The spirit of the Olympic games is one of fierce competition, but it is also one of mutual respect between world-class athletes.
During the extraordinary circumstances of the Men’s High Jump final on August 1st, this spirit was on full display. Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi were both giving it their all that day.
For Barshim, this was the chance to win his first gold medal. For Tamberi, it was the culmination of a long road that had started with a bitter disappointment in 2016. He’d broken his ankle shortly before the Rio Games and had been forced to watch from the sidelines. That he was competing at all in 2021 was truly impressive. That he was neck and neck with Barshim was all the more staggering.
The bar was raised to 2.37 meters, and both men cleared it perfectly three times in a row. It was then raised to the Olympic-record height of 2.39 meters, which both men failed to clear.
The stage was set for a “jump off” between the two men for the gold. But as they conferred with the judge, Barshim was struck with an idea.
“I know for a fact that for the performance I did, I deserve that gold,” he told AP. Then, referencing his friend and rival Tamberi, he added: “He did the same thing, so I know he deserved that gold.”
It was true. By any account, both men had given the high jump a perfect run, clearing every bar previously set for them up to the standing Olympic record. Barshim proposed the idea he had to the judge walking them through the rules of the jump-off, asking if it was possible for them to share gold.
After a short pause, the judge said, “It’s possible,” and glanced at Tamberi. With a nod, the gentleman’s agreement was settled and the two became gold medalists.
“After my injuries I just wanted to come back, but now I have this gold, it’s incredible,” Tamberi told Reuters. “This is beyond sport,” Barshim told AP. “This is the message we deliver to the young generation.”
With both men feeling the rush of victory and sportsmanship running through their veins, their celebrations were about as raucous and enthusiastic as you would expect. Learn more about each Olympian at their Instagram accounts here and here, and watch footage of their celebration o YouTube by clicking here.