The Olympic day in athletics was extremely emotional. It was probably one of the most beautiful so far in the Games. If there is something about the Olympics is the frenetic pace; events and historic feats happen at the same time, so sometimes it is difficult to summarize everything that happened, but today there were, in particular, three images that will remain in the history of the Olympic Games.
The Yulimar Rojas show
The Venezuelan, born in Caracas, but raised in the eastern state of Anzoátegui, was the undisputed favorite to win the gold medal in the triple jump. From humble origins and contagious charisma, Yulimar has a prodigious physique, ideal for her sport, and a special talent. Her performance was a complete abuse for the rest; neither Spain’s Ana Peleteiro (14.87 meters) nor Portugal’s Patricia Mamona (15.01 meters) came close to the new world record set by Rojas: 15.67 meters.
In fact, all the experts agreed that Yulimar was the favorite for this discipline, but none of them had predicted that, in her final, Rojas was going to give the three best jumps of the competition. In her first attempt she already broke the Olympic record (15.41), in her fourth jump she jumped 15.25 meters —which would also have been good enough for the gold—. She had two invalidated jumps that were well over the 15-meter mark and she broke, of course, in her final attempt, the world record.
Yulimar’s embrace with her teammate Peleteiro was touching. That was the hug that, without a doubt, all Venezuelans wanted to give to the athlete who belongs to Barcelona. To put her achievement in context, it’s necessary to know no South American athlete had ever broken a world record. In fact, in the history of the Olympics, no woman had ever broken this triple jump record in a final.
Rojas’ feat also has a cherry on the cake, as it means the fourth medal for Venezuela in these games; never before had the South American country won this number of medals in an Olympic game. It has also achieved it in a socioeconomic and political context of terror, under a fearful tyranny that, far from supporting sports, has been systematically abandoning its athletes. That’s why the participation of the entire Venezuelan delegation, beyond the four medals won by Yulimar Rojas, Daniel Dhers, Keydomar Vallenilla and Julio Mayora, has incalculable merit.
A gentlemen’s agreement
While Yulimar Rojas’ show was going on, two athletes, a Qatari, Mutaz Essa Barshim, and an Italian, Gianmarco Tamberi, were competing for the gold medal in the high jump.
Both Barshim and Tamberi had perfect performances, setting a record of 2.37 meters in their eighth jump. They tried to take it to the next level, jumping 2.39; neither succeeded in three attempts. The person in charge of the Olympic Committee approached them to explain how the contest would continue to see who would win the gold.
The committee guy offered them a tiebreaker jump, but intuitively, as if he knew, Barshim asked, “Can we have two golds?” The representative could only nod.
Automatically, the face of Tamberi, who it is worth saying is a great friend of Barshim, said it all. The Italian smiled, shook hands and hugged the Qatari athlete and then burst into tears, threw himself on the floor and left us with one of the most emotional images of these games.
The Italian’s tears were not only for winning gold with his friend, but for showing how far an athlete’s resilience can go and how sport also gives revenge; because just before the Rio 2016 games, Tamberi suffered an ankle injury that left him out of the competitions. “I was told in 2016, just before Rio, that there was a risk that I wouldn’t be able to compete anymore. It has been a long journey,” commented Tamberi after becoming champion, undoubtedly one of the great stories that Tokyo left us.
Two golds in ten minutes
Immediately after Tamberi’s image and Rojas’ world record, the 100 m flat race was moments away from starting. Expectations were very high for different reasons, but the most important thing was that it was an open and even race, as the king of the event, Usain Bolt, was not there to monopolize the gold medals.
Lamont Marcell Jacobs (Italy), Fred Kerley (USA), Andre de Grasse (Canada), Akani Simbine (South Africa), Ronnie Baker (USA), Bingtian Su (China), Enoch Adegoke (Nigeria) and Zharnel Hughes (Great Britain) were the eight sprinters.
The race, unfortunately, got off to a bumpy start with Hughes’ false start, and he was then disqualified.
If you look closely, after Hughes’ false start, almost all the competitors came out alongside the Briton. All except one: Lamont Marcell Jacobs. American by birth, but with an Italian mother and currently living in Rome. Jacobs, since he was a child, lived in Italy, and was given the opportunity to represent the Azure country. His dream was none other than to run under ten seconds, and boy, did he achieve it.
In a display of absolute dominance and unflappable concentration, Jacobs went out with a fury, took advantage halfway through the race and resisted the onslaught of all the escorts in the 100-meter dash. With 9.80 seconds, the tano took the gold medal, followed by the American Kerley (9.84) and the Canadian de Grasse (9.89). Who was the first to embrace Jacobs? The other gold medalist, Tamberi, who did not miss his compatriot’s historic race.
Thus it was that an Italian, in a discipline usually dominated by Americans and Caribbeans, managed to win and become the sixth European to win the 100m flat race. Those 10 minutes of gold for Italy are the best representation of what their games are: a historic participation. The European country accumulates 27 medals, 4 gold, 8 silver and 15 bronze; placing in the top-10 of the medal table, fighting with the main powers. Right now, few countries have more reason to have their chests puffed out with pride than the Italians, with the European Championship under their arms and the best Olympics in their history.
There was a lot going on throughout the Olympic day. Puerto Rico’s Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, for example, became the first athlete from Puerto Rico to break an Olympic record in any track and field event. She ran 12.26 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles.
Ecuador’s Neisi Dajomes also made history by lifting 263 kg and winning gold in the 76 kg weightlifting category.
But this August 1, 2021, beyond the other great achievements, will be remembered as the day in which a Venezuelan woman broke the world record in the triple jump, in which an Italian and a Qatari made a gentlemen’s agreement to be two champions; and an Italian won the Olympic gold in the 100 meters flat.