The latest instalment of IAAF Inside Athletics sees Ato Boldon joined by world indoor high jump champion Gianmarco Tamberi.
All Gianmarco Tamberi wanted to do growing up was play basketball. To this day it remains his “biggest passion ever”. But Tamberi was never destined for a life shooting hoops.
Everyone knew that his sporting future lay in the high jump. Everyone except the young baller from Civitanova Marche on Italy‘s east coast. He explains to Ato Boldon how his father, who made the high jump final at the Moscow 1980 Olympics, would ask him: “Are you sure you don’t want to try high jump? You look talented. You could do something.”
Tamberi Jnr was resolute: “Every day I‘d say ‘I don’t want to, I want to play basketball!’”
But one competition changed things.
“When I was 17-years-old I did a national school competition in high jump, but I didn’t train ever,” Tamberi says. “I won those nationals without training.”
Suddenly others joined in his father’s gentle prodding. Tamberi says “it wasn’t just [my father] saying to try high jump but also my friends. ‘Why are you playing basketball? Go do high jump!’ So I said ‘OK please shut up, I’ll do high jump!’”
The switch was made. Papa Marco naturally took on coaching duties, and his son has proven a capable charge. Within two years he upheld the family name by competing at the London 2012 Olympics. Last year he cleared 2.37m in Eberstadt to eclipse the national record previously held by his father. And in March, Tamberi’s ascent was completed when he won gold at the Portland World Indoor Championships.
But he’s not done there. Winning the world title in Portland, he says, is “just one step”.
“I want to not forget [about Portland], but put a handle on it and keep going for my dream. That is Rio.” He plans to change nothing in his build-up; to “push” in every training session and give “200% every day”.
That dedication has already brought him a world title. Though basketball remains his passion – he watched the Portland Trailblazers the day he landed in Oregon and the Houston Rockets before going home – Tamberi’s unswerving dream is Olympic glory.
“The day I qualified for the [London] Olympic Games was one of the best days I can remember in my life. Now I hope the 16th August, the Rio high jump final, will be a new best day.”
In the full interview, Tamberi discusses his early high jump successes, explains how he won over the Portland crowd and reveals the origins of his Half Shave moniker. Watch it below: