At the Berlin Olympics, Owens won the long jump with a leap of 26-5½ (later crediting his achievement to the technical advice he received from Luz Long, the German competitor whom he defeated).
Owens was almost out of the long jump event shortly after qualifying began. He fouled on his first two jumps, though he was stunned when officials counted a practice run down the runway and into the pit as an attempt.
With one jump remaining, Luz Long, a tall, blue-eyed, blond German long jumper who was his stiffest competition, introduced himself. He suggested that Owens make a mark several inches before the takeoff board and jump from there to play it safe. Owens took the advice and qualified.
In the finals, that afternoon, Long’s fifth jump matched Owens’ 25-10. But Owens leaped 26-3¾ on his next attempt and won the gold medal with a final jump of 26-5½. The first to congratulate the Olympic record holder was Long, who looked like the model Nazi but wasn’t.
“It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler,” Owens said. “You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment. Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace. The sad part of the story is I never saw Long again. He was killed in World War II.” Owens, though, would continue to correspond with Long’s family.