The Olympians who chose to share gold

You can watch the final series of high-jumps here but it’s less interesting than what followed. The two, Mutaz Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy, were each perfect on all of their jumps until the bar was raised to what would have been a new Olympic-record height. Each got three cracks at clearing it, each failed on all three. Normally that would mean a jump-off to break the tie.

But they had another idea.

And so the debate rages this morning: Was this the “best moment of Tokyo 2020” or a weak-ass compromise that betrayed the spirit of competition?

I’m more Team Heartwarming than Team Betrayal, for two reasons. One is that I don’t care about the sport, so the human drama is the only payoff to watching. If Team USA basketball ended up tied in the gold-medal game against France and offered to share gold instead of play overtime, I’d be calling Kevin Durant a cuck the next day just like everyone else. The other is that Barshim and Tamberi are real friends, having met on the circuit more than a decade ago and built a bond since.

They had even talked about something like this happening at the Olympics, according to Barshim:

“I look at him, he looks at me, and we know it. We just look at each other and we know, that is it, it is done. There is no need (to continue),” he said of a moment set to go down in Olympic history.

“Actually, we talked about it years ago, but we just said, ‘Oh imagine…,’ and today, actually it happened. It is a great feeling, you can’t be more happy than that.”

Barshim added: “He is one of my best friends, not only on the track, but outside the track. We work together. This is a dream come true. It is the true spirit, the sportsman spirit, and we are here delivering this message.

“I know for a fact that for the performance I did, I deserve that gold. He did the same thing, so I know he deserved that gold,” he later told reporters. “This is beyond sport. This is the message we deliver to the young generation.” If they had been strangers and opted to share gold for selfish/cowardly reasons, i.e. because neither wanted to risk losing to the other and being denied his moment in the sun, that would be one thing. But they’ve been on a journey together. It wasn’t fear that led them to want to share the moment, it was fraternity. That’s affecting.

Here’s how it ended. Far more memorably than if either had beaten the other in a jump-off, no?