As much as the Olympic Games are a showcase of world-class athletic ability, they’re also a place to demonstrate world-class sportsmanship.
Nowhere was that more evident at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics than during Sunday’s men’s high jump final, when Qatar’s Mutaz Esha Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi decided to forgo a jump-off and instead share the Olympic gold medal.
Here’s the video of the athletes’ decision — Barshim seems to be the one to initiate the call — and the ensuing celebration, complete with a leaping bearhug from Tamberi. It represents one of the best moments of this year’s Olympics, not only in athletic display but also Olympic spirit.
Barshim, 30, adds a gold medal to his 2012 London bronze and 2016 Rio silver in his medal case. He also won world championships in 2017 and ’19.
Conversely, Sunday’s gold marks the first Olympic medal for Tamberi, 29, who was unable to participate in the 2016 Rio Games because of an ankle injury. Considering he had to wait an extra year to finally compete in the Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to understand his emotional response. He also held a cast from the ankle injury he suffered ahead of the 2016 Olympics, carrying it with him to Tokyo. It read, “Road to Tokyo,” complete with crossed out 2020 and replaced with “2021.”
Tamberi also won a world indoor championship in 2016 in the same event.
As for how Barshim and Tamberi came to share the gold, both athletes earned the medal with a jump of 2.37 meters. Neither failed a jump until trying to hit 2.39 meters, an Olympic record. Bronze medalist Maksim Nedasekau of Belarus also cleared 2.37, but had more failed attempts and therefore finished in third.
Curiously, Barshim and Tamberi’s decision to share gold makes them something of an Olympic track and field oddity. According to a report by Yahoo! Sports, this is the first time two Olympians shared gold since Jim Thorpe of the United States and Ferdiand Bie of Norway both won the pentathlon in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. Thorpe won the event, but had his medal stripped by the IOC for competing in minor league baseball. The organization reversed its decision in 1982, naming him and Bie co-champions.