The Winner takes it all
Written by Monica Camozzi
Sport photos by Fidal/Colombo
We disturb Abba’s catchphrase for Gianmarco Tamberi. His triumph, in sport and in life, leads us to ask a question: What does it mean, to be a winner? It does not ‘only’ have to do with a jump. It has to do with self-confidence, sacrifice, love, temperament. Perhaps also to genetics because Gimbo, that’s his nickname, is the son of an athlete, Marco Tamberi, who, like him, flew.
Gianmarco achieved a feat that reminds us of a hero’s journey.
The dream, the challenge, the entrance to the gate of the underworld (the injury, the deltoid ligament injury with tear in the joint capsule of the left ankle, which immobilized him for a year), the ascent to see the stars. And the Triumph. “I feel like a human who beats superheroes,” he said on the occasion of his gold medal at the Budapest championships. The title he was missing, after victories at the Olympics, the World Indoor Championships and two European Championships. And which brings Italy into the legend. Gimbo jumped 2.36 metres at the first attempt, imposing himself over the American JuVaughn Harrison and Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim (the friend with whom he had shared Olympic gold in Tokyo).
One thing impresses us, besides the exceptional sporting performance: the heart that this young man shows without fear, with instinctive confidence. The love for the woman who has always followed him and who has just become his wife, Chiara Bontempi.
And the tribute to his father, a former coach: ‘It wasn’t easy to part from him. He taught me to jump, what I’m doing today is also thanks to him’.
Gianmarco proves to us factually that destiny is structured in personality and that the drive of the soul can’t lack. It is no coincidence, if a few days ago, moved by an ineffable instinct, we asked him a few questions…
Great deeds are often preceded by a moment of darkness. You were out of the game for two and a half years because of an injury. How did you find the strength to believe again?
It was not easy, also because it happened on the eve of the Olympic Games in Rio, while I was in great shape. The first moments are the worst, the world collapses on you and you feel haunted by fate. But then the light comes back on, you start to focus on what you have to do to get back on your feet and life begins again.
Of course in such a long journey there are ups and downs but the gold in Tokyo repaid me for all the sacrifices.
Do you think each of us is completely in control of his/her own life or is there a thin thread already drawn?
I have honestly never asked myself this question, but what I am certain of is that by reacting in one way or another to what happens to us we can undoubtedly change our destiny. It is not important to know whether or not there is that thin thread already drawn, it is important to understand how to move it along the path to the other end in order to overcome the various obstacles it will encounter.
What are the most important behavioral characteristics to win in sport?
Having the stubbornness to pursue one’s goals even when they seem unattainable, but also the lucidity to make the right choices at the right time.
What is the moment when everything is at stake? That moment of concentration before the jump? Or not?
The run-up and take-off are the most delicate moments, but in reality every detail is important, including all the meticulous preparation behind it.
The jump is the tip of the iceberg of an enormous amount of work that unfortunately goes unnoticed.
Newspaper covers, fashion shows, red carpets: do you like this side of celebrity?
I consider myself 1000% an athlete. A person who has dedicated and devotes all his energy to achieve his results. I have never, ever, sacrificed a day of training for a media event or anything similar, neither before nor after the Olympic gold medal. Everything that came after that wonderful 1st August was handled without ever tarnishing my project as an athlete. This is because I still want to win. You become addicted to those emotions you feel when you win and pulling the oars in the boat to chase celebrity I think may be one of the least smart things an athlete can do.
This is our job, the more we win, the more celebrity we get. That said, in my spare time it is clearly a pleasure to participate in different things and above all it makes my wife happy.
If you had the Genie of the Lamp in front of you, what would you ask him?
Become an NBA champion! Joking aside (but not too much), I don’t have many wishes to fulfil, I like my life as it is. From a sporting point of view, after I achieved the only medal I was missing at the World Championships in Budapest, I would now like to arrive in good shape in Paris 2024 to be able to defend the gold medal from Tokyo as best I can – no one has ever done that in the history of high jumping.
Oh, and… Yes I would like you to finish the house renovation that Chiara and I are doing, which started practically when my mum was breastfeeding me. An exhaustion, never renovate anything!
Three things without which you’d find it hard to live
My wife Chiara, who is my source of positive energy; basketball, which I love viscerally; the adrenaline of competition.
Do you win with physical or psychological skills? What is the necessary endowment of nature for the winner?
I believe that mind is much more powerful than body. If you did an evaluation test of the physical parameters of the world’s top 20 in the high jump, you would never find my name on that list.
Many times those who are very physically gifted compared to their rivals need much less to achieve the same result. This will over the course of years play strongly against those who at the beginning seemed to be the favourites because the ‘less gifted’ in order to try and win have perfected every single thing in their life to improve themselves, from technique to training, diet, sleep, lifestyle…. This is my story, after a very bad injury I had to really analyse and perfect everything to get back to the level I was at. With my take-off ankle operated on twice and a titanium plate holding the deltoid ligament to the malleolus, it’s just not the same thing to dump more than 800kg on the ground every jump. I assure you.
What does it feel like to win an Olympic gold medal? To think ‘I am the highest jumper in the world’? Is it a fleeting emotion or something that stays inside forever?
I think the answer is subjective, everyone reacts in their own way.
I struggled so hard, among a thousand adversities, to get to that gold so I felt a very strong emotion that I will never forget.
Beyond the moment when the victory came, I enjoyed that joy for weeks, tasting it slowly like a good wine. Even today, after two years, it is something that makes me feel good and motivates me to be optimistic when things seem difficult.
What are your future plans. And what do you dream about.
At the moment I am focused on the next 12 months. The World Championship gold I have just achieved has given me a lot of joy, but also a great desire to face the European Championships in Rome in 2024 (7/13 June) and of course the Paris Olympics (26 July/11 August): my aim is to achieve a triplete.
We’ll see later, now all my physical and mental energies are focused on this. I will think about what I want to do later, as these already seem like very challenging goals…
From a personal point of view I couldn’t be happier: I married the woman of my life and we are renovating our dream house, hopefully one day we will be able to say:
WE HAVE FINALLY RENOVATED our dream home.
In a few years we would like to enlarge the family, that would be wonderful!
Now we have to enjoy what we have, this life of highs and lows is heavy but beautiful at the same time, we are lucky to be able to experience so many emotions.