Lamont 'Who?' can't believe his 100m win

Lamont Marcell Jacobs caused one of the great Olympic surprises with his 100m triumph.
Lamont Marcell Jacobs caused one of the great Olympic surprises with his 100m triumph.

After reaching the stars, Lamont Marcell Jacobs, one of the most unlikely winners of the blue riband Olympic 100 metres crown in history, reckoned he'd only be able to appreciate what he'd achieved once back in his room in the Tokyo Village.

"Tonight," shrugged the Italian, "staring at the ceiling, perhaps I will realise..."

For if the sprinter's European record-breaking triumph in the Games' biggest race on Sunday was a shock for world sport - and fairly shocking to even his rivals - the man who was most amazed of all had to be Jacobs himself.

In the first Olympic men's sprint final of the post-Usain Bolt era, athletics was looking for a new marquee name to take over from the man who'd carried track and field on his shoulders for more than a decade.

What it got instead was a champion who had most people asking, 'Lamont Who?'

"Bolt changed athletics forever. I'm the one who won the Olympics after him. That's unbelievable," admitted Jacobs.

"But drawing comparisons, I don't think it's the time now."

Still, this was no fluke. The muscular 26-year-old Texan-born sprinter annexed the title in commanding fashion, setting a new European record 9.80 seconds.

Jacobs, who'd also set a European mark of 9.84sec in the semis, hit the front of the most open-looking Olympic 100m final in generations after about 60m and outpaced the better-known American Fred Kerley (9.84sec) and Canadian Andre de Grasse (9.89), even though both set lifetime bests.

"I didn't expect that. I thought my main competition would have been the Americans," reckoned de Grasse, while Kerley added: "I really didn't know anything about him."

Well, he does now.

The first European winner since Briton Linford Christie in 1992 and the first Italian to win a sprint event since Pietro Mennea took the men's 200m in 1980 was actually born in El Paso, Texas to an American father and an Italian mother.

His parents split up when he was six months old, leaving his mum to take him back to Italy with her while he never knew his dad who remained in Texas.

Until last year, that is.

After his win, he revealed how he'd spoken to his father Marcell for the first time back in Dallas.

"When we tried to start to have a new relationship, for me, that was really important," said Jacobs.

"I started to speak with him one year ago for the first time. This helped me arrive here with a good mentality."

Originally a long jumper, Jacobs was forced to change events after injuries and it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to him as he's since made fine progress as the European Indoor 60m champion and also set an Italian record of 9.95 sec in May.

Nonetheless, this was a bolt from the Azzurri blue.

"I need a week or so to understand what has happened," admitted Jacobs. "Seeing (compatriot) Gimbo (Gianmarco Tamberi) win the high jump gold just before fired me up a lot."

The two Italian champions, who had both struck gold in the space of just 10 minutes, had only the previous night been playing video games together in Jacobs' room, pondering the impossible.

"And we said, 'Can you imagine if we win?" Jacobs said.

"We said, 'no, no, no, it's impossible. Don't think this!'"

Then the unthinkable happened....

Australian Associated Press