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The Spring-Legged Gianmarco Tamberi, Italy’s Mad Genius

Gianmarco Tamberi, Italy’s Olympic and World Champion high jumper, true to himself, delivered a bold message at the press conference on the eve of the Rome 2024 European Athletics Championships: “Get ready, you’re going to be surprised!”

Speaking about the opportunities for home athletes on the 50th anniversary of the event held in the Italian capital, the 32-year-old phenom spoke with his usual confidence. “We are not aiming for a mediocre result. My team is preparing to perform insanely well at these championships,” he said. Italy’s best medal haul at a European Athletics Championship so far was 12, achieved at the 1990 Split event. Two years ago, in Munich, they nearly matched this record by winning 11, and with athletes of the caliber of Tamberi, Olympic 100-meter champion Marcell Jacobs, and Olympic 20-kilometer race walk champion Antonella Palmisano, the goal this year was naturally to set a new peak. “We’re going to reach a crazy peak,” said Tamberi, sporting his trademark half-beard, who, along with Palmisano, is the team captain. “We’ve never seen such results in Italy. We’re one of the best teams in Europe, so I hope our country finishes first on the medal table. So I’m putting a lot of pressure on the guys!” The record was achieved, and it shocked everyone: the Italians collected a total of 24 (!) medals, including 11 golds!

“Competing at a home-hosted European Championship brings more pressure, but when things are tougher, they are also much more fun. I’d like to win, but my main goal is to focus on my performance. I want to leave with a good height in my pocket, and if there’s gold too, even better,” he said. Tamberi started the season relatively late; the Rome European Championships were his first competition after an eight-month break, which involved significant risk, and the high jump final didn’t start smoothly. He failed to clear 226 centimeters on his first attempt, while two Ukrainians, Vladyslav Lavskyi and Oleh Doroshchuk, seemingly cleared this height with ease. Lavskyi cleared 229 on his first attempt, while Tamberi missed twice. If he had failed a third time, he would have lost his chance for gold. On his last attempt, he was focused and cleared the bar, and a tactical competition began. Tamberi cleared 231 on his first try, while the Ukrainian raised the height to 233. Both failed twice at this height, giving the gold to the Italian. Not satisfied with just this, he aimed for a bigger victory and raised the bar close to his personal best (239 cm), attempting 237, which he successfully cleared. …and then came the show: Tamberi pretended to be injured as he climbed off the mat and stumbled to the edge of the track, naturally shocking the audience. He then took off his shoe and scattered a handful of springs from it.

“I knew I was in excellent form, and I proved it,” said Tamberi. “I did great things. Now it’s time for the Olympics.” Incidentally, Tamberi has been Europe’s top high jumper for 135 weeks now and will carry the Italian flag at the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics.