One of the most historically significant Olympic winner’s medals — Carl Ludwig “Luz” Long’s 1936 Berlin Olympics silver medal in Men’s Long Jump — sold for $488,435 at SCP Auctions Saturday night. It’s a new record for any Olympic silver medal ever sold publicly. In comparison, NBA legend Bill Russell’s Olympic gold medal went for just slightly more, $587,500, about a year ago.
Twenty bids were made for the medal, which had attracted a significant amount of worldwide media attention.
Long was runner-up to Jesse Owens in the event, but the real story was their friendship formed in the heat of competition that enabled Owens to win gold while Long settled for silver.
When Owens arrived on the scene at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, he was just 23 years old like Luz Long. Under pressure to perform as an African American on Adolf Hitler’s home turf, 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 in the long jump trials, Owens only had one more shot at qualifying for the final round. At that moment, Long came up to Owens and suggested Owens change his mark and start his jump before the foul line so he wouldn’t scratch on his final attempt.
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 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.”
Numerous other items from Long’s athletic career were also sold in the auction including his signed 1936 Olympic Games athlete identification card, which sold for over $6,600 and his participant’s medal, which netted $4,147.