Part I — Meeting with Payton Jordan

SCH 1-11. On 4 June 1982 Sri Chinmoy met with one of the all-time great coaches and champion athletes, Payton Jordan. Following are excerpts from their conversation, which took place in Mr. Jordan's office at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

Jesse Owens

Mr. Jordan: Please sit down and make yourself comfortable. I am pleased that you came.

Sri Chinmoy: I am so happy and honoured to be here. I met Jesse Owens, but I have never met you. Better late than never! This is something in my life that I will always treasure.

Mr. Jordan: Thank you so much. I'm honoured to be spoken of in the same breath as Jesse Owens. He was oneself my dear friends, one of my inspirations and treasured idols.

Sri Chinmoy: Last night I was reading your book Champions in the Making. I learned so much from it. At one point you said something so profound. Many people are under the impression that first you have to move the hands and then the legs follow. But you said, "If this is so, then why do people not run on their hands?"

Mr. Jordan: That's right. A lot of people look at this from a different point of view, but this is my viewpoint. It is like asking which comes first: the chicken or the egg. The chicken and the egg principle really does apply here.

Sri Chinmoy: In your book you also said many things about Jesse Owens — about his style and about the movements of his hands. In your book you said you were Jesse Owens' colleague, that you used to run with him.

Mr. Jordan: Yes, I ran with him when I was in my early years and he was in his last years of competition. But we ran together and had some wonderful competitions. We had fun. Jesse Owens, at the time that I was able to observe him, was one of the smoothest and most beautiful runners the world has ever known. I feel he expressed what God gave him as well as anyone in his field ever did. He was amazing, not only as an athlete but also as a person. He did and said and felt things that were very, very meaningful. I find that in a lifetime you run into those types of people only occasionally. I was very privileged to have had that opportunity to share time with him on the athletic field and also sitting, as we are now, enjoying what we could share together.

Sri Chinmoy: Could you kindly tell me why he did not continue his career? It lasted only for a few years.

Mr. Jordan: It lasted for only a few years after the 1936 Olympic Games. He chose to retire from competition about three or four years after 1936 — to go into public relations and speak. I think in that way he carried his message from the cinder path to the lecturn and was able to impart to young people inspiration and challenges that were extremely valuable to the people he touched, maybe more valuable than we realise.