Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs stuns field to win Olympic gold in men's 100-meter final

·Yahoo Sports Columnist
·4-min read

TOKYO — Even in a year when the men's Olympic 100-meter gold medal race didn't have a clear favorite, watching the scoreboard inside Tokyo Olympic Stadium flash that Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs had edged out Fred Kerley of the United States for the win was a stunner.

Save for the Italian contingent — other track and field athletes, coaches and staff are allowed to be in the stadium — and media from the country, very few people in the building had heard of Jacobs, let alone thought he'd wear the title of World's Fastest Man.

Jacobs' time of 9.80 seconds was a personal best and European record; Kerley was second in a personal best 9.84 seconds, and Canadian Andre De Grasse, the bronze medalist in this event in 2016, repeated the feat in his own personal best, 9.89 seconds.

Jacobs was a long jumper with a solid lifetime best until just a few years ago, but according to an Italian profile from earlier this year, he turned his attention to the short sprint in 2017 after a hamstring injury forced a long break from jumping.

Born in Texas to an American father and Italian mother, his parents separated when his father was transferred overseas and his mother moved them to Italy when he was a toddler. Jacobs says he does not speak much English.

This has been a season of improvement for him, as he won the indoor 60-meter European Championship and broke 10 seconds in the 100 for the first time in May, running 9.95 seconds at a meet in Savona, Italy.

At the Olympics, he improved each round, lowering the national and European record each time. In the first round he posted a 9.94, in the semifinals a 9.84, and then his stunning gold medal race.

Italy had never had a man in the final of the men's 100 meters before Sunday, and now it has won gold.

It was an incredible 30 minutes for Italy. Just as preparations for the 100 final were getting underway, high jumper Giancarlo Tamberi became a co-gold medal winner with his good friend, Mutaz Barshim of Qatar. Neither Tamberi nor Barshim had a miss until the bar got to 2.39 meters (7 feet, 10 inches), so they had a choice: a jump-off until there was one winner, or agree to a tie and both get gold.

Tamberi jumped into Barshim's arms in jubilation, and within moments both men were crying. Each had recovered from a significant ankle injury since the Rio Games, and to share the gold together was "a dream come true," Barshim said.

Still celebrating on the track when Jacobs crossed the line for his win, Tamberi ran to Jacobs for a hug.

Kerley, considered a 400 specialist since winning the indoor and outdoor NCAA championships at Texas A&M in 2017 and a World Championships bronze in 2019, surprised many when he entered the U.S. Trials in the 100m and 200m. 

Clearly coach was right. Kerley explained that Alleyne Francique saw something that led to the 26-year-old focusing on the short sprints, and now he's a silver medalist and one of just three men in history to run under 10 seconds in the 100, under 20 seconds in the 200, and under 44 seconds in the 400.

As he works to perfect the technicalities of the 100, Kerley said, "the future's bright."  

Great Britain's Zharnel Hughes was disqualified from the final after an embarrassing false start. The starter said "set" and Hughes barely got into position before he just started running. The World Athletics rule is one false start and done, so Hughes was out.

This was the first men's Olympic 100 meters post-Usain Bolt. After American Trayvon Bromell, who had run the two fastest times in the world this year, struggled to even make the semifinals after a lackluster opener and then didn't make the final, the race was wide open.

While the Jamaican women were incredible on Saturday, sweeping the medals in their 100 meters, the country did not have a man in the final.

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