Marty Glickman was a Marine in the US Military during the Second World War. Monta Suzuki was a Lieutenant in the Japanese Imperial Navy. But before the war, they were 100-meter sprinters who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Their countries had not gone to war yet. They did not even run against each other during the Olympics. But an encounter during a race in Paris after the Games in Germany connected them forever. At the end of the powerful HBO documentary, Glickman, the great American sports broadcaster, Marty Glickman, told this story of everlasting friendship between a Japanese and an American, who exchanged nothing more than a few words, a handshake and smiles. Here is how Glickman told the story.
After the Games, I ran in Paris. And there were two Japanese sprinters: Yoshioka and Suzuki. And as I dug my starting hole, I noted that in lane number one was Suzuki, and we smiled at each other. I liked him. He liked me. I could tell by the look in his eye. I won the race. Wykoff was second. Suzuki was third.
And as we jogged back to the starting line to put on my warmup clothes, I felt a tap on my shoulder, turned and there was Suzuki, extending his hand, those wonderful brown soft eyes smiling at me. He congratulated me. I didn’t speak Japanese. He didn’t speak English. That’s all there was. But there was an empathy between us.
I mentioned earlier I was a Marine during World War II. You know how Marines felt about the Japanese, particularly the Marines. Early in 1942, I read where on the landings in Luzon, a Japanese lieutenant, a former Olympian, was killed in those landings. And I, a Marine, cried. Can you imagine the feeling we had for each other? We’d known each other two minutes? Three? He was a Japanese soldat. I was an American marine, and I cried for him.
That’s what athletics can do. That’s what sports can do. And it doesn’t have to be the Olympic Games. It could be the schoolyards. It could be the New York Knicks. That’s what sports is truly all about. Camaraderie. The love we feel for each other.