AP interview: Olympic champion Jacobs wants to ‘win it all’
Marcell Jacobs has already won another gold medal at the indoor worlds. He will likely receive a huge welcome at the next Diamond League meeting in Rome. Then a reunion with his once estranged father at the world championships. Followed by more potential medals at the European Championships.
And, to top it off, a wedding in September.
If last year – when Jacobs went from virtual unknown to Olympic champion in the 100 meters and then added another surprising gold medal at the Tokyo Games with the Italian 4×100 meters relay team – proved remarkable for the Texas-born racer, 2022 might be even more memorable.
For anyone who thought Jacobs was just a one-hit wonder – and there were plenty of naysayers – the Italian has other plans.
“Winning those next two big events would mean winning everything there is to win in athletics,” Jacobs told The Associated Press in an interview at his Rome training base this week. “But I have a huge target on my back everywhere I go now – everyone wants to beat me. So everything is very complicated.
Perhaps even more complicated is Jacobs’ relationship with his father, Lamont.
Born in El Paso to an American father and an Italian mother, Jacobs moved to Italy when he was 6 months old after his parents separated. He did not see his father again until a meeting was arranged in Orlando, Florida when Jacobs was 13.
In his recently published autobiography, “Flash: La mia storia (My Story),” Jacobs looks back fondly on that 2008 reunion.
“Everything was great, idyllic, but sadly it ended there,” Jacobs wrote. “I haven’t heard from him and I haven’t seen him again.
“When I returned to Italy, he only sent me messages. That’s when I put up a wall between us. … I wondered why I didn’t have a dad like everyone else. Even now, if you ask me how my father is, I don’t really know what to answer.
Two years ago, on the advice of his mental coach, Jacobs renewed his relationship with his father – who was stationed in the US Army in Italy when he met Jacobs’ mother – and they exchanged messages ahead of the 100m final in Tokyo.
“He was like, ‘Remember, what matters is everything you’ve done to get to this point, so don’t be scared of anyone and run as fast as you can,'” Jacobs said.
In July, at the world championships in Eugene, Oregon – which will mark the first time the biggest event in track and field outside the Olympics will be held in the United States – Jacobs’ father plans to watch his son compete in person for the first time.
“It will be really emotional and it will give me extra energy,” Jacobs said.
Not that Jacobs has been lacking in energy lately.
In March, the muscular Italian beat American Christian Coleman in a photo finish to become the first reigning Olympic 100m champion to win the world indoor 60m title. The win was all the more impressive as the 60 isn’t exactly suited to Jacobs’ strengths – it starts slow and tends to gradually pick up speed.
Coleman would have been a favorite for gold at the Olympics if he hadn’t been banned from the Tokyo Games for missing three doping tests in a year.
The absence of Coleman, the retirement of Usain Bolt and the failure of 2021 world leader Trayvon Bromell to qualify for the semi-finals made Jacobs’ Olympic title disappointing for many.
Add to that Jacobs had never broken the 10 second barrier before last year and there were also plenty of insinuating questions about his 9.80 second victory.
Jacobs, however, has never failed a doping test.
“I always put in 6 a.m. for my availability because that way I know I’ll be in bed and I’ll have to pee as soon as I wake up,” he said. “So everything can be done in 10 minutes. When I was in Tokyo, I was tested eight times in two weeks. Then from Tokyo they come every two weeks. I have been tested at every indoor race this season. I have never failed a test and have always tried to manage it in the best possible way.
At 27, Jacobs credits his rapid development on the track to his late abandonment of the long jump and the frequent knee injuries that plagued him earlier in his career.
“The (questions) had more of a negative impact on people close to Marcell than they had on him,” said Paolo Camossi, Jacobs’ trainer and himself a former jumper who is also still learning elite sprint. “We know the story. We know how many times he scraped his knees from all the falls we had, how many tears we had to wipe away.
Some of the sharpest criticism of Jacobs’ Olympic gold medals came from the London tabloids, which then had to report how the British 4×100 team was stripped of the silver medal they won behind Italy of Jacobs due to a doping violation involving CJ Ujah.
“When you want to hurt someone, they come back to bite you,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs received another major snub in October when he wasn’t even named among the 10 nominees for Male Athlete of the Year by World Athletics – despite being the only man to win two Olympic medals. gold on the Tokyo trail.
“I will work even harder so that (this) year they have to nominate me,” Jacobs said.
However, Jacobs is off to a slow start to his outdoor season, having had to miss a fixture in Kenya due to a stomach problem and then pulling out of this weekend’s Diamond League tie. in Eugene due to muscle strain.
In his only 100-meter race since the Olympics at a meet in Savona last week, Jacobs won his semi-final in 9.99 seconds, but didn’t look strong in the final, despite finishing first. in 10.04.
Jacobs lost 2 kilograms (4½ pounds) of weight due to the virus he had in Kenya. Add that to the weight he had already lost under a new training regimen, and Jacobs’ body is still adjusting to his new lightness.
“My idea is that a sprinter should be like a gazelle or a jaguar rather than a rhino,” Camossi said. “But losing 2 kilos when he was already thin was not ideal.”
Camossi is thinking long term with the next Olympics in Paris just two years away, as well as the 2024 European Championships in Rome.
“The goal (for 2024) is to run the 100 and 200,” Camossi said.
But first, Jacobs is aiming to recover in time to compete at the Golden Gala in Rome on June 9 – his first major international outdoor competition since Tokyo.
“Marcell is a national hero,” Camossi said. “It’s really going to be something to see him running at the Stadio Olimpico with a Colosseum tattoo on his arm.”
Once the season is over, Jacobs will marry his longtime partner, Nicole Daza, with whom he has two of his three children.
“There are 18 relatives from the United States coming for the wedding,” Jacobs said, adding that this will be the first time his father has visited Italy since before he was born. “I’m really happy to have reconnected with this part of the family.”
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