My Greatest Olympic Prize by Jesse Owens
In My Greatest Olympic Prize by Jesse Owens we have the theme of nationalism, propaganda, struggle, kindness, friendship and participation and from the beginning of the essay the reader realises that Owens may be exploring the theme of nationalism. It is 1936 and the Berlin Olympics are underway. These Olympics were Hitler’s way of showing off to the world how good the Aryan race where in sports. It was believed that those who were not Aryan were inferior in some way. Something that Owens aims to prove wrong. However Owens is incurring difficultly with his broad jump trials. He has fouled on two separate occasions and he only has one chance left to make it to the finals. There is a sense that Owens is struggling because of the propaganda that is surrounding the Olympics. It makes him angry that someone could consider a black man to be inferior to others.
The theme of friendship is self-evident in the essay. Owens makes fast and firm friends with Luz Long and if anything Long, who is considered by Hitler to be the best, is an inspiration to Owens. It is through Long’s guidance that Owens manages to make it through to the finals when he suggests to Owens that Owens draw a line a foot back from the jumping board. Something that Owens does and manages to qualify with a foot to spare. This act of kindness is completely within the Olympic spirit and helps Owens no end. What is also interesting is the fact that despite Long looking every bit the Aryan, Owens makes friends with him. After both men talk it is clear to Owens that Long does not hold the same views that Hitler does.
There may also be some symbolism in the essay that might be important. The fact that Owens draws a line a foot behind the jumping board is symbolic of the imaginary line that Owens draws in his mind when it comes to believing that those who are Aryan are better than him. Owens succeeds because of this and because he gives his best and achieves an Olympic record. The handshake between Owens and Long is significant too as it highlights the friendship between both men. Though sporting rivals they are friends even though they have just met. This may be Owens way of highlighting how important participation in the Olympics is. It is more important to participate than it is to win a medal. Something that some other competitors might struggle with.
The end of the essay is interesting as Owens continues to explore the theme of participation. Though he has won the broad jumping gold medal he is thankful to Long for his advice. Knowing full well that both men have become firm friends. Despite Hitler’s disgust on seeing Long congratulate Owens on winning the gold. Obviously Hitler is not happy that a black man has beaten someone who he considered (Long) to be part of the master race. In reality the Berlin Olympics of 1936 did not go Hitler’s way and his wish to propagandize the Olympics fell flat on its face. Much to Owens delight but to Hitler’s embarrassment. However Owens success at the Olympics did not change Hitler’s mind. He continued with his propaganda in other areas of German life and inflicted havoc in Europe causing World War Two.