Italians elated by golden athletics double

Lamont Marcell Jacobs and Gianmarco Tamberi, draped in the flag, enjoyed an amazing Italian double.
Lamont Marcell Jacobs and Gianmarco Tamberi, draped in the flag, enjoyed an amazing Italian double.

Italians have been left elated - and not a little stunned - as compatriots Lamont Marcell Jacobs and Gianmarco Tamberi wrote two of the great golden stories of the Olympics in the space of 10 minutes.

Jacobs won the men's 100 metres final to become the first Italian to take the most coveted title in athletics just a few minutes after Tamberi had agreed to share the men's high jump gold with his friend, Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim.

Until the Tokyo Olympics few Italians had even heard of Jacobs, who has made impressive progress over recent years and broke the European record twice on Sunday en route to victory.

"I am proud of you, I have been following you, you are honouring Italy," Prime Minister Mario Draghi told the two athletes by telephone.

Jacobs' mother Viviana, speaking from the hotel she runs near Italy's Lake Garda, said she had had a feeling on Sunday morning that something big was going to happen, but not as big as this.

"It's a miracle. He's the new (Usain) Bolt. I'm so happy for him," she told Reuters.

Jacobs, who was born in the United States to an Italian mother and a US serviceman father, was brought up by his mother after his parents separated when he was a baby.

"He's always been a little crazy, living day by day, taking everything with a smile. Today the crazy long jumper became the crazy sprint champ," his mother said.

The high jump produced an equally emotional story after Barshim, 30, and the 29-year-old Tamberi had ended tied and were given the choice of sharing the gold or having a jump-off for victory.

"Can we have two golds?", Barshim asked an official, who nodded.

The two athletes clasped hands and whooped for joy.

"I look at him, he looks at me, and we know it. We just look at each other and we know, that is it, it is done. There is no need," Barshim said.

"He is one of my best friends, not only on the track, but outside the track. We work together. This is a dream come true. It is the true spirit, the sportsman spirit, and we are here delivering this message."

It was also a win-win situation for Tamberi, who broke his ankle days before the Rio Games in 2016.

"After my injuries I just wanted to come back, but now I have this gold, it's incredible," he said. "I dreamed of this so many times.

"I was told in 2016 just before Rio there was a risk I wouldn't be able to compete any more. It's been a long journey."

PM Draghi invited Jacobs and Tamberi to a reception at the prime minister's official residence, a 16th century palace in Rome, on their return to Italy.

It followed on the heels of a ceremony last month to celebrate both the Italian soccer team's victory in the European Championships and tennis star Matteo Berrettini who was runner-up at Wimbledon.

Australian Associated Press