‘There is no need’: Italian and Qatari high jumpers share gold after turning down sudden-death decider

The Olympic spirit was alive and strong on Sunday night when two high jumpers opted to share the gold medal rather than take on a sudden-death contest that would have seen one of them miss out.

High jumpers Gianmarco Tamberi, of Italy, and Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim have long been close friends and they made history together after becoming the first track and field athletes to share gold in more than a century.

The two men had matched each other blow for blow throughout the competition, with identical perfect records as the bar rose up to 2.37 metres. Another increase to 2.39m then proved a step too far for both men and they suffered three failures apiece.

Under rules introduced a decade ago only for the high jump and pole vault, the pair were then given the option of either sharing gold or competing in a jump-off which would have seen them take one attempt each at lower heights.

“I look at him, he looks at me, and we know it,” said Barshim. “We just look at each other and we know, that is it, it is done. There is no need.”

It capped a remarkable end to a journey between two friends who have supported each other through major injuries suffered during their careers.

Ruled out of the last Olympics with a serious ankle injury suffered just weeks beforehand, Tamberi explained how his Qatari rival – who would also be struck by ankle injury the following year – had supported him when he struggled at his comeback competition in 2017.

“Mutaz started knocking on my room and he wouldn’t go away,” he told Spikes. “First I just wanted him to leave. He persisted and was shouting: ‘Gimbo. Gimbo, please I want to talk to you.’ So I gave in and let him in. We talked. I cried in front of him.”

As tears flowed again in celebration on the track, an emotional Tamberi unveiled a section of the plaster cast he had worn on his ankle while missing out on those Rio Olympics.

Of his relationship with Tamberi, 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.

“We have been through a lot, the same injury, and we know how much it takes, physically and mentally, just to get back here. I appreciate what he has done, he appreciates what I have done. It is amazing.”

The last time Olympic athletics gold medals were shared was in 1912 when there were two winners of the decathlon and pentathlon.

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