Tamberi: “I will never forget Glasgow in my life”

Gianmarco Tamberi
Getty Images

Gianmarco Tamberi returned to the top of the podium with gold in the high jump at the Glasgow 2019 European Athletics Indoor Championships

There were tears - oceans of them - but Gianmarco Tamberi could not have it any other way.

When you give everything you have when you are competing, it is no surprise that emotions reach their highest when you are not because of an injury nightmare.

That was then, the summer of 2016. This was now, the spring of 2019, with another gold medal around his neck and the realisation that all that hope at the end of those dark days was not just a pipe dream.

"I want to drink a beer," smiled Tamberi, the newly crowned European indoor high jump champion. "I want to go out and I want to celebrate. Now I am happy. I can jump again. I want to enjoy this moment."

No one was going to deny him that. Installed as favourite for the Olympics in Rio in a year in which he had won the European outdoor title in Amsterdam and the world indoor title in Portland, Tamberi sustained a horrific ankle injury just weeks before the Games. He needed a succession of operations and was on crutches.

But still he made it to Brazil to sit and watch the competition in which he would surely have played a major part.

"I was crying and my opponents came over to me," said Tamberi. "I watching my dream going away."

But he never gave up and on Saturday (2) night in Glasgow, with a jump of 2.32m - the European lead - the great showman won his first title since that gold in 2016 and how he loved being part of this special occasion.

Sporting his trademark half-beard look, he revealed what it was like as he whipped the crowd at the Emirates Arena into a frenzy on his way to glory.

"It was a feeling of something special," said Tamberi, 26. "I do not know how to thank everyone for supporting me."

Equally, he ended his curse of competing at the major events in Great Britain.

At the Olympics in London in 2012, he did not reach the final and then five years later, in his comeback summer, he failed to progress past qualifying at the same venue at the IAAF World Championships, missing out on a spot in the final by one position.

Tamberi said: "I was thinking that in my life in my I did 11 international competitions and the only two times I did not make the final was in London, so I was scared of Great Britain.

"I love the London [Olympic] stadium, and the people. But in the UK, I had never made the final. I will never forget Glasgow in my life. It is where I wrote my comeback. But I never thought I wouldn't come back. My mind was always sure."

He is not alone when it comes to injury among among high jumpers. "After 2016," he said, "of the best 10, eight of them had a big injury, not as big as mine but they had surgery."

One of those now battling to be back is Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim and what an incentive he has with the IAAF World Championships taking place in Doha in late September when he will defend his title.

Tamberi wants him there too.

"He is the best high jumper ever," said Tamberi. "We are real friends, I went to his wedding three months ago. He will want to win but if he does not and would choose a winner, I am pretty sure it is going to be me.

"I wrote him to say 'Don't give up, believe it, we are waiting for you'. It is huge for him [to compete on home soil in Doha], he is their best sportsman and I hope he can come back in shape."

But Tamberi is making up for lost time. He has a gold medal again, the world championships are not far away and the Olympics in Tokyo 2020 are quickly coming into view too.

"Over the last two years, there have been many times when I have cried because of my failure and being frustrated because I wanted it so much," said Tamberi. "The people around me wanted to support me but I never wanted them to say 'You are doing good, you are okay jumping 2.20m'. I did not want to be satisfied with 2.20m.

"I was happy that something was coming and I now I can smile again."