They both cleared the highest bar, but when it came to deciding a winner, two Olympic high jumpers opted not to take it to a tie-breaker.
Instead, they asked to share the gold medal – prompting cheers beyond their home countries of Qatar and Italy.
During the long competition, 30-year-old Mutaz Essa Barshim from Qatar and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi, 29, executed the first six jumps up to 2.37 meters (7 feet 8 inches).
Both then attempted to match the Olympic record of 2.39 meters for sole ownership of the title.
However, after three attempts, neither succeeded.
The two athletes were then approached by a Games official. “Can we have two golds?” Barshim asked.
The official nodded, prompting the overjoyed athletes to high five, before Tamberi embraced Barshim in an elated display of celebration.
Despite the ban on spectators due to Covid restrictions, loud cheers rang out from the small crowd in the stadium as the two men ran toward their coaches and teammates. Tamberi, overcome with emotion, collapsed on the track. In the stands, both coaches broke down in tears.
Barshim’s gold medal has completed his Olympic set – he won bronze at London 2012 and silver at Rio 2016. He claimed two World Championship titles in 2017 and 2019.
“It is unreal, it is crazy. I am so happy, man. It was the only thing missing (from his high jump career). Now, I am complete, I am so happy,” Barshim said. “It is amazing, man. To share it with Marco is an amazing feeling. It is a great feeling. I’m really happy.”
Tamberi’s journey to the Olympic podium has been tough. A career-threatening injury forced him to take time out to recover, just before the Rio 2016 Games, stripping any chance he had at winning a medal.
Tamberi brought his cast to Tokyo with him as a reminder of his sacrifices to bring home the gold. It is inscribed with the words: “Road to… Tokyo.”
“After my injuries, I just wanted to come back, but now I have this gold, it’s incredible. I dreamed of this so many times,” Tamberi said. “I was told in 2016 just before Rio, there was a risk I wouldn’t be able to compete anymore. It’s been a long journey.”
Maksim Nedasekau of Belarus also cleared the 2.37 meter jump but took bronze having failed more attempts to clear the bar.
Minutes later, Italy had another reason to celebrate after sprinter Lamont Marcell Jacobs took gold in the men’s 100 meter sprint with a time of 9.80 seconds, becoming the first Italian to do so in Olympic history.
Tamberi, who was still celebrating on the track, ran toward Jacobs and embraced him after his win.
Early the next morning, Tamberi posted an image of himself with the Italian flag on Instagram with the message: “It’s 6 in the morning and I’m scared of going to sleep… I don’t want to wake up from this dream that seems so real!”