'Best moment I've ever seen': Tears flow as friends decide to share gold medal

Author
Newstalk ZB, AP,
Publish Date
Mon, 2 Aug 2021, 7:57AM
Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi celebrate their shared golds. (Screengrab / Sky)
Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi celebrate their shared golds. (Screengrab / Sky)

'Best moment I've ever seen': Tears flow as friends decide to share gold medal

Author
Newstalk ZB, AP,
Publish Date
Mon, 2 Aug 2021, 7:57AM

The Italian high jumper leaped into his rival's arms, then belly-flopped onto the hard track, rolled around a few times and screamed.

Gianmarco Tamberi was just getting warmed up, too.

It's not every day you tie your good friend for gold.

Tamberi and Mutaz Barshim of Qatar agreed to the tie Sunday at the Tokyo Games in a competition settled not by clearing the top height but through a subtle nod.

Edge definitely to Tamberi, though, for the degree of difficulty in celebrations. That's not even counting all the hugs and kisses he delivered — or all of the people he jumped into the arms of.

He was just that excited. This was that crazy of an ending.

"I still can't believe it happened," Tamberi said. "Sharing with a friend is even more beautiful. ... It was just magical."

In a huddle with track officials, the athletes were given the option to settle the tie with a jump-off.

Barshim had a better idea: How about two golds?

The official said that was possible.

Barshim nodded and Tamberi instantly accepted, slapping Barshim's hand and jumping into his arms. It would be far from his last celebration.

"For me, coming here, I know for a fact that for the performance I did, I deserve that gold," Barshim said. "He did the same thing, so I know he deserved that gold."

It was a heartwarming moment and fans around the world were enamoured by the Olympic spirit shown.

It stressed sportsmanship, too — or so they hope. It also adds to Barshim's Olympic medal collection, pairing nicely with silver in Rio and another medal at the 2012 London Games.

"This is beyond sport," Barshim said. "This is the message we deliver to the young generation."

Both high jumpers were perfect until the bar was set to the Olympic-record height of 2.39 meters (7 feet, 10 inches). Each missed three times.

Funny, they actually talked about this sort of situation before. Not in great detail, though.

"We just said, 'Imagine,'" Barshim recalled. "Today, it happened."

When Italian sprinter Marcell Jacobs surprisingly won the 100 metres a few minutes later, there was Tamberi to greet him. Not so much as greet him as celebrate by jumping into the sprinter's arms and curling his own arm around Jacobs' bald head.

"I was in ecstasy. My heart was exploding," Tamberi said. "I was just full of emotions and I just screamed at him before he got in the blocks and I just supported him. I'm the captain of the national team so I just felt to do something."

Tamberi has kept a cast for five years — a reminder of his broken ankle just before Rio. He was in his best shape, too, which forced him to watch the Rio Games. When it came off, he wrote on it "Road to Tokyo 2020." Then, he crossed out 2020 after the pandemic led to a postponement and wrote in red, "2021."

"I said to myself that day, 'I want to be back in Tokyo and I want to fight for the gold medal,'" Tamberi said.

They appeared to have all sorts of fun during a competition in which Maksim Nedasekau of Belarus earned bronze. Tamberi launched an imaginary jump shot after clearing a height.

Swish.

Barshim was the epitome of cool in shades that kept falling off after his jumps. One time, he even swatted them away after a successful leap.

They broke.

"I've got 50 pairs," Barshim said.

Now, one gold.

Another for his buddy, too.

"He's one of my best friends. Not only on the track but outside of the track," Barshim said. "We're always together almost. True spirit, sportsmen spirit, coming here and delivering this message.

"Appreciate what he's done, he appreciates what I've done. This is amazing."

Meanwhile, Christopher Reive reports that Kiwi high jumper Hamish Kerr has given a strong account in his Olympic Games debut, jumping 1cm below his personal best to finish 10th in a competition that will be remembered for its unique ending.

Kerr had no trouble clearing heights of 2.19m and 2.24m, but had his first slip up at 2.27m. A height he had cleared in the past, Kerr needed another two attempts to clear the height, but was able to progress.

It was a similar story at 2.30m - 1cm below his personal best - where Kerr twice took the bar with him before the round was delayed due to the women's shot put medal ceremony - which saw Dame Valerie Adams receive the bronze she won earlier in the day.

The break seemed to give Kerr a chance to reset, and he launched himself clear over the bar to move on to the next height.

Moving up to 2.33m, a height he had never previously cleared, Kerr was unable to better his personal best height – missing all three of his attempts.

Belarusian Maksim Nedasekau claimed the bronze medal, again on a countback of misses. While he also cleared 2.37m, Nedasekau had more failed attempts than Barshim and Tamberi and finished in third place.

South Korea's Woo Sanghyeok and Australia's Brandon Starc finished in fourth and fifth, having cleared 2.35m.

How Hamish Kerr performed in the high jump final

2.19m - o
2.24m - o
2.27m - xxo
2.30m - xxo
2.33m - xxx