Italy’s Lamont Jacobs: Surprising champion after Olympic gold

Rome – the Romans ran for rounds Lamont Marcel Jacobs He stretches his legs on the track. “Champion Ciao,” said a fast pedestrian. “You make us dream,” said one old man.

Mr. Jacobs nodded to the trap music playing from a portable speaker and sprinted to the starting line. Then he took a quiet breath, crouched and exploded, running faster than anyone on the track, anyone in Italy–almost anyone on earth.

At the Tokyo Olympics, Mr. Jacobs, an Italian unknown at the start of the Games, stunned the sports world by winning the gold medal in the men’s 100m. In a country where some populist politicians have sought support by demonizing black immigrants, the victory of the son of a black American father and a white Italian mother has widened the public imagination of what Italian and Italian athletes can look like.

Mr. Jacobs’ chiseled chin and clean razor dome became the new face of Italian excellence in a year with an abundance of it. Italy set a record at the Olympics, with 40 medals, 10 of which were in track and field. All the gold, said Mr. Jacobs, and the two of them were in his backpack.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi has in recent months welcomed a steady number of Italian champions and award winners. National Football Team beat England In July to win a prize European Football Championship. Italian men arrived Final at Wimbledon. Romanian band Eurovision Award Winner Song Contest. The Italian men’s and women’s volleyball team won the European Championship. In the days before Mr. Jacobs hit the track, Italy came home with the Dessert World Cup. This week, an Italian was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

“Seeing others win automatically gives you the will to win,” said Mr. Jacobs, 27, who is weak when he doesn’t run the 9.8secs for 100 metres. After the sprinter won his race, Gianmarco Tampere, who had just won a gold medal in the high jump, jumped in his arms. Their embrace of the Italian flag became a symbol of Italian achievement and social progress.

“All Italians remember it,” said Mr. Jacobs.

In the months that followed, he took a rest and received gifts and several paintings of him as he ran. (“Now the statue is coming, I don’t know what to do.”) He’s in negotiations for approvals but reluctantly refused a sub-orbital flight with Virgin because “in space no one knows how the body changes.” He has also focused on maintaining his 700,000 new followers Instagram account.

“it’s not Such as He exasperated after posting another picture of himself on the track. “He. She He is a job.”

Much of Mr. Jacobs’ social media production consists of images of him looking serious as a model or showing a ripped torso tattooed abundantly with his children’s names and dates of birth, inspirational phrases, a tiger and a Roman gladiator. Among the other posts were sexy Jacuzzi shots with Nicole Daza, who is the mother of two of his three children.

He recently proposed to her through a fireworks display and is looking forward to a “multi-ethnic wedding” with her Ecuadorean family in Lake Garda.

But some critics have tried to cut short Mr. Jacobs’ Olympic honeymoon by suspecting he will race again. British media, which doubted that he had fallen to just under 10 seconds this year, have drawn accusations of doping. He turned them into grapes after Italy won the soccer championship, then he and his teammates beat the British with their noses in the 4x100m relay.

“Britain has lost everything,” he said, shrugging his shoulders jokingly about the British broadcaster who cried so unforgettable.No! It’s ItalyAt the finish line at 400 metres. He’s a member of the British relay team Tested positive for doping “It makes you laugh,” he said. However, the accusations saddened him, he said, as they undermined years of hard work and sacrifice.

“They don’t know my past,” he said.

In Mr. Jacobs’ novel, it was not foreign matter that propelled him forward but domestic baggage that hindered him.

Explaining his sudden incursion into the upper echelon of elite runners as a result of hiring a mental coach, Nicoletta RomanazziAt the end of 2020. He said she convinced him, that to overcome the tension that led to the death of his legs before the races, he had to build a relationship with a father who disappeared in his childhood. In the end they had some phone conversations and exchanged text messages.

“Because I was abandoned when I was a little kid, I was afraid that if I didn’t do things right, people could abandon me,” he said, adding that the fear of failure paralyzed him. “You’ve constantly talked to me about this abandonment thing.”

His parents were teenagers when they met at a US military base in the northern city of Vicenza, where his father was located. They moved to a base in El Paso, Texas, where Mr. Jacobs was born. Father was sent to South Korea. Mr. Jacobs’ mother has returned to Desenzano del Garda, a holiday town in northern Italy, expecting the couple to meet there.

“He’s gone,” Mr. Jacobs said of his father.

Mr. Jacobs was raised as an Italian, spoke no English and spent hours with his grandparents. His mother started a cleaning service before opening a small hotel where she is I watched him win a gold medal. (“Don’t believe it,” she said in front of A Temporary shrine to her son. “For gold like this, by beating all the Americans.”)

Mr. Jacobs’ cousins ​​were obsessed with motorcycle racing when they were young, but he would make motor noises with his mouth as he ran around. His grandfather calls him “the little human motorcycle.”

“I was running all the time,” said Mr. Jacobs. “Always.”

At seven, realizing his speed, as well as the color of his skin, he asked his mother if he had been adopted. To better explain his origins, she asked to visit his father’s mother.

When he was 13, he and his mother attended an American family meeting in Orlando, where he first met his father. He also attended barbecues and stared softly at his American cousins, not understanding a word they said except that they called him “Mama’s Boy.”

While he rarely felt any direct prejudice in Italy, he came back more sensitive to the demeaning way some people spoke of African immigrants around town. It still annoys him that one of his fellow 4x100m relay racers, Fausto Desalo, the son of a single Nigerian mother who takes care of elderly Italian nationals, cannot become a citizen until the age of 18.

“Born and raised in Italy,” Mr. Jacobs said of his teammate, criticizing a law linking citizenship to blood rather than place of birth. He hoped the team’s success would change something. “A lot of the time, sports help,” he said.

Sports certainly helped him. A terrible student, often reprimanded by priests who now ask him to speak to the students (“No,” he said, “No, no”), was discovered by the local athletics coach.

The long jumper under the wing of another coach became a father figure, but had strange training methods. He made Mr. Jacobs run with Nordic walking sticks on the path and the arcades of the Garda vineyards.

“He had some strange ideas,” said Mr. Jacobs.

By the age of twenty, Mr. Jacobs had become a police officer, although he was not expected to pursue criminals. Italian law enforcement agencies employ the country’s sports talent, giving them salaries, training facilities – and weapons.

“I have a gun, handcuffs and a badge,” he said, pulling the 2014 badge from his bag, admiring the now-defunct curly hair on his police ID. He is still an officer and has indicated that he is due to receive a promotion. “After you win the Olympics, they give you another rank,” he said.

Frustrated by his injuries and lackluster results, in late 2015 his police superiors linked him with Paulo Camusi, a former world triple jump champion, and a member of the prison police.

“I arrest them and put them in jail,” said Mr. Jacobs jokingly on the track as Mr. Kamousi timed his races and gave him pointers.

They trained hard, had many ups and downs, and eventually switched it from long jump to sprints, and this year, he’s starting to put his best foot forward on a personal level. By the time the Tokyo Games started, something was up and Italy had a new champion.

“We are proud to be training with the fastest man in the world,” said Ennio Rossi, 79, who jogged alongside Mr. Jacobs on the track.

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