Marcell Jacobs, our interview with the fastest man in the world
Dreams, goals and passions of the Olympic champion who fell in love with Dubai
Two-time Olympic champion and the records set at Tokyo 2020 are your most recent achievements. What does it take to get where you are now?
First of all, you need to have dreams and then the willpower and perseverance to go get them. No one becomes a champion by accident, and talent is not enough. A gold medal at the Olympic Games is the result of many years of hard work. You have to be able to make progress with humility, by recognizing that you have limits, weaknesses, but also strengths, and adapting your training and competition technique to your personal characteristics. Furthermore, never give up when things get tough and be able to create a balance between the mental and the physical aspects. If the body works well and the technique has been carefully studied and assimilated, if you develop focus and self-control you can accomplish whatever you wish for. It took me a lifetime to learn to clear my mind when the starter gives the order “Set!” and the starting pistol is fired. Then all I have to do is throw myself into the happiness of the race.
What does speed mean to Marcell Jacobs?
Speed is freedom. As I walk into a stadium and step onto the racetrack, I feel at home, and when I can finally run, I feel free, I feel that I was born to do this and that I’ve always wanted to do it. I also love speed in general. For instance, I love Formula One racing. And the family on my mother’s side are motocross champions. I believe that speed is rooted in my DNA. But I’m quite the opposite in everyday life: I take my time, I’m lazy. I never make rash judgements, I enjoy listening before having my say.
How did you develop a passion for athletics? And when did you realize you had the potential to become a champion?
Running sort of planted itself inside me when I was five years old. I never stayed still as a child. Even years later, as a teenager, my grandfather Osvaldo was impressed by the way I jumped and ran, he told me that I was a “ spring”. He also called me “ human motor scooter”, because one of my favorite games with my cousins was to pretend I was a scooter by wrapping my hands around an imaginary handlebar and simulating the sound of an engine starting up with my voice. I realized that I was talented at elementary school when, during recreation time, my schoolmates and I would race and I always came first. Sometimes, I would just sit on a bench waiting for my schoolmates to catch up and then I would join them again. I was not so good at cross-country races because I took off too fast and after a while I was breathless and I had to slow down. I’ve practiced a lot of sports. Besides athletics, I’ve played football, basketball, swimming. Unfortunately, I run too fast to be a good footballer, the ball is always behind me, I have no control over it. Long jump and the 100 meters are my specialist fields. The only thing that has ever stopped me is a predisposition to accidents but, luckily enough, I’ve always been able to get back on my feet, until my coach and friend Paolo Camossi and I worked out some strategies that brought us to Tokyo 2020.
What Italian values and standards of excellence do you feel you share when you are on the racetrack representing Italy abroad?
Italians pay great attention to details, they are perfectionists. They are definitely very competitive. Being eager to excel, to be more successful than other people is the drive behind everything. Italians also take work very seriously, they have team spirit and a sound patriotism. We, Italians, are perhaps less individualists than others because we strongly believe in the family and community values which each of us represent.
What is your relationship with fashion? You were Armani’s guest at the One Night Only Dubai event. What was this experience like for you?
My partner Nicole and I have always been passionate about fashion. We enjoy choosing carefully what we wear, we pursue elegance in everything, perhaps with a touch of unconventionality. The One Night Only Dubai event was an amazing experience. First of all, it was my very first time in Dubai, the event was my porthole into a fascinating world. Armani had accompanied us on our Olympic trip. The hotel was awesome. I had the chance to meet a lot of people who are at the very top in their fields, in particular, in the fashion and filmmaking business. In short, an unforgettable night. My first great event, my first great fashion show after the Olympic Games. Very exciting. It was important to be there. What is more, we were able to see each other again outdoors after the pandemic’s toughest phase.
It’s the world’s new top destination. What attracts you to Dubai and what places have you found the most fascinating?
After my first time there thanks to Armani, I went back to Dubai and I was able to visit the city and enjoy it day and night, the hotels, its beauty, its carefree attitude. I also took a few trips to the desert. We had fun. And I took it easy, because I like taking my time to enjoy things when I’m not on the racetrack.
Three big goals for the near future?
I want to run faster and faster and continue to win. I have three exciting events coming up. The first one in Eugene, Oregon, the World Athletics Championships. The second in Paris, the 2024 Olympic Games. And, last but not least, I’m marrying my partner Nicole in September. We promised to get married if I won an Olympic medal. I can’t to wait to fulfil the promise.