Stunned and ecstatic after claiming two gold medals in the space of 11 minutes, as Lamont Marcell Jacobs won the 100m final and Gianmarco Tamberi shared first place in the high jump, Italians have been celebrating a golden Sunday at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“It is Italian sport’s most beautiful day,” said Giovanni Malagò, the president of the Italian Olympics Committee. “They have made history. Our grandchildren’s grandchildren will talk about it. This is better than the Eurocup,” he added, referring to Italy’s Euro 2020 football victory last month.
The headlines in the Italian press on Monday ranged from “The gods of Olympus” (la Stampa) to “We are history” (Corriere della Sera).
“Being first in the 100m and high jump means beating monstrous competitors,” wrote a columnist in la Gazzetta dello Sport. “This is why Italy has never experienced a day like this in 125 years of Olympic games.”
The medals – as well as the success of the Italian rock band Maneskin at Eurovision, and the Uefa Cup victory – have been seen by many as a kind of national redemption after a year and a half of struggle that began with a strict lockdown at the start of the Covid pandemic.
Mario Draghi, the prime minister, was so moved by the victory of the two Italian athletes that a few minutes after Jacobs triumphed with a time of 9.80 seconds, becoming not only the first Italian to reach an Olympic 100m final but the first to win the most coveted gold medal in athletics, he contacted the runner, disrupting an interview with Spanish radio.
“Italian prime minister Mario Draghi is holding on the line,” Malagò exclaimed to Jacobs while handing him the phone.
Footage showed Jacobs breaking away from the interview to take the call, in front of the speechless reporter. “Italy is proud of you,” Draghi told Jacobs, who also received a call from the president, Sergio Mattarella, expressing “great appreciation and satisfaction”.
Tamberi too was interrupted by a phone call during the press conference: “It’s my mother. I have to answer,” he joked, pretending to take the call.
Tamberi’s victory in particular was praised as one of the most heartwarming moments of the Tokyo Games, after the Italian athlete agreed to share gold medals in the high jump competition with his friend and opponent, Mutaz Barshim of Qatar.
Tamberi and Barshim were locked in first place on Sunday after a tough few hours of competing. The two athletes were eventually given the option to settle matters with a jump-off. However, Barshim had a better idea: how about two golds?
As soon as the official said that was possible, Tamberi instantly accepted, slapping Barshim’s hand and jumping into his arms.
“To me, this is among the most beautiful images of these Olympics,” said one Italy fan on Twitter. “This is the true meaning of sport.”