superiority theory. After all, I am a Negro. A little angry at Hitler’s ways, I determined to go out there and really show Der Fuehrer ad his master race who was superior and who wasn’t.
Passage – 5
An angry athlete is an athlete who will make mistakes, as nay coach will tell you. I was no exception. On the first of my three qualifying jumps, I leaped from several inches beyond the take off board for a no-jump. On the second jump, I was even worse. “Did I come 3,000 miles for this?” I thought bitterly. “To fail in the rails and make a fool of myself?”
Passage – 6
Walking a few yards from the pit, I kicked disgustedly at the ground. Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to look into the friendly blue eyes of the tall German long jumper. He had easily qualified for the finals on his first attempt. He offered me a firm handshake.
Passage – 7
“Jesse Owens, I’m Luz Long. I don’t think we’ve met.” He spoke English well, though with a German twist to it.
“Glad to meet you,” I said, trying to hide my nervousness, I added, “How are you?”
“I am fine, The question is : How are you?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Something must be troubling you,” he said, “You should be able to qualify with your eyes shut.”
“Believe me, I know it,” I told him and it felt good to say that to someone.
Passage – 8
For the next few minutes we talk together, I didn’t tell Long what was troubling me, but he seemed to understand my anger and he took pains to reassure me. Although he’d been trained in the Nazi youth movement, he didn’t believe in the Aryan-supremacy business any more than I did. We laughed over the fact that he physically looked like belonging to a superior race. An inch taller than I, he had a lean muscular frame, clear blue eyes, fair hair and strikingly handsome face. “Finally seeing, I have calmed down he pointed to the take-off board.”
Passage – 9
“Look” he said, “why don’t you draw a line a few inches behind the board and aim at making your take-off from there? 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 trails? Tomorrow is what counts.”
Passage – 10
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 behind the board and jumped from there. I qualified with almost a foot to square.
That night I walked over to Luz Long’s room in the Olympic village to thank him. I know that if it hadn’t been for him, I probably wouldn’t be jumping in the finals the following day. We sat in his quarters and talked for two hours about athletics, ourselves, the world situation, a dozen other things.
Passage – 11
When I finally got up to leave, we both knew that a real friendship has been formed. Luz would go out to the stadium the next day trying to beat me if he could. But I knew that he wanted me to do my best – even if that meant my winning.
Passage – 12
As if happened, Luz broke his own past record. In doing so, he pushed me on to a peak performance. I remember that at the instant I landed from my final jump the one which set the Olympic record of 26 feet 5 inches, he was at my side, congratulating me. Despite the fact that Hitler glared at us form the stands not a hundred yards away, Luz shook my hand hard – and it wasn’t a false ‘smile with broken heart’ sort of grip, either.
Passage – 13
You could melt down all the gold medals and cups. I have, and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24 caret. Friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment.
Passage – 14
I realized then, too, that Luz was fine example of what Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, must have had in mind when he said, “The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”
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