Accessing these days the tartan of the Antonio Domínguez Stadium in Playa de Las Américas, in Arona (Tenerife), is the closest thing to living the previous moments of any Diamond League event. And it is that some 300 professional athletes from various European countries meet at the venue. An elite transfer in which the finish and counter straight lines are too small for the demand of some athletes attracted, like Hamelin’s flute, by the benevolent climate of the Canary Islands in this phase of the preseason.
Shifts to avoid crowds and make the most of the time available in order to take advantage of every inch of the track. Same conditions for everyone. Also for Marcell Jacobs (El Paso, Texas, 1994). American father, Italian mother and one hundred percent tricolore. Since he was a baby he has lived in the country of the boot, which he feels like the most. That young man for whom six winters ago it was a privilege to train in the south of Tenerife surrounded by world-class athletes. Now, true to his date with the Island, all eyes are on him. His status as Olympic champion in the queen event of Tokyo 2020, the 100 meters, is more than enough claim. Despite everything, the new fashion sprinter maintains the same naturalness that has always characterized him.
How do you deal with having become a very famous athlete?
I don’t feel famous. I do notice, and I like it, that people recognize me when I walk down the street, in Italy and also here, in Tenerife. They thank me because Tokyo made them cry and live beautiful and joyful moments. Things like this make me realize that I have become someone important, but inside I am still the same boy as before. Every day. On the track, in the gym and on the street. Even more consistently.
But something will have changed his life…
Yes, it has changed me, partly because everyone recognizes you, and you live a little differently. Now you go to some places where they didn’t know who you were before. I can really do whatever I want, in quotes, but also with a level of responsibility. Responsibility because now other people have taken me as an example that with your work you can achieve great things; and I must be aware of it.
Appearances at parties, with celebrities, many acts of recognition… What moment do you remember from these five months that have passed since the Tokyo gold?
I have lived many good times, yes, but I prefer having gone on vacation with my partner, something that had not happened for a long time. For years I couldn’t because the season didn’t end in the best way and my intention was to start working immediately to improve the following year. This time it was our first vacation together, a real vacation, and I enjoyed it. I also remember other moments like the Venice Film Festival, when I went to Formula 1 in Imola… Many things that I had dreamed of and in the end I was able to do. But in reality it was only 20 days of relaxation because then I went back to training. I know that 2022 will be a more difficult year compared to the previous one; I am the Olympic champion and everyone expects a lot. Although I myself am the first who wants to improve even more because I think we are only at the beginning of a path. We have made a big step, but to improve the quality I have to work even harder.
«Last year I learned that I must do things for myself, not according to the expectations of others; I am not a robot”
Does hanging the Olympic champion tag give you more responsibility or does it take a weight off your shoulders for having already reached the top?
Both. More pressure because I am someone who wants much more, I am never satisfied. With 9’80” at the Games I said to myself ‘Too bad I didn’t do something less’. I always want more and I always want to improve. It’s a pressure that I put on myself, I don’t worry about what comes to me from outside. I think I have achieved the greatest thing an athlete can win. Games is the best. I achieved what I wanted since I was a child, and that in part will allow me to face certain competitions with much more serenity; that what comes from now on is a matter of fun. Run with simplicity and ease. Although on the other hand there will always be that desire to do more and more, and show my rivals that I am getting stronger. That’s why there will be pressure and relaxation, but I will always run with a lot of happiness.
But are you aware that from now on, in every race, all the spotlights will be on Marcell Jacobs?
Yes Yes Yes. I’m ready for it. I have learned that I have to think about what my goal is, not that of others. In 2021 I went very fast because I began to understand that I had to do things for myself, not according to the expectations of others. You have to separate these two things, because if I try to make a perfect path to get to the Olympics in my best shape, in the end you are neither an athlete nor a person, you are a robot. You cannot perform at your best from the first race to the last, but make a path. If I pay attention to what people say, I would have to do 9’70” in my first race and end the year with a world record. And of course I wish something like that, but I repeat, we are not robots and we have to work to reach that ceiling at the exact moment. Last year we did it for the Games and this year it will be for the World Championship, which is what matters most to us. In that previous tour there will be better times and worse times, but that is normal. Of course I would like to have a button on my shoes, press it and run in 9’70”. But unfortunately it is not like that, and there are also so many things that come into play such as the headwind, bad weather, having slept badly… so many things; and you can only control your body.
His first race will be on February 4 in Berlin. Six months after his last time at the starting blocks. Hasn’t it been a long time stopped?
Actually it’s not so much, I think it’s the right time. In my mind are the seasons of the last few years, which always started in Berlin, lasted from February to August, and ended up being very long. And this one will be again, so I think I’ve had enough time to recover and, above all, to work harder and get to these races well. Obviously the indoor track will always go depending on what you are going to do outdoors. Indoors I’m not very strong and I have to work harder, so I think it’s convenient to get involved to understand what aspects to improve and then use in 100-meter races.
From long jumper to Olympic gold in 100 meters. Is there a way back?
Fortunately or unfortunately not, because of my knee problems. Some problems that I still carry and that force me, from time to time, to carry out some treatment to try to keep it stable. I would like to jump again because I was born a long jumper, and I have Crazylongjumper tattooed on my chest, which is also my name on Instagram. It is something that will always be in my blood, but it is a path that cannot be returned due to the problems and injuries that it causes me. As an Olympic 100m champion it’s hard to go back and change your specialty again; We will try to stay on this path.
His appearance at the very first international level came at the age of 26. How long does he have left to reach his maturity?
Well… I think that since 2017 I’ve been participating in international competitions, especially Europeans, and if I haven’t been to World Cups it’s because of all those injuries I’ve talked about, even when I was already classified. Now I still feel very young on a muscular level, also because all the way I’ve done may not have been like that of other athletes who already worked hard at the age of 20. My journey has been much slower and longer, without stressing my body too much, just trying to make it mature more autonomously and not forcing it. That’s why I think I still have many years left to give at a high level.
And what needs to be improved?
Details. It is the coach (Paolo Camossi) who tells me what I need to improve; I listen to him and I totally trust him. Many times you have the feeling that you have run very hard and in reality it is not so; and vice versa as well. We athletes can make mistakes in our feelings, so I totally trust what Paolo tells me. If I have won two Olympic golds with him, I will not stop paying attention to him.
It seems that Paolo Camossi is more than a coach for you…
Paolo is a reference for me. The person I see myself with every day, someone truly fundamental who led me to become the man I am today. It generates a great balance and harmony for me to work every day, always with a smile… We have been together for almost seven years and we have never argued, but rather we walk in one direction because we want to achieve the same things. He will even be my best man at the wedding with my partner.
He gives up the long jump, but it does seem that he will dare with the 200 meters…
Yes. Everything will depend on what we do in the 100 meters, but I think that this year we will run two or three 200. It is twice what I am used to and that requires some preparation, but we will do some competitions, yes.
«Usaint Bolt will always be Usaint Bolt, but he was my reference and I would like to get a little closer to what he did»
Are you bored that they want to compare you with him?
Well, it’s normal… Usain Bolt is the god of athletics, the god of the 100 meters; he won the last Olympic Games, and now I’ve won them, that’s why I see that comparison between what was and what is now as normal. He was always my point of reference; when I started in athletics I saw Usain Bolt and I was like ‘Wow!’ I read his book, I saw his documentary and I was very inspired by him. Being the one who won the Games after him is a great joy for me, although comparing us is difficult. He holds the world record and won nine Olympic golds. We are two different worlds and Usain Bolt will always remain Usain Bolt, but of course I would like to get a little closer to what he did.
I suppose that in these six months he will have imagined himself improving the 9’58”…
Yes it’s normal. When I was younger and I was talking to other athletes about what we wanted to do in life, they said to participate in the Games. I told them to win the Games. I think that before doing something you have to imagine it in your head, and everything I’m experiencing now on the track and off it is what I imagined years ago. So I try to change my future by recreating it right now.