For me, one of the true highlights of the entire European Champs was Gianmarco Tamberi, who took the high jump in grand style and entertained all of Italy for several hours. Tamberi is both an elite athlete and an entertainer, and PUMA is surely getting its money’s worth.

Stuart Weir wrote this piece on the exciting event on night five of the 2024 European Champs. 

The king of the high jump delights the president.

Everyone stood and sang the national anthem when the Italian president, Sergio Mattarella, arrived to watch the action. I could not understand what the fuss was about a president when the King was already there and jumping. Jimbo (or Gianmarco, if you must) was in his element, clearing the bar and enthralling the crowd in equal measure.

A couple of years at the Golden Gala I was sitting in a roadside café in Rome with a friend who lives in Italy when Tamberi came along, saw me and came over to shake my hand. The friend could not believe that HE had come to our table!  It is hard to think of an athlete in the world – since Bolt – who has such fame and reputation in his own country.  The stadium tonight was lop-sided, with all the seats at the high jump end full and the other end quite empty.  It almost seemed wrong that 10K runners were allowed to be racing when he was jumping.  A gripping 10K race almost seemed a distraction to the Tamberi show.

Gianmarco Tamberi with the author, Stuart Weir, photo from the Stuart Weir archives

Coming into the event, Gimbo was under pressure.  His season’s best was just 2.21, the lowest among the 13 finalists.  He passed at 2.17 – the only one to do so – then opened his account at 2.22, rapturous applause from the crowd answered with a bow from Tamberi.  This was an elite sport, but it was also pure theatre.  Failure at 2.26 – the crowd held its breath.  Those pesky 10k  runners continued to interrupt the show.

High Jump Love god, Gianmarco Tamberi, photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for World Athletics (it is his Mom)

The second attempt at 2.26 was successful; only five jumpers were still going.  Then, in the crisis, Tamberi had two failures at 2.29, with Vladyslav Lavskyy (Ukraine) already clear.  Tamberi got it with the third attempt. Only Jimbo and Lavskyy were left, and Ukrainian was ahead on countback.  Tamberi sailed over 2.31 to wrest the initiative. When Lavskyy could not add to his best mark of 2.29, Italy had another gold medal.  Tamberi still had a crowd to entertain and a championship record to break. He cleared 2.37 and retired.

Gianmarco Tamberi HJ, photo by PUMA AG communications

He summed up his evening’s work: “I knew I was in superb shape, and I proved it. I didn’t want to be outdone by my teammates, who were doing great things, and I made it. I knew I had trained well, and I was in extraordinary form. Yesterday, I even wrote to Jannick Sinner to try to bring him to the stadium. I wanted to make this night even more magical. I wanted him to understand the emotions that athletics can bring. I wanted to do great things in front of the President of the Italian Republic, who honored us with his presence. On Thursday, I will see him again to receive the flag I will carry in Paris for the opening ceremony. I was a bit shaky at 2.29 meters, but then the show began. I pretended to be injured and hid springs in my shoes. I think some people fell for it. I did great things: now it’s time for the Olympics”.