We The Italians | Italian sport: Marcell Jacobs, the fastest man in the world

Italian sport: Marcell Jacobs, the fastest man in the world

Italian sport: Marcell Jacobs, the fastest man in the world

  • WTI Magazine #150 Apr 23, 2022
  • 470

This is the story of a boy born in the United States, but an Italian citizen. It's the story of a boy who one day decided to stop jumping and start running and from last year's Tokyo Olympic Games to the present day, has become the fastest and most successful athlete in the world. This is the story of Marcell Lamont Jacobs, a young Texan, born in El Paso, but of Italian nationality.

He is 27 years old, with an imposing physique and a body covered in tattoos. He is the son of a U.S. military man, Lamont Jacobs, and an Italian woman, Viviana Masini, originally from Castiglione delle Riviere, in the province of Mantova in Lombardy.

Marcell has three children, Jeremy, Anthony and Meghan and has always lived in Italy with his mother, after his father was transferred to South Korea. He doesn't speak English well and when he had the choice, having a double passport, he decided to run as an Italian citizen, because it was the land where he grew up.

As a child, he started playing basketball, imitating his father, a great fan; then soccer, as all Italian boys do. Then at the age of 10, in the town where he lived, Desenzano del Garda, in the province of Brescia, he met an athletics track for the first time. His first coach, Gianni Lombardi, immediately sensed the boy's potential and pushed him to train harder and harder. So that boy over the years has been noticed in youth competitions: his specialty was not the fast running but the long jump. And from that moment began the fable of Marcell, the little boy who jumped on the sand and who one day became the fastest man in the world.

Since 2011, Jacobs has been making his mark nationally in the long jump, achieving increasingly important results. In 2013, he set the Italian junior record with 7.75 meters, a record that had stood since 1976! In 2015, he surpassed the 8-meter mark for the first time, landing at 8.03 meters. A year later, at the Italian youth championships, he made the longest jump in Italian history, 8.48 meters, but the record was not homologated because he jumped with a favorable wind of 2.8 m/s. A few months later he got seriously injured and missed the opportunity to participate in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in the long jump competition. In 2017 he returns to compete and in Ancona sets his personal best jumping 8.07 meters.

It is the last important jump of his career, because at the age of 23 he decides that the time has come to change and start running fast. So he gets it into his head that one day he will become the fastest of all in Italy and then also in Europe and who knows even in the world. On May 1, 2018, he did his first interesting time in the 100 meters, 10.15, and three weeks later he lowered the time to 10.08, the fourth best time ever for an Italian. From that day on, Jacobs began to make waves and became a top athlete on the Italian national team.

A few days later, he made his debut in an international meeting on the 100 meters, the Golden Gala in Rome, but did not get a good result. Jacobs, however, is not discouraged, indeed he is increasingly convinced that he will become the fastest of all: this is what he tells me when I take the picture you see, in the parking lot where he is staying. It is a difficult task, also because Italy is a land that has had very few great sprinters in the past. Livio Berruti and Pietro Mennea were Olympic 200-meter champions in 1960 and 1980 respectively, but besides them there have been no other great Italian sprinters. Until 2020 only two Italians managed to compete in a 100m final at the World Championships and no one had ever managed to run in an Olympic 100m final. And then he came along, Marcell Lamont Jacobs, who wrote the history of Italian sprinting by becoming the fastest and most successful man in the world in less than a year.

His fairytale began in 2021 with the victory of the European indoor title in the 60 meters (6.47 his time) in Torun, Poland. A few months later, in Tokyo, he won the Olympic gold with an impressive time of 9.80 and soon after he also won the Olympic title in the 4x100 relay together with Tortu, Desalu and Patta. An extraordinary double, which in time had often succeeded only to the Americans and Jamaicans.

With the three titles won, Jacobs was already the king of speed, but he did not stop. In March 2022, in Belgrade, Serbia, Jacobs also won the world indoor 60-meter title, making him the strongest sprinter in the world and the only one in history to hold four titles simultaneously, one European, one world and two Olympic. And in July he will be back in America, in Eugene, Oregon, to compete in the World Athletics Championships. The sky is the limit for this magnificent son of the union between the United States and Italy.