Families of Jesse Owens, Luz Long to unite at World Championships

08-05-2009

Contact:
Jill Geer
Chief Public Affairs Officer
USA Track & Field
317-713-4663

BERLIN - The granddaughter of Olympic legend Jesse Owens and the son of German long jump great Luz Long will be part of the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, to be held August 15-23 in Berlin's Olympic Stadium.

Thanks to a joint effort between the IAAF, USA Track & Field and the Berlin Organizing Committee, Marlene (Owens) Dortch and Kai Long will represent their families as they award the medals for the men's long jump final on August 22. They also will take part in other events related to the Championships.

At the 1936 Olympic Games, Long played a pivotal role in helping enable Owens to achieve his historic four gold-medal performance. During long jump qualifying, Owens had fouled during his first two attempts. Facing elimination from the competition if he did not post a qualifying mark on his third attempt, Owens received assistance from Long, who set the Olympic record during qualifying. Long suggested to Owens that he move back the start of his run-up so he would take off well before the long jump board.

Owens followed Long's advice and easily qualified for the final, where he won the competition with a leap of 8.06m/26 feet 5.5 inches, with Long taking the silver. The two walked from the stadium, arm-in-arm, and in the more than 70 years since that moment, the two families have remained in contact.

"These Championships provide a rare opportunity to honor the bond of international friendship formed between Mr. Owens and Mr. Long," IAAF President Lamine Diack said. "It is our earnest hope that the power of athletics to unite the world in friendship can be displayed once again in Berlin during these World Championships."

Throughout the 2009 outdoor athletics season, USA Track & Field has promoted the team's return to Berlin, honoring Owens in all its domestic television broadcasts and arranging a special showing of the Bud Greenspan film, "Jesse Owens Returns to Berlin", at its national championships in June. At the World Championships, the U.S. team will wear a special uniform approved by the IAAF, which features the initials of Mr. Owens.

"To see the families of Jesse Owens and Luz Long, side by side, will provide the capstone to a yearlong celebration for USA Track & Field," USATF CEO and General secretary Doug Logan said. "Few athletes mean more to our sport's international heritage than Mr. Owens, and it is our honor to assist in bringing the Owens and Long families together again."

Family members also are expected to take part in events at the KulturStadion, located at the Brandenburg gate, which will feature athletics celebrations throughout the Championships.