We The Italians | Italian sport: Gianmarco Tamberi, highest of all

Italian sport: Gianmarco Tamberi, highest of all

Italian sport: Gianmarco Tamberi, highest of all

  • WTI Magazine #152 Jun 25, 2022
  • 334

Athletics has an ancient tradition in Italy, and over time some Italian athletes have become true international legends, such as marcher Ugo Frigerio, sprinter Pietro Mennea, and high jumper Sara Simeoni. Three athletes who decades later their success are still world famous for their amazing achievements at the Olympics Games, World Championships and European Championships, and for their world records set in their respective specialties.

Since the beginning of the new millennium, Italian athletics has begun to enter a crisis of results, although some great champions have been there, such as marathon runner Stefano Baldini, who at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games won gold in the most symbolic race of that edition.

Last year, in Tokyo, Italy returned to prominence by winning a record number of seven gold medals. One of the most symbolic victories, celebrated by the world's press, was the one won in the high jump by Gianmarco "Gimbo" Tamberi, a true showman of the sport known worldwide.

A high jump specialist, born thirty years ago in Civitanova Marche, the son of Marco, a former Italian champion in the high jump and Gianmarco's coach, he has been among the strongest athletes in the world in his specialty for almost ten years. Nicknamed "half-shave," because for years he has had one half of his face with a beard and the other shaved, Tamberi is a unique athlete who in every competition is able to drag entire stadiums cheering for him with every jump.

A lover of African American culture, he listens to rap music before every competition and has a great passion for basketball, which he has practiced since childhood. When he's not training on the track and field platform, he's easy to find in Ancona's Dorico playground, where he doesn't shy away from three-on-three with anyone who steps onto the court. It's a passion that led him on February 18 of t5his year to realize a dream, that of stepping on an NBA court, sent to play in the Celebrity Game, the contest of All-Star Weekend in Cleveland.

Returning to his specialty and achievements, we can say that Tamberi is a predestined athlete. At just 19 years old, he won the bronze medal at the European Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, and from there on he took off, jumping higher and higher.

2016 is the most important year of his career, for better or worse, at least until the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. On February 13 in Hustopece, Czech Republic, he jumps to 2.38 meters, setting the Italian indoor record and the best performance of the year. On March 19, in Portland OR, he wins the gold medal at the World Indoor Championships. On July 10, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, he wins the European Outdoor Championships, and five days later, at the Monaco meeting, he sets the Italian record by jumping 2.39 meters.

In the same competition, confident of victory, he tries to jump 2.41 meters, but during the run-up he injures his right ankle, interrupting his dream of participating in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where he would have been among the favorites to win gold.

Since that bad day, Gianmarco will face the worst period of his life, no longer being able to find the momentum to return among the high jump greats. But on that day, he promises himself that four years later, in Tokyo, he will be the strongest of all and win the gold medal, a feat never achieved by any Italian in the men's field. And in 2021, at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium, he will fulfill that promise in the most symbolic race of the Olympic edition.

Together with Qatari Mutaz Essa Barshim, Tamberi jumps six measures without a mistake, reaching 2.37 meters together. Then they both miss at 2.39 meters and by the IOC's new rule, they can decide together whether to continue with the jumps or stop to graduate as Olympic champions together, thus "sharing" the gold. The two athletes, lifelong friends in life and rivals in sport, choose to share the victory, which has been celebrated around the world as one of the most symbolic gestures of fair play in Olympic history.