MILAN: Italians packing for their mid-August break rejoiced on Friday as the country's athletics team won their fifth gold in Tokyo, pushing their overall medals total at a single Olympics above the previous record of 36 set at the 1960 Rome Games.
"Italy keeps on dreaming ... we're the fastest in the world," read the headline of leading daily Corriere della Sera after Italy won a shock 4x100 metres men's relay gold, beating Britain by one-hundredth of a second.
It was the Azzurri's first gold in the men's sprint relay and their first medal of any colour in the event since they won bronze in 1948. Italy had also never won more than three golds in athletics at a single Olympics before.
"Our greatest Olympics ever," Giovanni Malago, head of Italy's National Olympic Committee (CONI), said, after popping open a bottle of magnum champagne at the Italian team's headquarters.
Italy have won 38 medals so far, surpassing the target of 30 set by CONI and a consensus projection of 29, according to website Projects FiveThirtyEight.
President Sergio Mattarella called Malago after the sprint relay to praise the athletes and invite them to his Rome palace.
The surprise relay victory followed Italian golds earlier in the day in the women's Olympic 20km race walk and the men's karate -75kg "kumite" competition.
"Another day to frame in Tokyo, great Azzurri," Prime Minister Mario Draghi said in a tweet.
Italians across the country hailed a great summer, during which they also won the European soccer championship and the Eurovision song contest.
"Take this year, store every detail of it in your heart: that's how we need to live our lives. Always," Francesco Carabelli tweeted.
These achievements have brought a feel good factor back into the country after a difficult 18 months, during which the country suffered the second-highest death toll in Europe after Britain due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"More huge excitement to our country and to all Italians who have suffered in the last two years due to COVID," Malago said.