Iconic shared Olympic gold moment will not be repeated, says Barshim

AFP , Friday 26 Apr 2024

Two athletes sharing Olympic gold in a near-empty stadium in Tokyo caught the imagination of an expectant audience across the world, which was at the time ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mutaz Essa Barshim
Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi shared the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in a moment that caught the world s imagination. AFP

 

Mutaz Ezza Barshim embraced his old friend Gianmarco Tamberi at the end of the men's high jump as the judges confirmed the double gold for the Qatari and the Italian who have known each other for years dating back to competing as youths.

"To be honest, it will never happen again," Barshim told AFP in an interview.

"That moment, we'll never share that again. It was a one-time thing. Coming back from injuries and a dark place, I wanted to do something different, something with a different meaning.

"I'm glad it touched so many people's hearts, but we are sportspeople, we are professionals, we always want to be the best, we have that fire, 'I want to beat you, you want to beat me'."

Barshim said he felt "lucky" to have shared the gold with Tamberi.

"We've been competing since 2010 and came to pro level together," he explained.

"As professional athletes we deal with a lot. There's one thing which is the biggest thing and that is injury. In 2018, I injured my left Achilles, broke both my ligaments and it was a very dark time for me, mentally and physically.

"One second you are the best and a few moments later you're on a wheelchair and they're dragging you out of the surgery room.

"Gianmarco, my friend, had a similar injury in 2016 just before the Rio Olympics which prevented him from being there.

"When the bar was 2.37 metres in Tokyo and me and him cleared at the first attempt, we looked back and there was no one left, it was emotional. So it was a tie.

"I asked 'can we share?'. The reply was 'yeah it's possible' and that was it! We didn't even discuss things. I looked at Gianmarco's eyes, he looked at me, we jumped, we hugged and the rest is history, that's one of the moments that will stick forever."

Barshim joked that World Athletics plans to award every event winner prize money of $50,000 (46,000 euros) would also guarantee no further shared gold.

“It’s not happening, 50 or 500, no sharing!" said the 32-year-old, who also has three world outdoor titles to his name.

“Anything offered in terms of a prize is good for the athletes, it’s motivation. These athletes work really hard and sacrifice and this sort of prize is very important.

“Prize money in athletics doesn’t compare to football or basketball, for example.

“It’s a good start, you have to start somewhere."

Barshim kicked off his outdoor season with second place at the Xiamen Diamond League meeting last week and will stay in China for the Suzhou of the elite one-day circuit on Saturday before returning home to Doha for the next instalment there on May 10.

"After I'll take some time off and hopefully peak at the Olympic Games," Barshim said, adding that he was looking forward to the return of fans to the quadrennial showpiece of sports after the Covid-blighted Tokyo Games.

"In terms of having the Olympics with fans back again, it's amazing. I love adrenaline, when the crowd is back, the sound of clapping or shouting, it's like a battle feeling," he said.

"We didn't have that in Tokyo because of Covid but somehow we felt so ready because it was already postponed for one year. There was a lot of circling, but when it finally happened we were like kids going to Disneyland. We didn't need fans to feel the hype."

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