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Mon, 08.21.2023

Carl ‘Luz’ Long, Olympian and Soldier born.

*Carl ‘Luz’ Long was born on this date in 1913. He was a white German Olympic long jumper and soldier.

Carl Ludwig 'Luz' Long was born in Leipzig, Stadtkreis Leipzig, Saxony, Germany.  He studied law at the University of Leipzig, and as a 21-year-old, 1.84-meter-tall (6'½"), Long had finished third in the 1934 European Championships in Athletics with 7.25 meters (23'9½"). In 1936 he joined the Leipziger Sports Club. After graduating, he practiced as a lawyer in Hamburg while continuing his interest in sports.

By the summer of 1936, Long held the European record in the long jump and was eager to compete against African American world-record holder Jesse Owens for the first time. The long jump on August 4 was Long's first event against Owens, and Long met his expectations by setting an Olympic record during the preliminary round. In contrast, Owens fouled on his first two jumps. He knew that he needed to reach at least 7.15 meters (about 23 feet 5½ inches) on his third jump to advance to the finals in the afternoon.

Speaking to Long's son in 1964, Owens said that Long went to him during the Olympics and told him to try to jump from a spot several inches behind the take-off board. On his third qualifying jump, Owens jumped with at least four inches (10 centimeters) to spare, easily qualifying for the finals. The jumpers exceeded the old Olympic record five times in the final’s competition. Owens went on to win the gold medal in the long jump with 8.06 meters (26'5¼").

Long won the silver medal for second place and was the first to congratulate Owens: they posed together for photos and walked arm-in-arm to the dressing room. Owens said, "It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler... I would 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." 

Long's competition with Owens is in Leni Riefenstahl's documentary Olympia – Fest der Völker. Two days later, Long finished 10th in the triple jump. He finished third in the 1938 European Championships in Athletics long jump with 7.56 meters (24'9½"). Luz Long won the German long jump championship six times in 1933, 1934, 1936, 1937, 1938, and 1939.

As a soldier, Luz Long served in the Wehrmacht during World War II. During the Allied invasion of Sicily in Italy, Long was injured on July 10, 1943, in the battle for the Biscari-Santo Pietro airfield and died four days later in a British military hospital on July 14, 1943. Long and Owens corresponded after 1936. In his last letter, Long wrote to Owens and asked him to contact his son Karl after the war and tell him about his father and "what times were like when we not separated by war. I am saying—tell him how things can be between men on this earth." After the war, Owens traveled to Germany to meet his son Karl Long.

Roads near sports facilities in Long's hometown of Leipzig and the Munich Olympia Park of 1972 are named after him. His medal, photos, and documents are in the Sportmuseum Leipzig. He is portrayed in The Jesse Owens Story (1984) and Race (2016).

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