Sports is rife with competition and an athlete’s achievements are founded on being better than your opponent. On 1 August however, Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi defied the competition by sharing a historic Olympic gold medal for the men’s high jump. They had both been tied at 2.37 metres each, but rather than choosing to break the tie they agreed to share the title. The last time an Olympic track and field gold was shared was back in 1912.
It was their friendship off the track that transcended their rivalry in the competition. In the 2017 Diamond League, Tamberi had tried to make his comeback after a serious ankle injury but was unable to clear the bar. He was inconsolable and locked himself in his hotel room refusing to speak with anyone, but Barshim knocked on his room door and insisted on talking. Tamberi recounted the incident in an interview:
“We talked. I cried in front of him. He tried to calm me down, and told me what he had to say. ‘Don’t try to rush it,’ he kept telling me. ‘You had a big injury, you’re already back in the Diamond League. No one expected that. But now you need to take your time, don’t expect too much too early from yourself. Just see what happens.’”
In a post-podium interview, 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 laud Barshim and Tamberi for their impressive display of sportsmanship and amity. They have shown us that the power of friendship can transcend barriers and allow us to push ourselves towards achieving our true potential as humans.