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Why Lamont Marcell Jacobs’ gold medal run is a win for global athletics?

The men's 100m at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games had it all, but no one could have predicted that Lamont Marcell Jacobs won proceed Usain Bolt!

Lamont Marcell Jacobs celebrates winning Tokyo 2020 men's 100m
Lamont Marcell Jacobs celebrates winning the men's 100m at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

The 100 meters sprint at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games was a peculiar one right from the beginning. From the underperformance of Trayvon Bromell, an array of false starts and disqualifications, and the mind-boggling run by Su Bingtian in the semis, the blue ribbon event had it all.

Lamont Marcell Jacobs Stuns

But no one could have predicted the end. The grand finale and the climax would have made Christopher Nolan envious. The retirement of Bolt and the emergence of the next global sprint star turned out in a most unexpected way.

On a humid Sunday night in Tokyo, Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Italy stormed to victory with a time of 9.80 seconds, setting a new European Record!

Wait, You don’t know him? Don’t worry, Neither did I nor many other track and field fans globally before his European exploits during the indoor season. Let’s take a sneak peek into the emergence of Lamont Marcell Jacobs, the new poster boy of Italian Athletics.

READ MORE: Tokyo 2020: Lamont Marcell Jacobs wins men’s Olympics 100m gold

Andre de Grasse (L), Lamont Marcell Jacobs and Fred Kerley
Andre de Grasse (L), Lamont Marcell Jacobs and Fred Kerley celebrate their Olympic Games medals

Jacobs was born in El Paso, America to an African-American father and Italian mother. He moved to Italy with his mother as a baby when his father, a soldier in the United States Army, was transferred to South Korea. As his Instagram name suggests he was a long jumper and won the Italian athletic championship in 2016 with a performance of 7.89 meters.

Making The Decision To Switch Events

He later switched to hundred meters and garnered much success in recent times. Jacobs credits his reconnection with his estranged father earlier this year to his success. Jacobs claims that this reunion with his father has played a massive role in improving his mental health and wellbeing.

Jacobs’s win was incredibly fast. The timing of 9.80 would have earned him gold even in Rio. The most impressive trait of his performance as he rose up to the occasion in a perfect possible manner. 

It would not be totally fair to consider Marcell Jacobs won the gold in Tokyo out of thin air. If one looks closely into his performance, he has been improving rapidly and has produced some fast times earlier this year. He ran 9.95 in an International-meet in Savona back in May.

This unrecognition and lack of international media coverage made sure that this never came to light until his biggest victory.  He finished 3rd in the Monaco diamond league with a timing of 9.99. This again went unnoticed as all the eyes were fixated on the American superstar Ronnie Baker and Akani Simbini who had run a 9.84 some days before. In the modern era, there are a number of athletes who run below 10 seconds and not everyone gets recognition.

Tokyo 2020 Lamont Marcell Jacobs wins Olympic 100m
Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Italy wins the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games 100m

ALSO READ: Lamont Marcell Jacobs Powers To European Indoor 60m Title

Lamont Marcell Jacobs Was Never In The Picture

Rightly so, because more often than not come to the big stage most of them do not emulate the performance. And importantly, a couple of performances below 10 seconds were simply not enough to give Jacobs a chance to win the gold in Tokyo. In fact, the bookmakers gave him a mere 3% chance to trouble the medalists.

That was indeed an underestimation of Jacobs who is a European Indoor 60m champion and a runner-up in world relays. All this lack of attention might have turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the youngster.  The lack of expectation and media attention meant he could go out there and perform his best without any expectation. That is exactly what Jacobs did- He stood up to the occasion and bettered his race in each passing round. 

Italy had never won a hundred-meter gold medal in 125-year Olympic history until yesterday. This should indeed revive Italian athletics. Italy has performed exceedingly well at the sprints with another runner Tortu Flippo making it into the semi-finals.

More importantly, a high jump gold for Gianmarco Tamberi just 15 minutes before Jacobs’s gold might have made up one of the best days in the Track and field history of Italian athletics. 

The Tokyo 2020 hundred-meters final has shown the world that a champion might arise from any corner of the earth irrespective of their previous performance. Long before Jacobs proved it the Chinese athlete Su Bingtian had shown us a trailer of unexpectedness.

Semifinal Big-time Breakthrough

He burst out like a rocket to run a 9.83 in the 3rd semi-final on the way to breaking the Asian record by a huge margin. This came out of nowhere and unfortunately, he could not revive the same in the finals. Another interesting observation is the Tokyo 2020 Hundred-meter lineup showed a better diversity unlike usual lineups stacked with Americans and Caribbean Islanders.

Bingtain was only the second Asian to make it to the finals ever. Enoch Adegoke of Nigeria made it to the finals too. There was representation from South Africa in the form of Simbini and even though Zharnel Hughes was disqualified in the paper, a British had made a cut to the finals. This was one of the most diverse hundred-meter line-ups in quite a long time.

Everybody expected the post-Usain Bolt era to be dominated by an American or maybe the Canadian in the form of De Grasse. From the start of the 21st century, the shortest distance has always been dominated by the Americans and Islanders. Marcel Jacobs’s 100 meters win is the first one for Europe in 29 years.

Linford Christie’s 100 meters gold in Barcelona was the last time a non- Jamaican/American had won this event. This simply shows the amount of dominance the North Americans have had over this event over the years. Marcel Jacobs’s win is satisfying in many ways as a new era of global sprint stars emerge.

This has showcased to the world that every event is open to competition and the best is determined by the hard work and performance and not from where you belong. This victory is in fact a win for global athletics, for recognition, for fan following, and most importantly, for the development of the sport. 

Nilesh Beliraya is a former middle distant athlete who ran in Indian circuits. Currently, pursuing law, he aspires to specialize in sports law. He takes great pleasure in following global athletics and closely analyze the same. His hobbies include debating, freelancing and catching up with books. You can reach him at @Nilesh Beliraya in Twitter and @Nilesh_bk on Instagram.

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