Romans ran laps around Lamont Marcell Jacobs as he stretched his legs on the track. "Ciao, champion,” said one speed walker. "You make us old guys dream,” said one of the old guys.

Jacobs bobbed his head to the trap music pumping out of a portable speaker and sauntered up to the starting line. Then he took a calming breath, crouched and exploded, running faster than anyone on the track, anyone in Italy — almost anyone on Earth.

At the Tokyo Olympics, Jacobs, a little-known Italian when the Games began, stunned the sports world by winning gold in the men’s 100-meter dash. In a nation where some populist politicians have courted support by demonizing Black migrants, the victory by the son of a Black American father and white Italian mother broadened the public imagination of what Italian athletes, and Italians, can look like.