The Italian sprinter Marcell Jacobs caused a major sensation in the men’s Olympic 100m final by storming to his country’s first ever gold medal in the event.
On an evening of pulsating drama the 26-year-old, a former long jumper, powered clear in the last 30m to win in 9.80sec. The American Fred Kerley was second in 9.84s while Canada’s Andre De Grasse flew home in 9.89s to take bronze.
Speaking afterwards, Jacobs said that watching his compatriot Gianmarco Tamberi take gold in the high jump minutes earlier had been a huge lift – and suggested that Italy would party again like they did after its Euro 2020. “It is amazing, it is fantastic, it is a dream, Olympic champion in the 100m … I have no words," 彼は言った.
“It is a gold medal, it is forever, I am very happy. Watching Gianmarco was a massive boost, it is fantastic. My objective was to arrive in the final, maximum concentration and run my line. It is fantastic for Italy, I think there is a big party like for the football.”
The Italian had originally planned to follow his father into basketball before deciding to become a track and field athlete. But in his early years he focused on the long jump, with his best legal jump a decent but not exceptional 8.07m indoors. Having switched to sprinting, でも, he showed his potential by reaching the semi-finals of the Doha 2019 世界選手権.
Before the athletes were announced the stadium was plunged in darkness, and the names of the finalists read out, starting with the barrel chested Enoch Agekoke of Nigeria. As the camera panned across Britain’s Zharnel Hughes in lane four smiled but looked tense. Bingtian Su showed the world his biceps. Ronnie Baker bit down hard. While De Grasse, wearing sunglasses, looked like the coolest man on the planet. As the eight men crouched down, and the battle music played, Hughes suddenly got a rush of blood to his head and false started. But when the gun blasted off it was Jacobs who kept his cool best of all.
Inevitably this 100m final felt very different. How could it not without the familiar sight of Usain Bolt, slicing through the field and beaming at the crowd after yet another Olympic title? The Bolt supremacy lasted through three Olympics. The Jamaican was an outlier among outliers, a genetic freak among genetic freaks.
Without him the final became twisted with uncertainties. Could Su, who had run an Asian record of 9.83s in the semi-final, a startling improvement on his personal best and the quickest lining up, repeat the trick two hours later? Would Baker or Jacobs, who had finished just behind the Chinese athlete, find an extra gear? And could Hughes, who had looked impressive in winning his semi-final in 9.98s, be able to step up again?
Sadly Hughes, who is called the “Captain” by his former training partner Bolt because he is a qualified pilot, was not able to get off the runway after false starting. As he later explained: “It wasn’t pressure. I wasn’t nervous. It’s just that my calf cramped up when I went up on ‘set’ and with the cramp I moved which is heartbreaking. I’m really gutted right now. I worked too hard to be here to come and false start. It hurts a lot.”
However Jacobs, who was barely known even inside track circles, proved to have had all the answers. As he crossed the line the Italian, who was born in the US but moved to Italy as a baby, thumped his chest and flexed his biceps before jumping into the arms of Tamberi, who had shared a high jump gold moments earlier.
Meanwhile the hundreds of Italian athletes and officials in the stands started to serenade him. It was only what Jacobs’s stunning performance deserved.