Born in Texas to an Italian mother, Jacobs has succeeded Usain Bolt as the ‘World’s Fastest Man’.
When successors to Usain Bolt as Olympic 100m champion were being assessed, very few would have considered Italy’s Marcell Jacobs.
But he upset the odds to scorch to victory in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium, winning in a new European record of 9.80.
Five minutes earlier, his Italian team-mate Gianmarco Tamberi shared high jump gold with Mutaz Essa Barshim.
And then in the most prestigious event of them all, Jacobs beat a star-studded field to end 25 years of dominance by sprinters from the Americas.
Jacobs is the first European to win the Olympic 100m title since Britain’s Linford Christie at Barcelona 1992, and Italy’s first Olympic sprint champion since Pietro Mennea took the 200m at Moscow 1980.
Read on to find out five facts about the man who can now proudly carry the tag of ‘World’s Fastest Man’.
Born in the USA, but definitely Italian
Lamont Marcell Jacobs was born on 26 September 1994 in El Paso, Texas to an Italian mother and American father.
His mother Viviana told Corriere Della Sera, “I met Marcell’s father in Vicenza. He was a soldier in the US Army. I was 16 and he was 18. We got married and moved to Texas.
“After about three years, Marcell was born. But 20 days later, his father was transferred to South Korea. It was impossible to follow him, so I decided to go back to Italy. Marcell wasn’t even a month old.”
Jacobs has spoken about going to the United States to meet his father, but admits his English is not very good.
Young Marcell tried a number of sports before he eventually settled on athletics.
His mother continued, “Coming from a family of motorcyclists, I always advised against that choice. For the rest he tried everything, from swimming to basketball: I wanted him to discover his passion. Plus I had to make him tired, because he did not stand still even while he slept!”
Jacobs recalled to Corriere della Sera the words of his school coach, “Since I wasn’t particularly skilled at football, but I was fast he told me: ‘Why don’t you try another sport like athletics?’”
A sprinter and long jumper
The young Jacobs made his first impression in athletics at national level in the long jump.
At the 2016 Italian Championships, he took victory with a distance of 7.89m, with his personal best 7.95m although he also jumped 8.48m with a +2.8m/s following wind that year.
But he made real strides on the track in 2018, claiming his first national 100m title and going close to the magic 10-second barrier.
During the Covid lockdown of 2020, he trained at a house close to Lake Garda with a mini-athletics arena including a 90m track and long jump pit.
Those sessions paid off as he made an impact right at the start of the 2021 season.
Jacobs announces himself at European Indoors
Jacobs was far from a household name at the start of 2021, but he soon put a change to that.
At March’s European Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland, he produced a power-packed display to take men’s 60m gold in 6.47, the fastest time in the world this year and a new Italian record.
And in his first outdoor meeting of the year in Savona, he set a new Italian 100m record of 9.95 seconds.
After that, he told Corriere della Sera, “I am going to Tokyo to win a medal. Bolt is not there, Coleman is not there, there’s not a clear favourite, it’ll be a battle. I can’t stop dreaming now…”
What do Jacobs’ tattoos mean?
Scaling 1.88m and weighing over 80kg, Jacobs is one of the bigger sprinters of the circuit.
But perhaps more striking at the number of tattoos the Italian has, which are clearly visible around his race vest.
He calls the tattoos a representation of his “America” side, with one reading, “Famiglia. Dove nasce la vita e l’amore non ha mai fine,” which translates as “Family. Where life is born and love never ends.”
On his chest he has a rose and, in Italian, the famous Charlie Chaplin quote “What is really good is to fight with determination, embrace life and live it with passion! Lose your battles with class and dare to win because the world belongs to those who dare.”
Also on his body are the names of his children and his partner Meghan on his right bicep.
On his back is a tiger representing “strength, passion and beauty” and on his arm is a cross with the word ‘Believe’.
Just below his neck he has the words ‘CrazyLongJumper’ which is also his nickname on Social Media.
Jacobs looked up to Carl Lewis and Andrew Howe
Breaking the Italian record was Jacobs’ first objective of 2021, but the second was to fulfil a long-held ambition of competing at the Olympic Games.
He told Corriere Della Sera, “From the first time I stepped on the track aged nine, I dreamt of the Olympics. On my bedroom wall I had the newspaper page of the famous Carl Lewis commercial with him wearing stiletto heels in the starting blocks.
“But my idol as a child was Andrew Howe who, like me is mixed race and half-American. I could identify with him.”
Howe, born in Los Angeles, won the European jump title for Italy in 2006 and took world silver the following year.