By Sports Reporter
* Barshim and Tamberi share much more than friendship and similar journeys back from injuries — an Olympic gold medal
Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi share a lot.
A camaraderie that belies the highly competitive discipline of men’s high jump. A certain flamboyant personality, maybe Tamberi edges out Barshim by the millimetres that sometimes separate them on the field. Even a journey back from a career threatening injury, albeit at different times.
On Sunday, the two shared the Olympic gold, an event as rare as the unusual circumstances of the Games itself.
Both Barshim, 30, and the 29-year-old Tamberi ended with jumps of 2.37m and had no failed attempts until they attempted to clear 2.39.
After three failures each at that height, an Olympic official first offered them a jump-off to decide the winner.
“Can we have two golds?”, Barshim asked him.
The official nodded, and the two athletes clasped hands and whooped for joy.
“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,” Barshim said.
“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.”
It was also a win-win situation for the Italian, who broke his ankle days attempting 2.41m before the Rio Games in 2016.
“After my injuries I just wanted to come back, but now I have this gold, it’s incredible,” he said. “I dreamed of this so many times.”
The next year, at the Paris Diamond League event, Tamberi couldn’t even clear the opening height of 2.20m in the high jump competition.
“I was feeling frustrated,” Tamberi had written in IAAF’s (now World Athletics) Spikes magazine.
The next day, Barshim’s persistent efforts to get through to Tamberi at the latter’s lowest ebb forged a strong relationship. “We talked. I cried in front of him,” Tamberi wrote in the article titled, My Friend Mutaz.
In July 2018, Barshim himself suffered a career-threatening injury when, like Tamberi, he attempted to fly where he hadn’t gone before — 2.46m.
Barshim didn’t jump for the next 11 months but worked his way back to successfully defend his world title at home in Doha. Tamberi too was sidelined from competition for 11 months, but with a more gradual return.
“It is amazing, this is a dream I don’t want to wake up from,” said Barshim. “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.”
Maksim Nedasekau of Belarus, who also cleared 2.37, took the bronze on countback.
Barshim won bronze, later upgraded to silver, at the London 2012 Games. He picked up another silver in Rio four years later and then won two successive world titles in 2017 and 2019.
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