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World’s Fastest Men Showdown Will Take Place in Italy

Italy’s Lamont Marcell Jacobs and the United States’ Fred Kerley, the fastest men in the world, are going to be facing off in the 100 meters at a Diamond League meet in Florence on June 2nd. The two athletes have been trading barbs on social media ahead of the event.

The last time Jacobs and Kerley faced off was at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic final, held in 2021, in which Jacobs won in 9.80 seconds, and Kerley came in second with 9.84 seconds. Both athletes set personal records that night. Before Jacobs and Kerley face off in Italy, they will first meet for the 100 meters in Rabat, Morocco on May 28th. The Florence meeting will mark the first time the reigning Olympic gold medalist and the reigning world champion in the men’s 100 meters will face off in 11 years. The last showdown of its kind was the 2012 Olympic final, when Jamaican Usain Bolt beat Yohan Blake.

Jacobs was born in Texas to an Italian mother and an African American father. As his parents separated as an infant, and he and his mother moved to Italy, he identifies as Italian. He reconnected with his father shortly before his victory at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where he not only set a personal best, but also a new record for his home country. Before those fateful Olympic games, an Italian man had never won an Olympic medal in the 100-meter dash. Jacob’s snagging of the gold medal made him the first man from Italy to hold the title of the world’s fastest man.

The Italian athlete first started off his athletic career as a long jumper, making the permanent switch to sprinter in 2019. Two years after he made the move, he was crowned Olympic 100-meter champion. “As difficult as it is to win, it’s even more difficult to keep winning and maintain the same level, because the pressure from the media is always increasing,” explained Jacobs in a profile with the Olympics.

The year 2022 was an injury-ridden one for Jacobs. Nonetheless, he continued to solidify his place at the top of the international sprinting world with two gold medals: one at the 60-meter dash at the World Indoor Championship in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia; and another 100-meter dash victory at the European Championships in Munich, Germany. Regarding his legacy, Jacobs told the Olympics he’d “like to be remembered as the fastest man on earth..but someone who’s been through a lot to get here.”

You can watch the moment Jacobs won the gold medal in the 100-meters dash at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics here.

“I’d like to be remembered as the fastest man on earth… but someone who’s been through a lot to get there.”

Asia London Palomba

Asia London Palomba is a trilingual freelance journalist from Rome, Italy. In the past, her work on culture, travel, and history has been published in The Boston Globe, Atlas Obscura, The Christian Science Monitor, and Grub Street, New York Magazine's food section. In her free time, Asia enjoys traveling home to Italy to spend time with family and friends, drinking Hugo Spritzes, and making her nonna's homemade cavatelli.