Two athletes who agreed to share gold medals in the Olympics men’s high jump competition, in what is likely to be remembered as one of the most heartwarming moments of the Tokyo Games, have been flooded with praise.
Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi and Mutaz Barshim of Qatar were locked in first place after a tough few hours of competing on Sunday. The two athletes, who are also good friends, were then given the option to settle matters with a jump-off.
Barshim had a better idea: how about two golds?
The official said that was possible. Barshim nodded and footage from Tokyo showed Tamberi instantly accepting, slapping Barshim’s hand and jumping into his arms. Tamberi then belly-flopped hard onto the track, rolled around a few times and screamed.
“I still can’t believe it happened,” he said. “Sharing with a friend is even more beautiful … It was just magical.”
The charismatic Italian continued to celebrate, delivering hugs and kisses to people as he jumped around the track.
Barshim, while not quite as effusive as his rival, agreed the Olympic victory needed to be shared.
“For me, coming here, I know for a fact that for the performance I did, I deserve that gold,” Barshim said. “He did the same thing, so I know he deserved that gold.”
It was a display of sportsmanship that delighted Olympics spectators around the world. The reaction on social media was swift, with some describing it as the best moment of the Games.
The triumph came after a tough road to Tokyo 2020 for both athletes.
Tamberi suffered a broken ankle that forced him out of the Rio Games. When it came off, the 29-year-old wrote on it “Road to Tokyo 2020”. Then, he crossed out 2020 after the pandemic led to a postponement and wrote in red, “2021”. That cast lay on the track as he jumped for gold on Sunday.
“I said to myself that day, ‘I want to be back in Tokyo and I want to fight for the gold medal,’” Tamberi said.
Barshim also battled injury in the years leading up to the Tokyo Games. The win adds to his Olympic medal collection, pairing nicely with silver in Rio and another medal at the 2012 London Games.
“This is beyond sport,” the 30-year-old said. “This is the message we deliver to the young generation.”
Both high jumpers were perfect until the bar was set to the Olympic-record height of 2.39 metres (7ft 10in). Each failed three times.
They had actually talked about this sort of situation before. Not in great detail, though. “We just said, ‘Imagine,’” Barshim recalled. “Today, it happened.”
Barshim was the epitome of cool in shades that kept falling off after his jumps. One time, he even swatted them away after a successful leap. They broke.
“I’ve got 50 pairs,” Barshim said.
Now, one gold.
Another for his buddy, too.
“He’s one of my best friends. Not only on the track but outside of the track,” Barshim said. “We’re always together almost. True spirit, sportsmen spirit, coming here and delivering this message.
“Appreciate what he’s done, he appreciates what I’ve done. This is amazing.”
With Associated Press