High jumping for joy: an iconic act of sportsmanship at Tokyo 2020

Olympic history was made after Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi shared the gold medal

Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi
Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi
(Image credit: Christian Petersen/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

There were wild celebrations in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Sunday after high jumpers Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi agreed to share the gold medal following a tense and dramatic final.

The pair, who are great friends, couldn’t be split following an “exhausting two-hour competition”, the BBC reports. They both cleared 2.37m but had three failures attempting to match the Olympic record of 2.39m.

A Tokyo 2020 official offered them a jump-off to decide the winner, but Qatari Barshim then asked the question: “Can we have two golds?”. The official nodded and Italian Tamberi “leaped into his rival’s arms, then belly-flopped onto the hard track, rolled around a few times and screamed”, the Associated Press said.

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“I look at him, he looks at me, and we know it,” Barshim said. “We just look at each other and we know, that is it, it is done. There is no need.”

It was the first joint Olympic podium in athletics since 1912 and a “display of sportsmanship that delighted Olympics spectators around the world”, says The Guardian. It is likely to be remembered as one of the “most heartwarming moments” of the Tokyo games.

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Tough road to Tokyo

The triumph came after a tough road to Tokyo for both athletes. Barshim battled injury in the years leading up to the games while a career-threatening broken ankle forced Tamberi to miss the Rio Olympics in 2016. In the stadium he showed a plaster cast which he had written “Road to Tokyo 2020” on.

“It is amazing,” said 30-year-old Barshim. “This is a dream I don’t want to wake up from. I have been through a lot. It’s been five years that I have been waiting, with injuries and a lot of setbacks. But we are here today sharing this moment and all the sacrifices. It’s really worth it now in this moment.”

Tamberi, 29, added: “After my injuries, I just wanted to come back, but now I have this gold, it’s incredible. I dreamed of this so many times. I was told in 2016 just before Rio there was a risk I wouldn’t be able to compete any more. It’s been a long journey.”

‘It’s an Olympic final, not a tea party’

When the jumpers decided to share the gold medal fans around the world reacted to the scenes with many calling it the “best moment of Tokyo 2020”, Al Jazeera reports. However, not everyone agreed with the decision.

TV presenter Piers Morgan criticised the men’s high jump stars and “fumed” on Twitter, the Daily Mirror reports. He said: “They should have done the jump-off. It’s an Olympic final, not a tea party. Can’t ‘share’ Gold medals.”

There would have been no shame for either Barshim or Tamberi in collecting a silver medal, says The Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson. “As a one-off Olympic first for more than 100 years, this made for an undoubtedly compelling and human story. But the International Olympic Committee should minimise the possibility of a repeat.”

How Twitter reacted to the high jump golden moment

The decision to share the medal was overwhelmingly well received on social media. Here we take a look at some of the best tweets:

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