Before Sunday, an Italian man had never won an Olympic medal in the 100-meter dash in the Game’s 125-year history. Now, Lamont Marcell Jacobs is the first from Italy to hold the title of world’s fastest man.
Jacobs set a European record in the men’s 100-meter dash on Sunday, finishing in 9.80 seconds, to win the gold medal.
Jacobs, a 26-year-old sprinter and long jumper, was born in El Paso to an Italian mother and African-American father. When his father, a soldier in the United States Army, was transferred to South Korea, he and his mother moved to Italy.
His parents separated when he was an infant, but Jacobs reconnected with his father for the first time a year ago, according to The Associated Press. After his 100-meter-dash victory on Sunday, he said that finding his father was part of his mental preparation for the Games.
“I never saw my dad from that time,” Jacobs said. “But I started to speak with him one year ago for the first time. This helped me arrive here with a good mentality.”
Jacobs, whose Instagram handle is @crazylongjumper, a moniker he has inked on his body, along with the names of his three children and his partner, began competing in athletics at 9 years old, gravitating to sprinting and long jump, according to the Tokyo Olympics website.
He made his first impression at the national level while competing in long jump. In 2016, he won the Italian Athletics Championships in long jump with a distance of 7.89 meters.
In 2018, he claimed his first 100-meter dash title and began closing in on the event’s difficult 10-second barrier. And in May 2021, he set the Italian record in the 100-meters with a time of 9.95 seconds and became the 150th person in history to finish the race in under 10 seconds.
With the Italian record secured, Jacobs set his sights on the Olympics. From the first time he stepped on the track, he told Corriere Della Sera, he dreamed of becoming an Olympian.
“On my bedroom wall I had the newspaper page of the famous Carl Lewis commercial with him wearing stiletto heels in the starting blocks,” he said. “But my idol as a child was Andrew Howe who, like me, is mixed race and half-American. I could identify with him.”