Gianmarco Tamberi cleared 2.37metres to retain European high-jump title. GETTY IMAGES

In his first competition in eight months, the Italian won, first by jumping over 2.31m, then 2.33m and finally a championship record of 2.37m. The 32-year-old Olympic and world champion with an eye for the big stage seems set to star at Paris 2024.

While the crowds have been sparse for some sessions at the cavernous Olympic Stadium, there was no such fear given the presence of the showman. Even Italian President Sergio Mattarella was present for Gianmarco Tamberi’s attempt at the high-jump title. A standing ovation erupted as he entered onto the track, and the captain of the local team did not disappoint before, during or after his record-setting jump.

The Italian, as is occasionally his wont, left the left half of his face unshaved. Hushing the baying crowd gathered behind the jumping arena, he sailed over his opening effort of 2.22m to huge applause. A couple of blips at 2.29 and then 2.33m saw him gamble and skip up. It paid off as Tamberi went on to seal a third European title in a championship record of 2.37m, a mile ahead in class from the rest of the field. "I knew I was in a superb shape and I proved it," said Tamberi. "I was a bit shaky a 2.29m, but then the show began. I did great things: now it's time for the Olympics."

The “show”, as the winner referred to, did not end there: after clearing the bar in his final attempt, Tamberi took off his shirt, danced and pranced around, even going into the stands to celebrate. “I didn't want to be outdone by my teammates who are doing great things, and I made it. There were many doubts about me after withdrawing from Ostrava, but I knew I had trained well and I was in extraordinary form.”, he insisted.

He had stated pre-tournament that he wanted Italy to top the medals table and his team-mates delivered. Shortly before Tamberi soared for his win, Nadia Battocletti wrapped up a 5-10,000m golden double to send the crowd into delirium. It left Italy in the number one spot in the table with 10 golds, seven silvers and three bronzes in a medal haul of 20 after five days of competition and with a sole session remaining, on Wednesday evening.

Gianmarco Tamberi cleared 2.37metres to retain European high-jump title. GETTY IMAGES
Gianmarco Tamberi cleared 2.37metres to retain European high-jump title. GETTY IMAGES

When previously asked whether he would prefer to win gold and not have Italy top the medals table, or vice versa, he answered “Option C: Try 100 per cent to win my competition and overall. We don’t want to aim for a middle result.”

Nothing appears middle of the road for one of World Athletics’ main characters. After twice failing to clear 2.29m, he salvaged early elimination on his third try. Before that jump, he had cleared the opening height of 2.17m. then 2.22m with great tension, then dropped the bar in his first attempt at 2.26m, which he cleanly cleared in his second try. 2.29 was even more thrilling, as the third attempt was the charm.

Ukrainians Vladyslav Lavskyy and Oleh Doroshchuk, and Belgium’s Thomas Carmoy were left, but only Lavskyy managed to fight Tamberi to the last jump for the gold at 2.33m. The Ukrainian was unable to clear the bar while the local hero flew over it and was crowned champion before setting the 2.37m mark.

Tamberi, who shared gold with Mutaz Barshim, from Qatar, at the Tokyo Games after missing out on Rio 2016 because of an ankle injury, seems in fine form and as popular as ever in his home country. He is scheduled to meet on Thursday with President Mattarella, who cheered him on, in order to receive the country’s flag that he is set to carry at the Paris 2024 opening ceremony, along with fencer Arianna Errigo, on 26 July.

“Winning the Olympics and the worlds, and two European titles – I am pretty sure it would never have happened like that if I had not been injured,” Tamberi said. “Because the mind is so important. When you win after injury it’s something you need to show to yourself, just you.”