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As Olympic 100 metres silver medalist Fred Kerley put it when asked what he knew beforehand of new sprint king Marcell Jacobs: “I really didn’t know anything about him.” He was not the only one.
No Italian man had ever previously made the Olympic 100m final and Jacobs had only broken 10 seconds for the first time three months before these Tokyo Games. So to describe his victory on Sunday night as unexpected is an understatement of epic proportions.
Best known as a long jumper in the early part of his career, Jacobs’s Instagram name remains “crazylongjumper” even now. When he next logs on he might well change it to “shockOlympicchampion”.
Courtesy of a 9.80sec European record, he produced one of the biggest surprises in recent sprinting history to earn himself the tag of fastest man in the world, defeating Kerley, of America, and Canada’s bronze medalist Andre De Grasse.
He also became Usain Bolt’s successor; the first man other than the Jamaican superstar to win an Olympic 100m title since 2004. To add to the bonkers statistics, his winning time was quicker than Bolt’s from the last Olympics. Not that he is arrogant enough to compare himself just yet.
“He is the face of an entire era in athletics,” said Jacobs, 26, of his predecessor. “He’s changed athletics forever.
“I won the Olympic gold medal after him and that is unbelievable. But from there to drawing comparisons between me and him? I don’t think that’s the time yet. We’ll have to see how things pan out in the future.”
More importantly, what of his past? How has he gone from crashing out of the European Indoor Championships long jump in 2019 to sprinting his way to Olympic gold in such a short space of time? How is that even possible?
“I think it all started three years ago,” he explained. “We decided to move to Rome and then we set up an entire team.
“I have a mental coach, I have a chiropractor, I have a person who helps with my nutrition. That has improved my performance step by step and that helped me win.
“It was my childhood dream to win an Olympics Games and obviously a dream can turn into something different, but to run this final and win it is a dream come true.”
Born in Texas to an American father, Jacobs moved to his mother’s Italian homeland before his first birthday. He revealed his strained relationship with his father also played a part in inspiring him to glory.
“My mental coach said the first thing I needed to do was establish a connection with my father,” said Jacobs, who has three children of his own. “I had never gotten to know my father. We had grown apart. We hadn’t talked for some time.
“That gave me the energy and the will to do everything to be here today. I thought I can really deliver at these Olympics. I can try to run as fast as possible and fulfil my dream since childhood.”
Look hard enough and there had been signs that something was afoot. Jacobs won the European indoor 60m title in March and ended the indoor season as the world’s fastest man over that distance.
In his first race at these Olympics he broke the Italian record with a 9.94sec run to advance second-fastest from the heats. Come the semi-finals, he went quicker again, in 9.84sec.
But it is one thing to run fast in the rounds and it is a very different prospect replicating it when the gun fires for the biggest race of your life. Just ask China’s Bingtian Su, who set an Asian record 9.83sec in the semi-final but could only finish sixth in the final when it really mattered.
For Jacobs, the upward curve continued. Second only to Kerley at the halfway point of the final, he edged past the American in the closing stages and roared his way to victory in 9.80sec - an improvement of 0.23sec on his personal best prior to this summer.
Incredibly, that step up was not even the biggest jump by someone who made the podium. A 400m runner who won world bronze in 2019, Kerley’s 100m personal best before this season was 10.49sec before he made the bold move to change his focus and concentrate on the short sprint. The risk paid off with an Olympic silver medal earned in 9.84sec.
To those who had doubted that call, Kerley said: “I have the last laugh at the end of the day, because it was my decision. Coming from my main event to not my event, coming away with a silver medal at the biggest stage of my career, I’m very blessed with it.”
De Grasse, many people’s pre-race favourite, had to make do with replicating the bronze medal he won at Rio 2016, despite a personal best 9.89sec.
Of his race plan, Jacobs said simply: “I didn’t look right, I didn’t look left, I just focused on running as fast as possible.
“I wasn’t the favourite. I wasn’t the one who everyone thought would win the gold medal.”
He is only partly right; no one did.
A dismal day for GB's athletes
Zharnel Hughes’s false start in the Olympic 100 metres final capped a dismal day for Britain’s athletes in Tokyo as the prospect of medals continued to drift worryingly away.
The day after Dina Asher-Smith was forced to pull out of the 200m when a hamstring tear caused her to crash out of the 100m, Hughes had high hopes of restoring Britain’s sprinting pride.
He won his semi-final in 9.98 seconds, but then jumped the gun in the final and was disqualified. He had done the same in the British Championships final at the end of June – the first time he had false-started in his career – but he insisted the incidents were unrelated and that cramp was to blame for his latest error.
“I’m really heartbroken right now,” he said. “Sadly, my left leg cramped up when I went on my set position. It was so severe that I just couldn’t stay in my blocks. I tried but it was too severe to stay there, and I ended up moving. It hurts a lot to make it to the final and then false-start. Unfortunately this happened. Wrong time and wrong place.”
Earlier, Reece Prescod had also false-started in the semi-finals, and Chijindu Ujah failed to secure a place in the final.
Hughes added: “I am in great shape, man. The shape that I know it would have got a medal tonight. No doubt. I just needed to relax, but my calf cramped. I hate to find excuses, but this happened. I cannot speak for anyone else in the team. Sadly, they had their disappointments and it is unfortunate that I added to the mix.”
There was further disappointment in the men’s 800m with medal hopes Elliot Giles and Daniel Rowden both failing to make it through their semi-finals after they finished third and fifth respectively. British Athletics submitted an official protest claiming Rowden had been impeded during the closing stages of his final, but it was rejected.
“I guess that third was the best version of me today,” said Giles. “That’s the long and short of it, and now I’ve got to face it and move on. I felt good until 50m to go, then the lactic sniper kicked in and my body just flooded. I just couldn’t get my legs moving, it was tough. Our sport is about performing when it matters. Today is the day that matters, and I didn’t do that.”
Sisters Cindy Ofili and Tiffany Porter also failed to get through to the 100m hurdles final. Ofili finished fourth at the Rio Olympics and has fought her way back from a career-threatening Achilles injury, but could finish only seventh in her heat won by Puerto Rico’s Jasmine Camacho-Quinn in an Olympic record 12.26sec. Porter came fifth in her semi-final.
There was better news in the women’s long jump, where Abigail Irozuru and Jazmin Sawyers both advanced to the final.
Elsewhere, Yulimar Rojas broke a triple jump world record that had stood for 26 years to become Venezuela’s first female Olympic track and field champion.
With victory already assured, Rojas saved her best for last by jumping 15.67m with her final effort to go 17cm beyond Ukrainian Inessa Kravets’ mark from 1995.
“Since I woke up today, I knew that it was going to be a great day,” Rojas said. “I felt that magic, that good energy that things could be huge, and I could make history.
“I feel I was born with a natural talent, and able to achieve great things. Opening the path for others that follow me, and wanting to achieve big things, is amazing for me.”
Men's 100m final: as it happened
That will do it for our blog here
Congratulations to the champion Marcell Jacobs, thanks for following this with us.
The career progression by the winner, Jacobs
Times taken from World Athletics website showing each season's best; no data for 2015.
report is up at the top of the blog.
Not an event for everyone...
Here are the medalists
Here's the winning moment
Italia at it again!
on the Hughes false start
Michael Johnson: "This was a blatant false start and to be honest there is no excuse for a false start at a Championship. What are you trying to do? Are you trying to time it? Are you not focusing on the reaction to the gun."
Hughes himself talking to the BBC reporter: "When he went up on 'set' my left calf cramped up on me and I moved. I feel as if I was in that finals I would have walked away with a medal. I can't describe it. It hurts a lot. The second time."
Denise Lewis: "He did it at the trials as well and it is just practising bad habits. It might be a bit harsh but you won't get a better opportunity. The medals were there for the taking. Okay, I appreciate that emotions are raw but if you are in the set position and you feel that you have a problem then you can raise your hand and they will stop."
Simbine of South Africa was fourth, Baker of USA in fifth, Su of China in sixth. Adegoke did not finish and Hughes was disqualified.
Here is Jacobs
being congratulated by his colleague
The winning time was 9.80
for the Italian champion.
Jacobs leaps around in joy
and he's joined by his compatriot who just won the high jump. Very sweet.
Italia! Italy win
It's Jacobs of Italy!
Kerley of the USA is second.
And bronze goes to de Grasse of Canada.
Oh no.... it's Zarnel Hughes. He did it in the Olympic trials and he has done it again. He trudges off. Linford did it in 1996. Hughes leaves the stage.
There is silence in the arena
de Grasse, in sunglasses, swings his arms. The runners get down into their blocks. Completely still.
Su of China
points to his bicep and then the word CHINA across his chest.
The light show is underway
The tension builds. We are now introducing the competitors.
So that's the field
let's get to the build up, after recapping how they got here.
Ben Bloom, you have the floor:
"China’s Bingtian Su stunned everyone with an astonishing 100 metres personal best of 9.83 seconds to secure his place as the quickest qualifier for the Olympic final at 13.50.
Su, twice a finalist at World Championships, flew out of the blocks on his way to running the fastest time ever by an Asian athlete.
He was closely followed by American Ronnie Baker, who achieved exactly the same time, and Italy’s Montell Jacobs, whose 9.84sec was a European record. Akani Simbine, who finished fourth, clocked 9.90sec.
The last of three semi-finals, their race significantly increased excitement levels after two underwhelming efforts preceded it.
Trayvon Bromell, the fastest man in the world this year, unexpectedly failed to qualify for the final after only managing to run 10.00sec in a heat won by Britain’s reigning European champion Zharnel Hughes. His winning time was 9.98sec.
Fred Kerely triumphed in the other semi-final, clocking 9.96sec to pip Olympic and world medalist Andre De Grasse.
Britain’s Reece Prescod was disqualified for a false-start, and Chijindu Ujah did not qualify.
Whoever wins gold will become the first man to win the Olympic 100m title other than Usain Bolt since 2004. "
Andre de Grasse
rounds out the eight-man field. He took bronze in this event in Rio to go with silver in the 200m, and a bronze in the 4x100 as part of the Canada team. He had bronze in this (and silver in the 200m) in the World Championships in 2019.
On pedigree he is the man to beat I would say.
of Nigeria is a youngster at 21 and is a young man in a hurry. He's started to go under ten seconds recently and is going to be a feature for a while yet.
Kerley's compatriot is the third fastest man ever over 60m. He lived in Alaska for seven years as a child, not a traditional hotbed of sprinting as far as I am aware. Keeps you warm I guess.
Fred Kerley of the USA
is an interesting case - he's a 400m runner by trade and is switching down in distance.
of South Africa is another contender. He was fifth in Rio. He's got a PB of 9.84, an African record, which he set this year. In Hungary last month, in fact, so is I guess a man in form.
He was fifth in the 2017 World Championships, fourth in 2019, and it feels like he is knocking on the door. 27 years old, he is from Kempton Park in Guateng.
Lamont Marcell Jacobs
of Italy caught my eye in the qualifying. He was born in the charming Italian town of, erm, El Paso Texas. He is mustard over 60m and was also a serious competitor in the long jump. Limited pedigree over 100m at world level.
who was the most impressive in the semis, is from China. His name is also transliterated as Su Bingtian. He's from Guzhen in the Guangdong Province and is the Asian record holder. Su was elected as a city representative for Zhongshan City as part of the regional parliament, so the 31-year-old looks like he's already thinking about life beyond sport.
He finished just 21st in the World Champs in Doha. Always great to see a guy massively improve late in his career in this sort of an event, well done him.
He ran a 9.91 in 2018, and that 9.83 he's just in the semi-final has improved his own Asian record, as well as being a PB.
The missing man
Wonderful day for Zharnel
but spare a thought for Reece...
The Nigerian angle
Here is Zharnel winning his semi
is 26 years old. He was born in The Valley, Anguilla; which is one of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean. He began competing in a British jersey in 2015. He missed the 2016 Olympics with a knee ligament problem.
His PB for the 100m is 9.91 so you'd imagine he'll have to go quite a bit quicker than that but who knows. All to play for!
He has tasted gold at European and Commonwealth level in the 4x100m relay and a silver at the Worlds in the same event in 2019. This obviously is a step up but with some of the favourites missing out due to poor performances in the semi, or bans, there might be an outside chance of a medal.
The line up for the final
So here, then, are the eight speedsters who will be contesting the 100m Olympics Final.
A. Simbine of South Africa
L.M. Jacobs of Italy
Z. Hughes of Great Britain
F. Kerley of United States
B.T. Su of China
R. Baker of United States
E. Adegoke of Nigeria
A. De Grasse of Canada
Men's Semi-final 100m round up
The twin impostors alive and well in Tokyo this morning as Zharnel Hughes storms home to win the second semi, just minutes after stablemate Reece Prescod was disqualified from the first semi-final for two false starts.
The third Brit in the semis, Ujah, was in the third (and fastest) of the three races and gave a decent account of himself with 10.11. It wasn't enough for a fastest loser spot. Another disappointed man will be Bromell of the USA. His 10.00 third place in the second semi was not quick enough and he has not qualified.
An already open event looks to be anybody's game now - Zharnel is a legit contender for the biggest medal of the lot.
Well I can tell you right away that Ujah's participation is over. He's maybe sixth or seventh. Three finished in a line.
That was the fastest semi.
Su of China wins it in 9.83. Baker of USA also in 9.83. Jacobs of Italy in 9.84. And Simbine of South Africa in 9.90 - which means that the Italian and the South African are going to be our fastest losers. Which means that Bromell is out!
Over now to the third Brit
CJ Ujah goes in the third and final semi. He either needs to come in the top two, or run under ten seconds to qualify. Tough, but do-able.
Britain's story so far
So it could hardly be more different for the two Britons so far, Reece Prescod was disqualified from the first semi-final after false-starting twice, and now Zharnel Hughes has won the second semi-final in a hot time, beating the Nigerian Adegoke into second, and American favourite Bromell into third in the process. Triumph and despair in the shortest event.
Hughes ran 9.98, his season best. Bromell's 10.00 should be enough to see him through but not a certainty.
Second semi final
Zharnel Hughes has produced a fantastic late run and he has beaten the American into second place.
Here comes the second semi
Bromell away well... but here's Britain's Hughes!
Bromell is up next
First 100m semi
de Grasse of Canada looks to have taken it.
Reece false-started not
once but twice and trudges off. Oh dear. Seven men remain.
Reece Perscod has had two false starts
Here's Reece in his heat previously
There were seven heats
And we are now down to 24 men. Three semi-finals, the top two from each of them goes through by right, and then it's the next fastest two.
Here is our athletics correspondent Ben Bloom
"It's men's 100m final night, which for so long has been not only the headline athletics event of the Olympics but arguably the main attraction of the entire Games. Not this time.
With Usain Bolt gone and two of the greatest female sprinters in history doing battle in one of the all-time memorable races last night, there is a real sense of after-thought about tonight's race.
Where Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah are legends of sprinting, the male sprint ranks are severely lacking right now, with Christian Coleman - the man who should be king - banned for anti-doping whereabouts failures.
What that does mean is very few people have any idea what will happen.
American Trayvon Bromell is the fastest man in the world this year, but was sluggish in his heat. Canada's Andre De Grasse has Olympic medals and qualified fastest yesterday, Italy's Marcell Jacobs ran a national record, South African Akani Simbine has plenty of big-stage experience and America's Ronnie Baker could be poised to make a major statement on his step up to the global stage. Could Britain's Zharnel Hughes get involved? You never know.
My prediction: Baker - De Grasse - Simbine."
Britain are three-handed in the semis
Reece Prescod is in the first semi at 11.15, Zharnel Hughes in the second at 11.23, Chijindu Ujah goes in the third at 11.31
Here is our guide to the three British lads.
Zharnel Hughes, who ran 10.04 seconds in his heat, has the fastest personal best of Britain’s 100m trio — all of whom made it through to the semi-finals. The reigning European 100m champion false started in the final at the British Championships but selectors still handed him a place in Tokyo.
Reece Prescod, perhaps a fortunate pick given his poor form this season on his return from injury, was also fortunate in his heat after a false start was deemed by officials to be just a good reaction. Nigeria's Divine Oduduru was disqualified, decrying a "double standard". Prescod, who has run 9.94sec at his best and claimed European silver behind Hughes in 2018, qualified for the semi-finals in 10.12 seconds.
Chijindu Ujah, the reigning British 100m champion, finished third in his heat behind Australia's Rohan Browning and Jamaica's Yohan Blake. Ujah has plenty of Olympic and World Championship experience, with relay medals to his name, but has never made an individual final at a global event. He is the reigning British 100m champion.
The fastest humans on earth
Good morning, hope you're having a gold medal Sunday and thanks for joining us for our live blog coverage of the men's 100m race. We will have the semi-finals and then the final. The favourite is American Trayvon Bromell, but he only scraped through the first-round heats and had to rely on being a fastest loser.
Considering that he ran 9.77 seconds only last month, this represents a major potential upset on the cards for later.
The world champion Christian Coleman is absent, he has been banned, which had apparently set things up nicely for Bromell. But he had a shocker of a start in the second heat and managed to come in only fourth in 10.05. Slouch! Enoch Adegoke of Nigeria (9.98 seconds) won that heat.
In terms of British interest, Zharnel Hughes was given a discretionary place after false-starting at the trials, and he looks like Britain’s best (slim) hope along with Reece Prescod. Reece goes at 11.15 in the semi.
There were seven heats in total and Bromell must have been a ball of nerves throughout, but he did eventually come through as one of the three fastest losers.
Ronnie Baker, who posted 10.03 in the opening heat, and Fred Kerley, 9.97, look like contenders. Canada's Andre de Grasse, bronze medallist in 2016, was the fastest qualifier with 9.91 seconds.
Yohan Blake (10.06) and Oblique Seville, who ran an equal personal best of 10.04, carry the hopes of Jamaica after the retirement of Usain Bolt. Yohan has been around for ages, hasn't he? Likes his cricket and seems a good lad.
Lamont Marcel Jacobs had an hot start and set an Italian record of 9.94. Australian Rohan Browning ran a personal best to win the final heat in 10.01.