Marcell Jacobs continues quest to back up surprise Olympic glory

After a shock gold medal in Tokyo, the Italian is pushing for more glory ahead of the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade next month

Jack Rathborn
Assistant Sports Editor
Thursday 17 February 2022 11:30
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<p>Marcell Jacobs at the Paolo Rosi training ground in Rome</p>

Marcell Jacobs at the Paolo Rosi training ground in Rome

Flames shot up inside the arena as Marcell Jacobs blazed across the finish line to announce his return to the track earlier this month. It’s been a curious path for the Italian since his meteoric 2021 from barely squeezing into the sub-10 club to emphatic 100m Olympic gold.

Whispers have swirled around the legitimacy of the 27-year-old’s transition from former long jumper to the fastest man in the world. And the speculation intensified when Jacobs disappeared into a puff of smoke after surprisingly emerging as track’s next superstar in Tokyo. Shunning bumper Diamond League cheques and walking off into the sunset after his double gold triumph - including the thrilling relay win for Italy - was some statement.

Jacobs has since fiercely rejected ever taking performance-enhancing drugs, maintaining his sudden breakout is purely down to “blood, sweat and tears”.

But while Jacobs has the most coveted accolade in sprinting, he has not necessarily been given the full respect it warrants. Despite a European record of 9.80 seconds on the biggest stage, the 27-year-old has perhaps been snubbed entering a packed calendar centred around the World Championships in July. This year appears to be personal as there has been no assumption that the Olympic champion should be the favourite to triumph in Oregon. Many will lean towards the American contingent of Trayvon Bromell, whose dominant 2021 season fizzled out spectacularly in the Tokyo semi-finals, the fast-improving Olympic silver medalist and former 400m star Fred Kerley, Ronnie Baker and the reemergence of world champion Christian Coleman following an ​​anti-doping whereabouts ban. Especially on home soil.

“Jacobs’ performance was phenomenal,” British Olympic sprinter Reece Prescod tells The Independent. “He raised the bar. He’ll probably go 6.4 indoors, then outdoors sub-10 again for the majority of the season.

Marcell Jacobs poses after winning the men’s 60m at the ISTAF indoor athletics meeting in Berlin

“If you’ve won the Olympics, some might want to run again. If I’d won the 100m medal, would I want to run again next week? I’d probably be on holiday and relax. That’s the main goal to achieve. Some might be sceptical, but he had a phenomenal season.”

That is why Jacobs’ demeanour was so fascinating after returning in Berlin with victory in 6.51 seconds and then again in Poland in 6.49. You could almost see a snarl on his face, having glided across the arena with his distinctive upright style.

At the World Indoor Tour in Lievin this evening, Jacobs laces up his spikes once more in his biggest test yet on the road to the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade at the end of March. Olympic 100m finalist Baker and Kenyan breakout star Ferdinand Omanyala also feature on a star-studded start list. But tonight is part of a long-term plan to take down Coleman in Belgrade next month.

Marcell Jacobs glides to victory in the men’s 60m final in Berlin

The American’s cannon-ball start has propelled him previously to a world record 6.34 - Jacobs’ PB stands at 6.47 - as well as the World Indoor title in 2018. But despite any lingering rust from his ban, a victory over the American in the 60m would be both highly impressive and ominous for the competition ahead of his preferred 100m in a packed outdoor season.

Jacobs has already hit the ground running on his return to athletics, tonight he aims to make it three wins from three in the next step to validating his newfound prominence.

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