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TOKYO – The winner of the men’s 100-meter Olympic wins a title along with his gold medal: the fastest man in the world. Lamont Jacobs might be the most surprised to win it. The 100 men are full of bravado: quackery, pre-race grooming, winners acting like there’s never a doubt. Jacobs has something to say to the skeptics: he was one of them.
Did you expect to win?
“Oh no, no, no,” he said Sunday night at the Olympic Stadium. “It’s incredible. My true dream is to run a final. And we run a final, and victory a final. I have no words to describe this moment. “
Maybe Usain Bolt can handle his interviews from now on. Bolt spoke, acted, and ran with a charming arrogance that seemed ingrained at birth. He was an exception and he knew it. Jacobs is the kind of winner that we sometimes get and normally we should wait.
Winners don’t like to admit this, but the margin of error in the 100 is so small that one race can’t really define the fastest man in the world. Bolt was the best because he was pretty forever the best. He won three consecutive Olympic golds in the 100, and his world record of 9.58 was set at the 2009 world championships.
Jacobs peaked at the right time. American Fred Kerley, who finished second, said: “I really didn’t know anything about him.” American partner Ron Baker made They know about Jacobs, but only because they recently faced each other.
He didn’t run a 100 below 10 seconds until May of this year, and that was a 9.95 with a considerable tailwind. In July, it ran a 9.99. The three fastest 100 times of his life came this weekend in Tokyo: 9.94, 9.84, 9.80, in that order. Maybe if there were another 100 on Monday, I’d run a 9.7-something.
Bolt also peaked when he first won Olympic gold, but that was different. Bolt turned 22 shortly after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and everyone knew he was incredibly fast, but he had recently gone from a 200/400 runner to a 100/200 runner.
Jacobs is 26 years old. If the Tokyo Olympics had been held as scheduled a year ago, who knows if it would have been here?
What he did in the last three months was get into the mix. Then somehow he found a way to get ahead at the right time. Here’s how tight the 100 can be: Trayvon Bromell was probably the pre-race favorite. He led his semi-final after 90 meters. Then Zharnel Hughes passed him and Enoch Adegoke tied him up; it was a final photo for second place. Adegoke advanced. Bromell was lost. Another inch there, and he could have won the gold medal.
Then, in the final, Hughes had a false start. He was disqualified. That can be jarring for the other runners, who have to stop, regroup, and then attempt to win a gold medal in a very short period of time. Baker said it is not a problem “if you are good”. Jacobs was about to show that he is very good.
Jacobs emerged from the blocks and charged forward with his massive torso and his newfound belief in himself. So again: Italian high jumper Gianmarco Tamberi had just shared the gold medal in the high jump, and Jacobs thought maybe he could match his friend.
“Last night, I played PlayStation with Gianmarco in my room, and we say ‘can you imagine if we win?'” Jacobs said. “‘No no no’. ‘It is impossible.’ ‘Nerd. don’t think this. ‘ And tonight, when I see him five minutes before me winning a gold medal, I say, ‘Okay, yeah.’
it’s okay. He did. He was still so shocked afterward that he said it will take him “four or five years to realize and understand what is happening.” And then he told the story of how he got here.
He was born in Texas to an Italian mother and an American father. When he was six months old, they separated. His mom took him back to Italy. He said he didn’t speak to his father again until last year. He said, “For me, it was very important.” He said it gave him “a good mentality.” But when they asked him what his father did, he didn’t know.
What was it like meeting him?
“Oh no no,” he said. “Just talk. I never see it.”
He smiled. He was in a fantastic mood. At one point, he said: “See you next year (at) the World Championship.” He had been the fastest man in the world for an hour or so, and he was getting used to it.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.