This year’s summer Olympics in Tokyo has been unusual, to say the least. Holding the Olympics in the middle of a global pandemic? That was never going to be run of the mill. But off-kilter Olympic games or not, there are still heartwarming stories emerging from the Tokyo games. Case in point, high jumpers Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy. Via USA Today, we learned that both star athletes made the highly unusual decision to share a gold medal instead of competing in a tie-breaking jump-off.
Both men executed the first six jumps up to 2.37 meters (7 feet, 8 inches) during the competition. Leaving the pair tied and the competition without a clear winner. So in an emotional moment, the athletes and friends decided to share a gold medal. Of course, it didn’t all start out that altruistically. Both Tamberi and Barshim attempted to match the Olympic record of 2.39 meters for sole ownership of the title. There were three different attempts, in fact. But neither could make the record height set in 1996. You can watch the whole moving video here.
After several attempts, an Olympic official approached them and asked if they wanted to go forward with a jump-off to decide who would win a gold medal. After a moment, Barshim simply asked, “Can we have two golds?” The answer was yes, eliciting tears of joy from the two friends and longtime competitors. Tamberi was so emotional, he collapsed on the ground and cried. And who can blame him?
Both athletes have had their share of setbacks in the ten years since they met at a world junior championship in Canada, becoming fast friends. During that decade, both of them suffered injuries that kept them from competing in different competitions, nearly stifling their Olympic dreams in the process. But both persevered, bringing them to this moment. According to Barshim, “It’s really a spirit of sportsmanship, I would say.” We’d also like to think it’s in the spirit of kindness and friendship as well.