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Olympic runner says reunion with estranged dad made him 'fastest man in world'

The Italian sprinter made history, finishing the 100-meter dash in just 9.80 seconds.
Gold medalist Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs poses on the podium for the men's 100m final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 2, 2021.Ina Fassbender / AFP via Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Lamont Marcell Jacobs made history on Sunday at the Tokyo Olympics when he became the first Italian man to win a gold medal in the 100-meter dash. In doing so, he was also granted the title of 'World's Fastest Man' for finishing the race in just 9.80 seconds.

But the 26-year-old sprinter and long jumper isn't taking all the credit. He says reconnecting with his estranged father gave him the necessary boost to win.

Jacobs, who was born in El Paso, Texas to an Italian mother and African American father, moved to Italy with his mother after his father got transferred by the military.

"I met Marcell's father in Vicenza, he was a U.S. Army soldier, I was 16, he was 18. We got married and moved to Texas," Jacobs' mom, Viviana Masini told Italian news outlet Corriere della Sera earlier this year. "After about three years Marcell was born, but twenty days later his father was transferred to South Korea. It was impossible for us to follow him. I then decided to return to Italy. Marcell wasn't even a month old."

Years went by before Jacobs and his father would speak.

"I considered him a stranger, he looked for me on Facebook and I didn't answer," Jacobs said in March 2021. "Fortunately, recently, also thanks to the work with my mental coach, a relationship has been recreated. And I'll go and see him in the U.S."

That reunion would prove pivotal for Jacobs' career.

"The first thing (my mental coach) told me was that if I wanted to run faster, I had to begin a relationship with my father that I never had. And this was a difficult path for me because I had not met him, known him, or talked to him in many years," ESPN quoted Jacobs on Twitter after the his record setting win."(Reconnecting with him) gave me the desire, the speed, that something more than helped me being here and win the Olympics."

Dad, Marcell Jacobs Sr., watched his son compete from his home in Dallas, Texas.

“He wrote to me before the race, (saying) ‘you can do it, we are with you'," Jacobs told Associated Press.