A Tokyo memory of a great high jump contest with the right ending
The men’s high jump at the recent Tokyo Olympics ended in a tie when Mutaz Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi both cleared 2.37 and failed at 2.39. The expectation was that there would be a jump-off until one athlete succeeded and the other one failed. We understand that Barshim asked an official if they could share the gold medal and was told that was a possibility. In a second it was agreed between the two protagonists.
“Can we have two golds?”
— Doha Debates (@DohaDebates) August 2, 2021
(No they don’t share a gold medal keeping it for six months each, they each get a gold medal but are recorded in the annals as joint winners).
Ties are not popular in the USA, as in the maxim “A tie is like kissing your sister.” Games without a winner are often settled by a shoot-out. On the other side of the pond, we are comfortable with the idea of a draw or tie. Winning is certainly best but preventing a better team from defeating you is seen as an honorable outcome.
Mike Rowbottom, writing in InsidetheGames found two precedents:
1 The Commonwealth Games of 1982, where England’s Mike McFarlane and Scotland’s 1980 Olympic 100 metres champion Allan Wells shared the 200m gold after both had clocked 20.43sec.
2 At the 1908 London Olympic, the men’s pole vault was shared by United States athletes Alfred Gilbert and Ed Cook, who both achieved 3.71 meters.
Barshim said afterward: “It’s history. Once we finished with that 2.39m jump he just looked at me, I looked at him, and we just understood that there was no need to go (and compete). It wasn’t even a question. This is a real moment here. This is beyond sport. This is sportsmanship, and this is the message we deliver to the young generation.”
Gianmarco and Mutaz, from Mutaz Barshim’s twitter account
The morning after a magical night in Tokyo, Barshim tweeted: “What is better than one gold? TWO!!” with a photo of him and his co-gold medallist posing in front of the Olympic rings inside the Athletes’ Village.
One feels de Coubertin would have approved.