by Filippo Tortu

The gun goes, and the first thing I see when I rise from my blocks? Su Bingtian, flying ahead of me.

Just run, I think. Focus on myself, not the others.

The next 10 seconds pass in a blur. What stays in my mind most about that day is not the race, but the period after the finish. I slowed to a stop and stared at the big screen, waiting, waiting… that one minute felt like an hour.

It may sound strange, but during the race I had felt the time. Sometimes in sprinting you just know.

When it flashed up on the screen – 9.99 – I ran to my brother, my family. My mother and grandmother were crying, my father was also very happy. Me? There were no tears, just lots of jumping.

For our whole family, it was one of the best ever moments, celebrated together.

Filippo Tortu with grandmother ()

Two months earlier, my father had predicted this would happen. He’s also my coach, and in April last year he said to my manager: “In the middle of June he runs under 10 seconds.”

In May I ran 10.04 at the Golden Gala in Rome and after that, I told my family: it’s going to happen in Madrid.

That’s why, three weeks later, such a big group travelled there to see my race: close to 20 people in total.

I remember the weather – the hottest day in history – but I knew it was the day when I could break 10 seconds. Mentally, I was ready.

In the semi-final I ran 10.04, just like in Rome, but not in a good way. I came back to the warm-up area and saw the face of my father: not happy.

I said, ‘but I ran 10.04!’ and he just told me, ‘you can run under 10.’

For the final I was a lot more focused. I had so much adrenaline. I was angry.

Filippo Tortu ()

The past 14 years of my life had been building to this, ever since I took up athletics at the age of six. Back then, I just wanted to be like my father, Salvino, and my older brother, Giacamo, who were both sprinters.

I also played basketball, skiing, swimming, but I really loved athletics.

I was always fast, sometimes too fast for my own good – in basketball I moved up the court so quick that I often left the ball behind me. When I watched Christophe Lemaitre become the first white man to break 10 seconds, I remember thinking: maybe I can be the second.

I always think if someone wants something, and wants it very bad, an example of someone else doing it can help, but it’s important to adjust your opinion: you have to believe it’s possible.

I knew 2018 was the right year to do it.

It’s such a small difference, 10.00 to 9.99, and I know that part of it comes down to luck. But when you see that clock with a nine next to your name, at long last, it’s beautiful.

It also hurts.

After that race I was destroyed, physically and mentally. It was a big story in Italy so for one month I was doing so many interviews. But now all that is in the past, and what matters is what I achieve in 2019, 2020.

Filippo Tortu  ()

This year started well with a 9.97 in Rieti. Even though that one was wind-assisted, I hope it’s the first of a string of sub-10s.

The goal in 2019? To run under 10 in the 100, under 20.15 in the 200 and reach the final at the World Championships in Doha.

Do that and it will be a special year.

The 9.99 is still my best memory in athletics, but now it’s time to make some new ones.

Images: Sprint Academy