Friendship is an important Olympic value which adds to the appeal of sporting events and makes us admire those athletes who are capable of supporting their fellow competitors.
- Photo: Luz Long and Jesse Source: olympic.org
Friendship before politics.
At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, a world that had been following events in Nazi Germany with trepidation looked on as a great friendship developed between the German long-jumper Luz Long and the black American athlete Jesse Owens.
Having already won the 400 meters, Owens continued to fight for glory in the long-jump competition. His main rival in this event was Luz Long, the pride of the German nation. After a poor jump in the qualifying round, Owens was on the brink of not making it through to the final. It was then that Luz, going against all the prevailing attitudes and propaganda in his country at the time, went up to the black American athlete and advised him to adjust his run-up. As a result, Owens altered his tactics and successfully qualified for the final, in which he won Olympic gold, forcing his "instructor" into second place. Legend has it that Hitler, on hearing about Luz's generous act, was so angry that he refused to shake not only the American's hand, but also that of his fellow countryman. Owens later recalled: "I formed a great friendship with the German long-jumper Luz. He was the one that really helped me win. I rated his friendship very highly indeed. We wrote to one another regularly, until Hitler invaded Poland and the letters stopped coming. I later found out that Luz had died in the war. I then started to write to his son, and thanks to that our friendship lived on."
- Photo: Julius Skutnabb (left) and Clas Tunberg (right). Source: olympic.org
Ye gave up his medal "As a favor to a friend".
A fairly unusual example of sporting friendship was shown by the Finnish skater and Olympic champion at the 1924 Games in Chamonix, ClasTunberg. In the first race, over 500 meters, Tunberg took the bronze, before winning the second and third races — over 1500 meters and 5000 meters — by a considerable distance. In the long-distance race over 10 kilometers, however, he unexpectedly gifted the gold medal to his compatriot, Julius Skutnabb.
It turned out that before the last race,Skutnabb had approached Tunberg and asked the Olympic champion to give way to him in the longest distance. As Tunberg later put it, he was in such a good mood that he agreed without a second thought. On about the 20th lap, the athletes drew level and Skutnabb asked Tunberg whether he remembered the promise he had made. Tunberg gave a nod of the head, and began to slow down. Skutnabb won his gold medal, and Tunberg came second, thereby becoming a national hero and etching his name into the pantheon of great athletes who have managed not only to win, but to keep a promise made to a comrade and friend.
- Photo: Alexander Tikhonov. 1972, Sapporo, Alexander Tikhonov on the far right Source: ITAR-TASS/Photography TASS/V. Sokolova
Give his ski to a competitor.
Four-time champion Soviet biathlete Alexander Tikhonov, doing a stage of the relay for the Soviet team for the 1972 Olympic Games in the Japanese city of Sapporo, unfortunately mis-stepped on the course and broke a ski. It meant defeat, but Tikhonov did not give up and forced himself to hobble on one ski.
Dieter Speer from the East Germany team —the main rival of the USSR team at that time — saw Tikhonov struggling with himself and the circumstances, and without wavering, gave our biathlete his reserve ski. Unfortunately, it did not completely fit Alexander, but moving with it was much more convenient. Jumping into the race, Tikhonov was able to return to the leading group, but he passed the baton only ninth. Nevertheless, his partners on the team recovered the loss and won the gold. And the East German team ended up with third place. A year later, Alexander Tikhonov thanked his helper, sending him a special rifle as a gift for that ski that gained gold medals for him and the USSR team.