The nations they represented would soon be embroiled in a war for survival but at the 1936 Olympics, two long jumpers forged a mutual respect and lifelong friendship. “Luz” Long of Germany gave a tip to Jesse Owens that led to Owens beating him in the long jump. His silver medal, and other items from Long’s life are the subject of a newly launched auction.
SCP Auctions has opened Beacon of Hope: The Luz Long Collection. Bidding is set to run through October 15.
The medal headlines dozens of other heirlooms that came directly from the Long family.
Under pressure to perform as an African American on Adolf Hitler’s home turf, the 23-year-old Owens won four gold medals but would not have won the long jump if not for an honorable assist from his top contender from Germany. After two failed attempts at qualifying for the final round, Owens was down to his last try. At that moment, Long came up to Owens and suggested the American change his mark and start his jump before the foul line so he wouldn’t scratch on his final attempt.
“Suddenly all the tension seemed to ebb out of my body as the truth of what he said hit me,” recalled Owens. “Confidently, I drew a line a full foot in back of the board and proceeded to jump from there. I qualified with almost a foot to spare.”
In the final, Owens took gold with a new Olympic record of 8.06 meters (26 feet, 5½ inches), while Long earned silver with a 7.87m jump. After the event, Long was the first to congratulate Owens and embraced him at the pit. After the medal presentation, the two walked around the stadium arm-in-arm and were celebrated by the crowd of 110,000. It was the purity of sportsmanship that Luz Long demonstrated; and for Long, Owens’ comment, “You forced me to give my best,” was the highest recognition for a sportsman. “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 twenty-four karat friendship that I felt for Luz Long at that moment.”
Considered among the most courageous sportsmen in Olympic history, Long was equally brave as a soldier. Sometime after World War II broke out, Long was called to duty. Critically injured during combat in Italy in July 1943, he ultimately died from his wounds at just 30 years old. After almost seven years of searching for his remains, Luz’s wife received word on March 21, 1950 that his grave had been located in the German honorary section of the American military cemetery at Gela, Caltanissetta Province.
The brave display of friendship and humanity that day of the long jump exemplifies how Luz Long was a “beacon of hope” against everything the Third Reich stood for. When Long befriended Owens that day, he personified the Olympic idealism of IOC Founder Pierre de Coubertin and showed how sport has the power to transcend discrimination and nationalistic divides. In one mystical moment, Luz Long became the most courageous sportsperson in Olympic history. Regardless of how difficult the political climate would be for Long in the aftermath, his deeply sportsmanlike mentality drove him to help the best man win. -SCP Auctions
This silver winner’s medal is one of the most important Olympic items ever offered, outside of Jesse Owens’ 1936 gold medal that SCP Auctions sold in 2013 for $1.466 million. In today’s market, the company believes that medal would likely be worth $5 million or more. They estimate Long’s medal will go for $500,000 to $1 million. In 2019, another Owens gold medal sold for $615,000.
Long’s 1936 Olympics participant medal, other medals from his athletic career and numerous PSA encapsulated photos are also part of the auction.