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Super Saturday! Hosts Italy win a trio of gold medals in Roma 2024

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  • Super Saturday! Hosts Italy win a trio of gold medals in Roma 2024

Italy earned three more golds at the Roma 2024 European Athletics Championships on Friday (8) thanks to Leonardo Fabbri in the men’s shot put, Lorenzo Simonelli in the 110m hurdles and Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs in the men’s 100m.

With nine finals taking place, Saturday was always going to be Super at these championships – but it turned out to be particularly so for a host nation already living up to the exhortation of team captain Gianmarco Tamberi to forget about a middling result and aim for the top.

By the end of tumultuous evening session witnessed by a significant and fervorous  crowd in the Stadio Olimpico the hosts had strengthened their position at the top of the medals table, where they already have five golds, four silver and a bronze and stand seven medals clear of their nearest challengers, the Netherlands.

And in doing so, Italy has already matched their best ever title haul at a European Athletics Championships after only two days of competition, equalling the five gold medals they won at the 1990 European Athletics Championships in Split.  

Jacobs closes the show in style

The lights went down for the men’s 100m, the concluding track event of the night, and the spotlight fell again upon the man expected to deliver another gold to set alongside the one he had earned at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Jacobs looked relaxed as he encouraged the applause. A good sign after his year of troubles in 2023, which had caused him to switch coaches and relocate to the land of his birth, the United States, as a training base.

The late withdrawal from these championships of Great Britain’s Jeremiah Azu, who led the European season’s list with 9.97, clearly made the defending champion’s task simpler. But he could only beat the field assembled around him – and he did.

After one recall for a faulty start, after Jacobs had got away well, he was also able to respond well enough the second time around – and from that point on, although the race was close, the result was not in doubt.

 

Jacobs came home in a season’s best of 10.02, with silver going to Italy’s Chituru Ali in a personal best of 10.05, despite his having a yellow card for the false start. Great Britain’s Romell Glave earned bronze on his major senior debut in 10.06.

And once again the White Stripes classic chant ‘Seven Nation Army’, established to mark earlier home success, rang around this vast, cavernous stadium.

Fabbri uncorks a championship record 

The first Italian addition to the two titles earned on the opening day came in the men’s shot put, where 27-year-old Fabbri, world silver medallist and world indoor bronze medallist, added European gold to his collection after setting a championship record of 22.45m.

After Croatia’s defending champion Filip Mihaljevic had established a first-round lead with 21.10m, the huge home hope responded with a second-round effort of 22.12m before producing his record mark in the fifth round and finishing off, gold assured, with 21.93m.

Mihaljevic, who had looked on ruefully as his early lead disappeared, resisted to the end, finishing with a best of 21.20m, but it was a silver day for him, with Poland’s Michal Haratyk taking bronze with 20.94m ahead of the 20.88m registered by Great Britain’s Scott Lincoln.

After his silver at the Amsterdam 2016 edition and gold in Berlin two years later Haratyk now has a complete set of European medals.          

In celebration, as the men’s 110m final field re-grouped after a false start, a very happy Fabbri grabbed the microphone from the infield presenter and started the crowd in a brief rendition of the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army.

Simonelli's breakthrough year gets better

As the 110m hurdles runners got away again a man in the blue of Italy flashed down between the white stripes of lane five to earn gold. Simonelli’s time of 13.05 was the fastest run in Europe this season as well as an improvement on his Italian record of 13.20 which he ran in the semifinal.

Silver went to Spain’s Enrique Llopis in a personal best of 13.16, with Switzerland’s Jason Joseph finishing third in 13.43.

 

The Italian medal rush had begun with the opening event of the evening, the men’s 20km race walk, an event that had produced home gold and silver in the previous night’s women’s race.

The crowds who thronged the circuit around the Foro Italica - having seen Nadia Battocletti receive her 5000m gold at the medal plaza – those waiting inside the stadium were ready to acclaim the bronze won by Francisco Fortunato as he came home behind Swedish winner Perseus Karlstrom and Paul McGrath of Spain.

Then came the huge spectacle of the men’s long jump final, where a successful defence of the title by Greece’s Olympic and world champion Miltiadis Tentoglou that was little short of miraculous, culminating in successive Championship records of 8.65m with his last two jumps, was underpinned by the constant competitive threat offered by home talent Mattia Furlani.

The 19-year-old world indoor silver medallist answered Tentoglou’s big opening statement of 8.42m with a world U20 record of 8.38m.

And although he was not able to improve upon that, two big jumps that were ruled as fouls kept the contest at the top alive. It was silver this time for Furlani.  

But his time is surely coming…

Mike Rowbottom for European Athletics




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