With a total of 40 medals won (10 gold, 10 silver and 20 bronze), Italy played its best Olympics in history at this year’s Tokyo Games.
August 6 was the day when Italy surpassed its previous record of 36 medals at the Olympic Games (Los Angeles 1932 and Rome 1960): Antonella Palmisano’s gold in the women's 20km race walk marked Italy’s 36th medal, then, on the same day, Luigi Busà won gold in karate and the men’s track team won gold in the 4x100 relay. (Italy’s Massimo Stano won gold in the men’s 20km race walk one day earlier.)
Italy kept surprising in the most prestigious discipline of the Olympics, athletics. It won five medals - all gold. The athletes’ performance was even more puzzling considering that its track team hadn’t won a single medal at the last Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The biggest shock came when Marcell Jacobs (Texas-born but raised in Italy since he was six-month-old) won gold in the 100 meters in a personal best of 9.80 seconds. That was just moments after teammate Gianmarco Tamberi had tied for gold in the high jump.
Then, a few days later, Jacobs, Lorenzo Patta, Eseosa Desalu and Filippo Tortu won gold again - and again unexpectedly - in the 4x100 relay, a race usually dominated by the Americans; it was the Italian team first relay gold in Olympic history.
Perhaps the most moving, heartwarming moment of the Tokyo Games was when Italian Gianmarco Tamberi and Essa Barshim of Qatar decided to share high jump gold rather than continue with the jump-off after a tie, sealed by an embrace that symbolized friendship, complicity, joy, and sportsmanship. The two are friends (Tamberi went to Barshim’s wedding and Barshim has been invited to Tamberi’s wedding) and Tamberi said he has always considered Barshim the best jumper in history, so, he said, to share gold with him was a great honor and a great pleasure.
Returning to Italy from Tokyo, the Italian athletes were welcomed like stars.
It has been a most successful summer for Italy, which won the popular Eurovision Song Contest in May with the band Maneskin; at Wimbledon, tennis player Matteo Berrettini became the first Italian to reach a Grand Slam final; Italy’s soccer team won the European Championship title in July.