This Deji Ogeyingbo’s feature on the Olympic champion, World Indoor Champion and European champion, Marcell Jacobs.
Marcell Jacobs finds solace with European Gold in Munich after an injury-laden season.
For elite athletes, especially in individual sports, how do you evaluate if a season has been successful? Goals and targets are set at the beginning of the year. The visualization process happens, training regimen, traveling and beating competitors. There’s a whole lot that goes into becoming a champion. It’s a rigorous affair, but it has to be done.
There are, however, plotlines that most elite athletes dread to visualize. Injuries. An athlete’s worse nightmare. It scuppers everything. Olympic Champion in the men’s 100m, Marcell Jacobs, has had to deal with all of the aggregation of staying at the top this year with his latest European title, an indication that the bumps on the road for a top athlete can still bring light at the end of the tunnel.
So, when Jacobs turned up in Munich for the European Championships, there was a tinge of doubt about how much he would hold back on his quest to win his first European title. From all indications, he wasn’t at full throttle the last time he raced at the world championships. His season best was 9.99. He was outside the Top 20 in the men’s 100m list. Only two Europeans had run faster than that: The British duo of Zharnel Hughes and Reece Prescod.
With a 10.00s run in the Semifinal, Jacobs knew he would have to run a season’s best to snag Gold in Munich. Still not looking in pristine shape, the Italian was able to roar to victory ahead of Hughes, clocking 9.95s. Hughes came through in second with 9.99s, with his compatriot, Jerimiah Azu, taking third in a new Personal Best of 10.13s.
“This was a difficult season with problems, with injury, but my leg is good now,” said Jacobs, who withdrew from the world 100m semifinals last month. “I am not happy about how the race went technically, there were some problems, but I am over the moon with the gold medal. After Olympic gold, now I’ve got the European gold. I’ve got to get the World Championship gold now.”
2022 was about silencing his doubters, most of whom felt his Olympic Gold in Tokyo last year was a result of providence rather than sharing hard work and resilience. Jacobs shut down his season after the final inside Japan’s National stadium. And as expected, questions were raised.
The Italian was the rave of the moment, but he decided to opt out of top races. No Diamond League. No Continental Gold Tour. It all ended there. So, at the start of the year, Jacobs went all out to replicate his success from the previous season. It was always going to be a tall order, but he clearly was on a mission.
Jacobs’ first major title was the European 60m Indoor title in Torun in 2021. He set his sights on adding the world indoor title this year. And after 11 races over the 60m indoors this year, he locked horns with world record holder Christian Coleman in the world indoor championship final in Belgrade.
It was his first chance to shush the critics. He had only beaten Fred Kerley, an athlete who was in his transition year from the 400m to the 100m, in the Olympic final. Here was a chance to claim the scalp of Coleman, who was the defending champion indoors. Jacobs ran one of the most intriguing races to date, winning in a time of 6.41s to beat Coleman.
The start of Jacobs’ outdoor season was what every elite athlete hates to envision. Injuries, pulling out of meets, and feeling discomfort prior to racing became a mainstay for most of the races he was entered for. Still, he braved the odds and ran in four races before the world championships in Oregon.
Jacobs barely scaled through his heats as he clocked 10.04s. And as predicted, he pulled out of the semifinals. After his withdrawal from the semifinal at the world championships, Jacobs wrote on Twitter.
“A painful choice. I have to stop here in Eugene. I am a fighter, and I had decided not to miss it. Now, in order not to compromise the rest of the season, I have to postpone the challenge to the next races. I promise you; I will do my best to make you dream.”
The challenge came in Munich, and he delivered under pressure. Might not have been the most daunting of them all, but Jacobs will take the win and close out his season. With a world title indoors and a European title to add to his collection despite his injury-laden season, the Italian couldn’t have asked for more.