Structured Questions Answers from My Greatest Olympic Prize by Jesse Owens

QUESTION AND ANSWERS from My Greatest Olympic Prize

Read the extract and answer the following questions:

1. I guessed that if long won, it would add some new suport to the Nazis' Aryan-superiority theory. After all, I am a Negro. A little hot under the collar about Hitler's ways. I determined to go out there and really show Der Fuhrer and his master race who was superior and who wasn't. An angry athlete is an athlete who will make mistakes, as any 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 foul. On the second jump, I fouled even worse. "Did I come 3000 miles for this?" I thought bitterly. "To foul out of the trials and make a fool of myself?"

1. Why was Jesse not worried about Hitler's declaration of the supremacy of Master's race?


Owens did not bother about the patriotic feelings which were running high in Germany. He had full faith in his capabilities. He had trained, sweated and disciplined himself for six years and what occupied his mind were games and games only. He thought only of taking one or two gold medals.

2. What surprised him?


Jesse was surprised to see a tall boy hitting the pit at almost 26 feet on his practice leaps on the broad-jump trials. He was a German named Luz Long who was kept hidden by Hitler with the hope to win the jump. His marvellous performance in the trials startled Owens.

3. An angry athlete is an athlete who will make mistakes, as any coach will tell you. Justify this statement.


Although Jesse Owens' full concentration was on his game and winning the gold medal but he got distracted somewhat after seeing Luz Long's performance. He thought that if he won, it would add support to Nazi's AryanSuperiority theory. He got irritated by this and thinking about this, he was filled with anger and fouled twice in the qualifying jumps.

4. What was the Nazi's Aryan-superiority theory?


Adolf Hitler believed in Aryan-superiority theory. According to him the athletes of Germany should be from Master's race and would do better than other competitors in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The nationalistic feelings were at prime at that time.

5. Why did Jesse Owens become so tensed afterwards?


On his first three qualifying jumps, Jesse Owens leapt from several inches beyond the take-off board. He fouled. On the second jump, he did worse and fouled again. It reminded him that he had not travelled three hundred miles for making repeated fouls and making a fool of himself. His mind was full of bitterness over his own underperformance.

2. "Something must be eating you", he said-proud the way foreigners are when they've mastered a bit of American slang. "You should be able to qualify with your eyes closed." "Believe me, I know it", I told him—and it felt good to say that to someone. For the next few minutes we talked together. I didn't tell Long what was "eating" me, but he seemed to understand my anger, and he took pains to reassure me. Although he'd been schooled in the Nazi youth movement, he didn't believe in the Aryan-supremacy business any more than I did. 

1. Why did Owens kick the pit in disgust?


Owens was already angry with Hitler's Nazi theory and an angry athlete is prone to making mistakes. Owens knew this very well. still, he could not control his temper and on his first trial, he leapt several inches beyond the take-off point which resulted in disqualification. He walked a few yards from the pit and kicked it in despair and disgust.

2. What was eating him and did he tell it to Luz Long?


Jesse Owens was hot under the collar with Hitler's childish theory because of which his trial performance was affected. He had a very bad impact on him after fouling in the final qualifying jumps and this was eating him.

He did not tell it to Luz Long on being asked as what bothered him because by that time Long was not his friend, he was simply a co-athlete apart from being a Nazi rival.

3. Describe Luz Long's physique.


Luz Long was blue-eyed tall German athlete. He was an inch taller than Jesse Owens. He had a lean muscular body. He carried blonde hair and was astonishingly handsome and had a well-chiselled face or a perfectly carved face.

4. What were Luz Long's views about Aryan- supremacy theory?


In the trials for the long jump event, Jesse fouled on his first two attempts. Luz Long, the top German broad jumper who had qualified for the finals came to him and gave his introduction. Though he was trained in Nazi school, he did not believe in the Hitler's Aryan-supremacy theory that his performers were from the master race and would perform better than the others and that no one could beat them. He advised Owens to play safe.

5. What did Luz Long Suggest Owens?
How did he calm down Owens?
How did he help Owens come out of the trouble?


Jesse did not tell Luz Long about his trouble but he seemed to understand his anger. He tried to ease out the situation by explaining that he didn't believe in Aryan-supremacy business and when Jesse was calmed down, Long suggested him to draw a line a few inches in back of the board and aim at making his take off from that line. He assured him that he would never foul from that point. This helped Owens a lot.

3. That night I walked over to Luz Long's room in the Olympic village to thank him. I knew 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 track and field, ourselves, the world situation, a dozen other 
things. When I finally got up to leave, we both knew that a real friendship had been formed. Luz would go out to the field 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.

1. How did the rivalry between the two players come to an end?


Seeing Owens tensed too much, Luz Long approached him and tried to calm him down by giving suggestions. Suddenly all the tension seemed to flow away from his body as the truth what Long told him struck him. Full of confidence, he drew a line a full foot in back of the board and proceeded to jump and qualified with almost a foot to spare. That night he went to Long's room and thanked him. They sat and talked for two hours on every topic.

2. How did Luz Long react to Jesse winning the gold?


When Owens finished his jump he found Luz Long beside him congratulating him. He gave him a firm handshake which was far from any jealousy. He did not bother about the wrath of Hitler and congratulated Owens. He failed but helped a capable world record holder to set other records.

3. Why did Hitler glare at both of them?


Luz Long broke his own past record but did not win. But Jesse Owens set the Olympic record of jumping 26 feet 5 -5/16 inches. Luz Long came to his side congratulating him by shaking his hands hard. Hitler was watching all this and he was not a hundred yards away from them. He could not tolerate the defeat of his athlete and besides congratulating the other athlete he glared at both of them.

4. Why the reference to Coubertin has been made?


Coubertin is said to be the founder of the modern Olympic Games. He believed that the most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well. Luz Long did not win but he presented the true example of this spirit.

5. What is the significance of '24 carat friendship' in the story?


When Owens won the finals, Luz Long came to him and congratulated him warmly by shaking hands with him. Owens found no feeling of regret or jealousy in him as he was also an opponent. He was too much influenced by Long's sportsmanship. Then he said that their friendship was 24-carat friendship because it is the purest form of gold in which there is no other alloy. In the same way, there was no mixture or any kind of element in their friendship and moreover, its coating couldn't be done even by melting all the gold medals and cups.

Compound Questions and Answers

1. (a) How does Jesse bring about his expectations and anxiety before the win?


In his article paying tribute to his fellow sportsman, Jesse Owens frankly tells about his feelings before the win. Expectations were high, confidence was up but there were some moments which upset him and made him underestimate himself.
It was at the time when Hitler proclaimed that his performers who belonged to the Master Race' would win in the Games, and where Jesse the son of a sharecropper, and the grandson of a slave got the opportunity to participate in the Olympics. He was not unduly bothered about it, as he had practised well. He had broken the record in running broad jump at Ohio State University championship and his confidence level was up: so were the expectations of his countrymen.
Jesse was in for a surprise when he saw a young German in the pit, easily going through his practice leaps. He was crossing almost twenty-six feet. Hitler had kept him under wraps to prove his Nazi-Aryan superiority theory, and this irked Jesse a bit. He was a black man, a Negro and he wanted to prove a point to Hitler and his men. Unfortunately, in his anger, he made several mistakes and it seemed he would not even qualify.

(b) Trace the circumstances in which Jesse Owens achieved his incredible win and a lifelong friendship in the 1936 Berlin Olympics?


When Jesse was walking in disgust at his failure in making the qualifying jumps, he felt a hand on his shoulder and looked into the smiling blue eyes of a German athlete. Offering a firm handshake, the tall young man introduced himself as Luz Long and enquired about what was bothering Jesse that prevented him from qualifying easily. The German understood his anger and reassured him by making clear that he did not believe in Aryan superiority theory. He suggested that Jesse should draw a line a few inches back on the board and take off from there. He also told him that it was only the qualifying

2. (a) 'An angry athlete is an athlete who will make mistakes.' What is the mistake being talked about and how did Jesse feel at that point of time?


Although Jesse Owen's full concentration was on his game and winning the gold medal, he got distracted after seeing Luz Long's performance. He thought that if Luz won, it would add support to Nazi's Aryan-Superiority theory. He got irritated thinking about this; he was filled with anger and fouled twice in the qualifying jumps. His attitude towards his game had a very bad impact on him after fouling in the final qualifying jumps and this was eating him up.

(b) How was the mistake rectified and what was the result of it?


The mistake of making fouls twice was rectified with the help of Luz Long's fruitful advise. He suggested him to draw a line a few inches back of the board and aim at taking off from that line. His advice reassured Owens about him qualifying the jump without fouling.

(c) Evaluate Luz Long as a sportsman and as a friend.


Luz Long was a true sportsman and an amazing human being. He reduced Owens' tension by showing compassion. He gave him friendly advice of how to draw a line a few inches before the board and take off from there to avoid the foul. This helped Owens to qualify. Later when Owens met him after trials in his quarter, both talked for two hours about a lot of things. He knew he would anger Hitler by being friendly with Owens but didn't pay heed to it and developed a congenial relationship with him. He did not mind his defeat at all and showed no sign of jealousy towards Owens.
Luz Long had the true spirit of sportsmanship. That's why when he saw Owens in trouble, he extended his hand to help him. Instead of seeing him as a rival, he was friendly with Owens. He proved to be Owens' true guide; he respected him and considered him as his equal. Although he also had pressure on him of winning the medal but he did not have any hesitation in offering advice to an opponent. He helped Jesse in coming out of distress. Besides he was an amazing human being. He took himself just as a participant and winning was only a matter of chance and efforts. Even after losing the game, he did not develop any rivalry towards Jesse. Rather he congratulated Jesse with a firm handshake in front of Hitler when Jesse won the gold medal. He showed exceptional courage in befriending Jesse in front of his leader.

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