March 20, 2016 / 5:38 AM / 3 years ago

Close shave for Tamberi as Italian wins high jump gold

Gold medalist Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy celebrates with his country's flag after the men's high jump competition at the IAAF World Indoor Athletics Championships in Portland, Oregon March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - Until winning high jump gold at the world indoor athletics championships on Saturday, Italian Gianmarco Tamberi was recognized more for competing with half his beard shaved off than for his results.

GQ Magazine once ran an item about Tamberi and his unconventional grooming habits under the banner: “Don’t do this” but on Saturday the Italian made headlines for all the right reasons.

Coached by his father Marco, a former-high jumper who reached the 1980 Summer Games final, Tamberi cleared 2.36 meters to beat Britain’s Robert Grabarz and American Erik Kynard for the world indoor gold.

“What changed more was in the mind,” said Tamberi. “After I was going for my third attempt, I tell myself, OK technically you are OK but you have to jump it, so jump please.

“You have to push, fight, jump.”

The 23-year-old, who has posted the season’s best of 2.38m to put himself in the picture at the Rio Olympics, displayed plenty of steel by converting on this third and final attempts at 2.29 and 2.33m to stay in the competition.

Suddenly he found his groove, however, and cleared 2.36 at his first attempt while Grabarz and Kynard failed.

“When it was third attempt, every time I say in my mind you have two choices give up or fight,” said Tamberi, hugging his fellow medalist and barely able to sit still at the news conference.

“I knew what was important was to jump 2.36 at first attempt.”

Editing by Peter Rutherford

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