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Beautiful back story of the men who became the first in 109 years to share Olympic track and field medal

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1st August, 2021
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There have been some unbelievable sights at this Olympics – a giant ball of drones, a 100m track transformed into a spectacular reality TV set and the first shared track and field gold medal in 109 years.

Close friends and high jumpers Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy got permisison to share the gold medal from event officials, having gone flawless through the final on Sunday night, making every jump from 2.19 metres to 2.37 metres.

With the Olympic record of 2.39m next, Barshim and Tamberi instead spoke with officials about whether they had to continue to decide gold, with Barshim asking: “Can we have two golds?”

The officials told them they could share, and both went off to celebrate.

Was it an incredible, uplifting moment of sportsmanship or a cunning ploy to give two men a gold?

While social media couldn’t find a concensus, there is no doubt the pair’s close bond would have played a role in their decision.

The story of their friendship stretches back to 2016 when Tamberi broke his ankle in Monaco. On his return the next year he felt that his opponents were cheering him on as if they were his fans, helping him overcome the doubt and poor form that afflicted him.

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“I was feeling a little like a baby competing with the adults,” Tamberi wrote for Spikes website in 2018.

“You know, sometimes there’s a child that gets to play with adults and everyone tells them how good they are, they give them the ball and say ‘Go, Go, Go’. That was me. They passed me the ball every time. It felt like a team effort. I can’t put into words how much I appreciated it then and I still appreciate it a lot now.

“With Mutaz especially I built a great relationship. I remember, I went from Ostrava to Paris, and I did badly in Paris, really awful. I couldn’t clear my opening height. I was feeling frustrated, because I didn’t know whether I’d ever get back to the shape I was in in 2016.

“Other jumpers would come to me afterwards, but I didn’t want to talk to nobody. I went directly to my room.

“The day after, Mutaz started knocking on my room and he wouldn’t go away. 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. He tried to calm me down, and told me what he had to say.

“The most important thing he helped me realise was that I had to do it for myself, not for others.”

Social media, though, chewed over the decision, as social media does.

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