Sometimes great stories are inspired by even greater real-life incidents which motivate us to achieve our dreams. The prose My Greatest Olympic Prize is an inspirational memoir of a very famous athlete named Jesse Owens. This deeply moving tale of a young sportsman was first published in the year 1960 and it was received by the public with great applause. The 1936 Olympics was held in Nazi Germany and there was a lot of excitement and anticipation among the general crowd because of it. Most of the world population wanted to see the arrogant and imperious Chancellor of Germany accept defeat. The sporting events became a platform of expression where the people could vent their objections against Hitler. The author remarkably recalls the united spirit of the crowd when they cheered him on towards success.
Plot and Setting: My Greatest Olympic Prize
In the 1930’s, the charismatic political leader, Adolf Hitler had an important world presence with the idea that all Germans belonged to a superior human race. He single-handedly convinced an entire nation to participate in and commit notorious crimes against other fellow human beings so as to make Germany a greater nation. In the midst of such ideologies, Jesse Owens an American track and field athlete of black origin won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympic Games. This victorious feat caused immense joy and celebration all over the world and it was written down in history as one of the most inspiring events of the 20th century.
The text of My Greatest Olympic Prize is an autobiographical record, where the author, Jesse Owens vividly describes his professional and emotional experiences before and after winning the Olympics in Berlin. It is an important piece of literature for the youth as it is about a real-life hero who overcame his defects and achieved victory through hard work and determination.
My Greatest Olympic Prize Summary
In the summer of 1936, Germany was elected to host the Olympics Game and Hitler was prepared with his best athletes to prove to the world that all Germans belonged to the master ‘Aryan’ race who were undefeatable. This retelling gives us a deep insight of the political and social climate preceding the World Wars and allows us to assess the psyche of the German leader as to how and why he decided to commit the atrocities. It shows a very clear perception about the problems of excessive human power and its relation to social prejudices and discrimination. We all have our flaws but we are redeemed by our values of friendship and humanity and this story celebrates the triumph of good over evil.
Owens was a victim of racial discrimination ever since he was a child. His ancestors were farm slaves and he had to face obstacles based on the colour of skin all through his formative years. It made a deep impact upon his psychology and he was determined to prove his mettle through his talents. The anger and hurt he faced made him train harder for the Olympics. With this goal in mind he delved further into sports and practiced new techniques with his coach. The great feat performed by him was not the result of impetuous actions. The strong athlete practiced for over six years before he got the chance to realise his dreams and win the ultimate trophy. Infact, in 1935, the year previous to the fateful event, the great athlete set a world record of 26 feet 8-1/4 inches in running board jump at the place of his education, the Ohio State University. This was when he came into the limelight and raised everyone’s expectations to a new level. He had provided hope where there was none as Hitler was said to have given his selected athletes intensive sports training for the international games.
Despite his earlier success, when Owens arrived at Berlin, he was nervous during the board jump tryouts. His anxiety increased when he witnessed a German athlete, by the name of Luz Long, performing leaps of about 26 feet during practice. A certain confidential told him that this athlete was a secret weapon that the Führer had kept under wraps and was waiting to unleash him at the right moment during the Olympic Games. Coming to know of this sly tactic infuriated the honest athlete and he pledged to win the games by hook or by crook. It was a matter of personal pride and integrity for Owens and he plunged into an overdrive which resulted in him committing errors and losing focus during practice. It is a well-known fact that an angry sportsman is a distracted sportsman which is why he performed so poorly in the first two trial rounds. In his zest he would leap from several feet beyond the start line and commit a foul. This was when he decided to calm down and self-reflect upon his actions. He questioned himself as to why he had travelled so far, “Did I come 3000 miles for this?” the answer to which renewed his spirit and he decided to give his best once again but this time he needed a more practical approach.
However, Jesse Owens could not lose the frustration that had built up inside him after his failed attempts during the trials and he displayed his emotions by striking his foot in the ground. At that very moment, he sensed someone come up behind him and place a hand on his shoulder. To his great surprise the man was Luz Long, the German rival he was going to compete against in the finals. His frank and friendly appearance was unexpected for the riled up sportsman, but then Luz took initiative and offered a handshake which Jesse couldn’t refuse. The good comrade Luz even gave some suggestions and advice to the impetuous Jesse regarding the rules of the sport. He asked him to take his leaps a few inches back from the board and this guidance helped Jesse like magic. Later that night after the tryouts, Jesse went to meet Luz and thank him for his kind words of advice. Thereafter, the two good athletes dropped all their inhibitions and pretences and spent some time together talking to each other. They both shared their experiences and views on life and through their conversation Jesse realized that Luz too didn’t put any stock in the superior-Aryan race theory that Hitler had so extensively propagated. Once this revelation was made the air between them cleared and they went on to become true friends. Before they parted ways the two friends wished each other the best even if it meant their own defeat.
The day after that memorable night, the German athlete Luz performed extremely well and surpassed his own record. This incident made a great impression on Jesse’s mind and he became inspired to perform better by seeing his new friend. The next event saw him in new colours and the superb athlete of black origin was unstoppable. When he made an excellent landing during his final jump, Luz himself went up to congratulate him on his brilliant feat. The two athletes shook hands in front of everyone – the media, the press and even Hitler who was looking at them intently from the stands. It was a sensational display of fearless camaraderie and true sportsmanship.
The main lead of the story, Jesse Owens, won four gold medals that year, which according to him paled in comparison to the life-lesson and friendship he gained from Luz Long. It meant so much more to him than any Olympic Prize. Their friendship lasted for a long while until Luz sadly died during the World War II. Pierre de Coubertin who was the founder of modern Olympic Games believed in the idea that participation and good performance should be the only objectives of a good sportsman and they should not deviate or hold personal grudges against other players. Owens makes a perfect note of what fair play in any sporting event should like through the narration of his story in My Greatest Olympic Prize.