Marcell Jacobs, the Tokyo 2021 Olympic champion, is preparing for the Paris 2024 Olympics, where the first and only Italian to win the Olympic sprint title will defend his title against a very focused field of top global sprinters.

Deji Ogeyingbo wrote this piece for RunBlogRun. 

It’s make or break for Marcell Jacobs.  

 

It’s hard to carry the mantle of the Olympic 100m Champion. It’s even harder when you take over the title of Usain Bolt- a sprinter who won it three times in a row. That’s the story of Marcell Jacobs in a nutshell. The unknown Long jumper cum sprinter who shocked the world to win the title at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and, almost three years later, it could all come crashing.

Marcell Jacobs, Olympic Champion, World Indoor Champion, European Champion, photo by PUMA Running

The years in between have been topsy-turvy for Jacobs. The expectations from fans to live up to the hype have been challenging, to say the least. How hard can it really be? Was he a flash in the pan? No one certainly is tricking their way to an Olympic 100m title. Many things will have to go right for the sprinter, and many others will go wrong for his competitors. The odds of that happening are as slim as Steph Curry missing a free throw from the arc nine out of ten times.

So, it’s been established that we’ve got a decent sprinter somewhere with Jacobs. What has gone wrong? The obvious answer is injury. The season after his Olympic wins in 2022 and 2023 has been plagued with injuries. He was able to sneak two important wins in 2022 when he beat Christian Coleman over the 60m at the World Indoors in Belgrade. That was an indicator that he was here to stay. However, his naysayers were looking for him to replicate these performances outdoors.

Marcell Jacobs defeats Christian Coleman, Marvin Bracy, 2022 World Indoor Champs, Belgrade, Serbia, March 2022, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics.

Leading up to the Italian Championships of that year, he suffered another knock and could only sneak his way into the semis of the world championships in Oregon in 2022. A potential match-up with eventual winner Fred Kerley was on the horizon, but Jacobs pulled out as a precaution to an injury he had suffered that seemed to reoccur. Better a withdrawal than a loss, but a defeat when you aren’t fit would leave a bitter taste in the mouth. It is either one or the other.

His decision to withdraw from Oregon increased the doubts people had about his win in Tokyo being a fluke. Jacobs went on to win the European Championships in Munich a month later with a time of 9.95s. It would be the fastest he would run until today. Even that isn’t fast for a professional athlete, as it will barely get you a place in the final at the Olympics. The competition keeps getting more challenging by the day, and Jacobs will need to get a hold of his form and injury to be in contention to retain his title in Paris.

Marcell Jacobs, photo by PUMA Running

 

One significant move he made last summer was joining Reider’s group, known as the Tumbleed Track Club, in Florida, the United States. It was a huge leap of faith for him, as he’s starting from scratch again. Then again, this is an Olympic year, and desperate times call for desperate measures.

Jacobs decided to leave his longtime coach, Paolo Camossi, and join an elite training group in Jacksonville led by Rana Reider.

Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Italy in action during the ATHLETICS – MEN’S 100M SEMIFINAL at Olympiastadion during the European Championships 2022 on August 16, 2022, in Munich, Germany. Photo: Thomas Niedermueller / Munich2022

“I was losing motivation,” Jacobs told the Associated Press. I needed a training group to compare myself against others every day. … It seems like starting all over again gives me a lot of energy and permits me to train at 100%.”

The group consists of Andre De Grasse, who secured the 200-meter Olympic title and earned bronze in the 100-meter event behind Jacobs in Tokyo; Trayvon Bromell, a two-time bronze medalist in the 100-meter event at the world championships; Jerome Blake, who contributed to Canada’s victorious 4×100 relay team alongside De Grasse; and Abdul Hakim Sani Brown, a member of Japan’s relay bronze-winning team at the 2019 world championships.

“I needed a coach,” Jacobs said, “who wasn’t afraid to be the Olympic 100-meter champion’s coach in an Olympic year.”

Now, the time is nigh. Jacobs has to face his demons. Either they fight him to ground zero, as he could potentially not defend his title in Paris, or he overcomes them. Whatever happens, this year will define his legacy.

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