Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi said they were in dreamland as they put behind them the nightmare of serious injuries to share a rare Olympic athletics gold in the high jump on Sunday.
Barshim – giving Qatar its first Olympic track and field title – and Tamberi recorded a best clearance of 2.37 metres. Maksim Nedasekau of Belarus also cleared that height to set a national record.
He though missed out on a share of the gold because of an earlier failure.
The jubilant duo declined the chance of winning the title outright by turning down a jump-off.
For Barshim, 30, it completes a full house of Olympic medals having taken bronze in London in 2012 and silver in Rio five years ago.
Barshim missed a large part of 2018 with a serious ankle injury, bouncing back to win world outdoor gold on home soil in 2019.
“This is a dream I don’t want to wake up from,” he said.
“I have been through a lot. It’s been five years that I have been waiting, with injuries and a lot of set-backs. But we are here today sharing this moment and all the sacrifices.
“It’s really worth it now in this moment.”
Tamberi added Olympic gold to a world indoor and a European title, both in 2016, and celebrated exuberantly despite the absence of spectators at the pandemic-affected Games.
The long-haired 29-year-old collapsed to the ground and rolled around in ecstasy.
He recovered his composure briefly before launching into more histrionics when his compatriot Lamont Marcell Jacobs stunned the sprinting world by winning the Olympic 100 metres title.
His emotional celebrations were understandable given he had suffered a serious Achilles’ tendon injury weeks away from the 2016 Games which has seen him perform in a plaster cast.
“After my injuries I just wanted to come back, but now I have this gold, it’s incredible,” he said.
“I dreamed of this so many times. I was told in 2016, just before Rio, there was a risk I wouldn’t be able to compete any more. It’s been a long journey.”
‘Brandon Starc’s room-mate’
Barshim and South Korea’s Woo Sang-hyeok both got over 2.35m at the first attempt – the Qatari yelling with joy and beating his chest during an entertaining contest.
Woo’s celebration was equally flamboyant as the 2018 Asian Games silver medallist ran over to his coach to slap hands after setting a new national record.
Brandon Starc, brother of Australian cricketer Mitchell Starc, joined them with a clearance of 2.35m, bringing his watching Australian team-mates to their feet. One had attached a sign to his shirt saying “Brandon Starc’s room-mate”.
He was alas to go no further. Barshim upped the ante, clearing 2.37m at his first attempt, sending his dark glasses flying.
Nedasekau tried to get the watching athletes and coaches in the stand worked up to create an atmosphere in the 68,000-capacity venue. It worked a treat for him as he joined Barshim with a first attempt clearance at 2.37m.
Tamberi too cleared it. However, 2.39m became a height too far for the trio of medallists.
Barshim went closest with his third attempt. After knocking off the bar he gave a rueful shake of the head and applauded the onlookers.
With the title at stake as Tamberi jumped last, Barshim still found it within himself to applaud him as he prepared to launch himself at it – moments later the pair hugged as rare joint winners.