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European Athletics Championships, Italy’s golden Saturday evening: Marcell Jacobs, Lorenzo Simonelli and Leonardo Fabbri

Never before had Italy’s athletics team won six medals in the same evening: it happened on the second day of the European Athletics Championships in Rome. Three are gold, the last two come from the hundred meters with the Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs who wins the second consecutive European gold in 10″02 and is followed by the blue giant Chituru Ali. Before them, Lorenzo Simonelli’s gold in the 110m hurdles, with a time of 13″05, the best performance of the year and a time worthy of an Olympic podium, and Leonardo Fabbri’s gold in the shot put, with a of 22 and 45. There are six medals with Fortunato’s bronze in the 20 kilometer walk and Mattia Furlani’s silver in the long jump with an Under20 world record.

If Jacobs’ name is known, the others are to be noted because they could bring great satisfaction to the Paris Olympic Games in less than two months.

Leonardo Fabbri

«I was very tense, my legs were very heavy. Then I concentrated, I thought about doing a little more but it wasn’t easy. Now I have to get used to the level I have reached. Without victory it would have been a serious setback to my career. I dedicate this success to my family, they have always made me feel important. Then to my coach and my mental coach.” These are the words of the giant from Bagno a Ripoli, two meters tall and weighing over 100 kilos, who has already been on the world podium twice: silver in Budapest 2023, indoor bronze in Glasgow 2024. Father Fabio was a decent sprinter and took Leo, born in 1997, onto the athletics fields at the age of six. After trying a little of everything, the imposing frame turned him towards throwing starting in the 2011 season.

He studied at the hotel institute, lives in Bagno a Ripoli, but since the end of 2016 he has started to be followed periodically in rallies also by the coach Paolo Dal Soglio who since October 2018 has been training him first in Bologna and then in Schio. Outdoors he grew to 22.95 in Savona to surpass the historic national record of Alessandro Andrei after 37 years, second in Europe and fifth in the world in every era.

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Lorenzo Simonelli

«I always believe in it, I’m ready for the Olympics. I wanted gold and I got it” says the 22-year-old born in Tanzania and raised in Italy. Silver medal at the World Indoor Championships in Glasgow in the 60 hurdles, at five years old he moved permanently to Italy, the country of his father who works as an anthropologist and researcher while his mother is Tanzanian. He began in 2010, attending the Cecchignola Army facility in Rome, also practicing swimming until middle school before dedicating himself only to athletics under the guidance of Marta Oliva and the cadet category with Claudia Pacini. He revealed himself in the 2019 indoor season. In 2021 he became the national junior indoor record holder. Upon returning from an injury, in the 2022 season, he returned to growth with 13.59 and in the autumn he began to be trained by Giorgio Frinolli. Three times in 2023 he surpassed the best national performance under 23 in the 60 hurdles. In 2024, after running 6.59 in the 60 indoors, he became the absolute Italian record holder in the 60 hurdles, improving the record four times to 7.43 to win the world indoor silver. At his outdoor seasonal debut he also set the Italian record for the 110 hurdles with 13.21, improved in Rome where he ran in 13 and 05. Graduated from the scientific high school of applied sciences, he studies motor sciences. He lives in EUR and is a great basketball fan.

Francesco Fortunato

«It was my goal and today the fourth official, the crowd, was wonderful. Italy was missing a bronze, I got it! I’m tired but happy. The first two Karlstrom and McGrath have better personals than mine by a minute, the Swede who I am very good friends with has never lost yet this season. So, I knew I had to fight for bronze. Now I’m enjoying the moment, but then I’ll see you in Paris!”. Francesco Fortunato won the bronze medal in the 20 kilometers with a time of 1 hour 19 and 54, 41 seconds from the gold which went to the Swede Karlstrom.

Born in Puglia in 1994, he practiced football, swimming, tennis and volleyball but in 2008 he encountered athletics with cross-country running and middle distance running. Since August 2009 he began to dedicate himself to race walking under the guidance of former Italian athlete Antonio Lopetuso, obtaining fifth place in the Italian cadet championships a few weeks later. On his international debut he was fifth as a junior in the 2012 World Cup. Raised in Andria, he moved to Castelporziano in November 2013 to be followed by Patrizio Parcesepe. In 2024 he achieved success in the relay at the World Team Championships in Antalya together with Valentina Trapletti which is worth a place in Paris 2024. He loves running, especially during winter training, and is a fan of Caribbean dance. Graduated in accounting, he graduated in motor sciences

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Chituru Ali

«I wanted to win it. But I’m happy with my race. Competition with Jacobs stimulates. He goes fast, I go fast. My mission is to beat him.” said the 100 meters runner-up Chituru Ali who was born in Como in 1999. His name is pronounced Citru and means willed by the Lord. The surname has the accent on the first syllable. Nigerian mother and Ghanaian father, he grew up in Albate, a neighborhood south of Como, entrusted to the Mottin family. He obtained Italian citizenship only at 18 years old.

He played football as a child until he started having injuries as he grew taller. He also soon tried athletics, showing speed, followed by Katia Besseghini to try her hand at hurdles and jumps among the cadets. In 2021 he made his debut on the indoor 60 floors: in the space of a couple of weeks, from his distance debut to second place at the Overall and his first call up to the senior national team. Since the autumn of 2021 he has been training in Castelporziano with the former Italian four-centimeter runner Claudio Licciardello and in 2022 he improved to 10.12 in the 100, qualifying for the European Championships final but in 2023 he was held back by an injury. He returned in the 2024 indoor season reaching the world 60 final with 6.53 while outdoors he dropped to 10.06. He studied administration, finance and marketing at the technical institute. A colossus of almost two meters in height, he is 49 and a half feet tall and has a tattoo on his shoulders with roots from which two wings emerge. He listens to all kinds of music and is a martial arts enthusiast.

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Mattia Furlani

«It was the best race of my life with some technical errors. The silver, but also the U20 world record, a crazy evening.” The 19-year-old Mattia Furlani, in the long jump final, reached 8 meters and 38 centimetres. A result that earned him European silver behind the Greek Olympic champion Tentoglu with 8 and 65 and the Under 20 world record. Silver at the Glasgow 2024 World Indoor Championships in the long run, he is the third child of a family of athletes who moved in 2010 in Rieti after living in Grottaferrata, in the Castelli Romani, and known for the results of her sister Erika, vice world pupil champion in 2013, European under 23 bronze in 2017. Her father Marcello was a 2.27 high achiever in 1985. His mother Khaty Seck, a sprinter of Senegalese origins, is his coach. He always attended the athletics field, but from the age of 8 to 13 he dedicated himself above all to basketball, his other great passion. As a cadet he began to show his talent on the platform, winning the tricolor in the high jump in the first year of the category. He reached the final at the U20 European Championships in 2021, against athletes who were even three years older, before rising to 2.17 to become the best Italian sixteen-year-old ever. Outdoors with 7.87 he took away Andrew Howe’s best Italian student performance after 21 years. In 2024 he became the absolute Italian indoor record holder with 8.34 and won silver at the World Indoor Championships with the same measurement as the winner Miltiadis Tentoglou (8.22). He studies in a linguistic institute.

Source: Vanity Fair

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