The Italian athlete was born in the U.S. to a Black father and Italian mother and raised in Italy
Marcell Jacobs won the men’s Olympic 100-meter race Sunday night, crossing the line in 9.8 seconds to bring the marquee sprint gold to Italy for the first time.
Even in a race with no clear favorites, Jacobs was a surprise. He topped America’s Fred Kerley and Canada’s Andre DeGrasse to take the spot held for the past 13 years by the now-retired Usain Bolt.
Jacobs’ victory came on quite a night for Italy. Only a few minutes before his stunner, countryman Gianmarco Tamberi tied Qatari high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim for gold in the high jump. Tamberi, writhing on the ground, kicking his feet up in jubilation needed someone to hug – and found him when Jacobs, of all people, crossed the line first.
Earlier, Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela broke a 26-year-old world record in the triple jump with a leap of 51 feet, 5 inches (15.67 meters).
The Jacobs victory left everyone outside Italy – and maybe some in the country, as well – letting out a collective “Who?”
He was born in El Paso, Texas – the son of an American father and an Italian mother.
He moved to Italy as a young boy when the U.S. military transferred his dad to South Korea. He was a long-jump specialist for years, and his biggest major success was an indoor 60-meter win at European champions.
Lamont Marcell Jacobs, of Italy celebrates after winning the gold medal in the final of the men’s 100-meters at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Now, he’s on the same list with Bolt — an Olympic sprint champion.
His path was made that much easier when American Trayvon Bromell, who came into Tokyo with the world’s leading time and as the odds-on favorite, didn’t even make the 100-meter final.
Bromell ran his semifinal heat in 9.996 seconds to finish third, and said “I’m not really sure what I could’ve done better, but the race went the way the race went.”
Team USA fared better on the shot putt, with American Raven Saunders pulling out a silver medal in the event. Per theGrio, Saunders used the moment to advocate for the LGBT community and to shine the spotlight on mental health, which has been made pivotal at the Games due to Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles‘ recent announcements they were pulling back from competition to focus on theirs.
“I really think my generation really don’t care,” Saunders said. “Shout out to all my Black people, shout out to all my LBGTQ community, shout out to everybody dealing with mental health. Because at the end of the day, we understand that it’s bigger than us, and it’s bigger than the powers that be.”
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