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The Gimbo show! Tamberi skies championship record of 2.37m in Roma 2024

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  • The Gimbo show! Tamberi skies championship record of 2.37m in Roma 2024

Gianmarco Tamberi, the talisman of Italian athletics, played his captain’s part to perfection tonight as he retained his European title in front of a rapt crowd in what was his first high jump competition in eight months, winning with a clearance of 2.31m before going on - extraordinarily - to clear 2.33m and then a championship record of 2.37m.

It was a stupendous demonstration of class by the 32-year-old Olympic and world champion, who had been asked before the Championships whether he would prefer to win gold and not have Italy top the medals table, or vice versa.

“I go for Option C,” he said. “Try 100 per cent to win my competition and overall. We don’t want to aim for a middle result.”

With the Italian medal count - on a night when Nadia Battocletti had added 10,000m gold to her earlier 5000m version and Alessandro Sibilio had taken 400m hurdles silver – now at 20, including 10 golds, Option C has been fully realised.

Naturally enough the Tamberi progress through a competition witnessed by the Italian President Sergio Mattarella alongside European Athletics President Dobromir Karamarinov contained light and shade, drama, and near despair before the final denouement.

Early exit averted

Having failed twice at 2.29m he faced exit from the competition in third place, with rivals still capable of overtaking him. Third time round he did it, and he was then fully engaged in the manner of so many of his previous victories.

Tamberi’s entrance – just for warm-up - was triumphal, energising the stadium. As Volare played he put out his arms like wings. The tricolores were already being flourished vigorously.

While his fellow jumpers milled around, or marked out their runway paths, Tamberi lay on a towel and performed a series of increasingly involved stretches, at one point doing almost a full backflip.

And of course he had gone into half-beard mode, as is his wont during competition, the right side of his face shorn clear.

By the time he re-emerged for the event itself the Italian President was in attendance and again, the arms flew up and found vocal response.

In terms of engaging with the crowd Tamberi was already a gold medallist. But what could he do in his first high jump event in eight months?

After passing at the opening height of 2.17m, he stepped up for his first attempt at 2.22m amid complete, utter, adoring silence – which swiftly turned to acclaim as he accomplished the task with ease. It was the kind of hush you normally hear before 100m finals.

By contrast, for his first attempt at 2.26m, he encouraged a rhythmic clapping which gave way to a sigh as he nudged the bar off. But a second-time clearance sent a deep roar through the stadium.

By the time he took his first attempt at 2.29m the home hero ranked third. Another sigh as the bar fell. There was a second failure. It was all or nothing now – and on the third attempt he remained curled on the mat after clearing, with cacophony all around him.

He was now in silver-medal position on countback behind Ukraine’s Vladyslav Lavskyy, who had equalled his personal best in clearing 2.29m at the first attempt.

Soon silver, at least, was confirmed for him as the two other contenders, Oleh Doroshchuk of Ukraine and Belgium’s Thomas Carmoy had to settle for bests of 2.26m, with the former earning bronze on countback.

So then there were two. And the man in blue bounded forth to make an exuberant first-time clearance of 2.31m.

Gold was almost tangible as Lavskyy, now in new territory, failed on his first attempt. He passed immediately, knowing his last route to gold would be a clearance at 2.33m.

That proved too much for him – and after his second failure Tamberi ran across to him to shake his hand. A third European gold was won – but the showman still had one attempt left at 2.33m and could not resist taking it. This time, utter silence again. The stadium’s gaze fixed on one man. And over he went. Unbelievable. Great.

Tamberi raises the bar to 2.37m...and clears it!

But he was on it now. Up went the bar to a championship record of 2.37m, just two centimetres shy of his personal best. Over it went Tamberi. Off came the shirt, over to the crowd he went, photographers hanging off him like pilot fish. Found his wife. Kissed her. 

Tamberi – he talks the talk, he walks the walk.

“I knew I was in superb shape and I proved it,” Tamberi said. “I didn't want to be outdone by my teammates who are doing great things, and I made it. There were many doubts about me after withdrawing from Ostrava, but I knew I had trained well and I was in extraordinary form.

“Yesterday, I even wrote to Jannik Sinner to try to bring him to the stadium. I wanted to make this night even so magical. I wanted him to understand the emotions that athletics can bring. I wanted to do great things in front of the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, who honoured us with his presence.

“On Thursday I will return to him to receive the flag that I will carry in Paris, at the Opening Ceremony. I was a bit shaky at 2.29m, but then the show began. I pretended to be injured and hid springs in my shoes! I think some people fell for it. I did great things: now it's time for the Olympics.”

On the eve of these championships, Tamberi reflected upon the serious ankle injury which halted his career in its tracks just as he was in record-breaking form ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics.

“I’m pretty sure every athlete has inside much more than they think,” he said.  “Only the ones who get really down in the dark really understand how much they can do after.

“Winning the Olympics and the worlds, and two European titles – I am pretty sure it would never have happened like that if I had not been injured. Because the mind is so important. When you  win after injury it’s something you need to show to yourself, just you.”

But tonight he shared it with the athletics world.

Doppio oro! Battocletti delivers the 5000/10,000m double

Just before Tamberi won Italy's tenth gold medal in the Stadio Olimpico, Nadia Battocletti delivered a masterclass in distance running as she added 10,000m gold to the 5000m title she won on Friday (7).

She sat within a breakaway group of eight athletes including fellow Italian Federica Del Bueno, Slovenia’s Klara Lukan - 2021 European U23 silver medallist, Eilish McColgan - silver medallist in Munich 2022, her fellow British runners Megan Keith, the European U23 5000m champion and Jess Warner-Judd, eight in las year’s World Athletics Championships, and the Netherlands’ Diane van Es – 2021 European U23 bronze medallist.

By 4000m, Warner-Judd and Del Bueno had lost touch with the bunch and with 14 laps of 25 completed, McColgan began to fade. Both British runners later dropped out altogether. With six laps to go, Keith made a move to the front and Lukan and Del Bueno both dropped from medal contention.

Keith, Battocletti and van Es formed a medal train and try as she might to break away, Keith could not shake the Italian or Dutch runner. With 600 metres to go, Battocletti made a decisive move and left the rest to fight for the other medals.

The final circuit became ceremonial victory lap as the crowd roared her on to another Italian gold. She added the cherry to her championship cake by clocking a national record of 30:51.32. Van Es was rewarded with silver and a personal best of 30:57.24 and Keith had to settle for bronze in 31:04.77.

“I experienced another magical evening - this is truly a wonder,” said the double champion who becomes the fourth athlete to win a 5000/10,000m double at the European Athletics Championships. 

“I really enjoyed myself, that is what I wanted to do. In my career, I have only had one high-level race at this distance, last July in London, and I never would have expected something like this. I think I have made another leap in quality these past few days, and today's race proves it.

“I can't believe I have won two gold medals at Championships. These results allow me to gain a lot of confidence and to think that I can run even better. I am building myself step by step and I believe I can continue to grow.

“Breaking another Italian record in a night like this is something very important. It was another of my goals, as well. But it's amazing that I did in front of such an amazing audience. I had three exams to do this week; an exam in Wood Architecture at the University of Trento, which I attend, just the day before leaving for Rome. Then these two races. I passed them all with great results!”

Mike Rowbottom for European Athletics


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