Gianmarco Tamberi, wearing his royal blue “ITALIA” tank top, anxiously jogged to Mutaz Barshim, his dear friend of nearly a decade.

He quickly embraced Barshim, who wore a red “QATAR” t-shirt, polarized sunglasses and a bright red baseball cap, and turned to face the clipboard-wielding official in front of them.

It was the first night of August, a brutally muggy one at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium. The longtime buddies were immersed in an epic men’s high jump final that had reached a breaking point.

Both Tamberi, who had missed the Rio Olympics with a broken ankle, and Barshim, who took silver at those Games, had cleared a height of 2.37m and missed all three attempts at 2.39m.

“If you’d like, you can continue with a jump-off,” the masked official explained to the pair.

Barshim cut him off. “Can we have two golds?” he asked.

Tamberi keeled over, cupped his hands to his kneecaps and held his mouth completely agape. He looked shell-shocked.

“It’s possible," the official countered. "If … depends if you decide—“

Before he could finish, Barshim turned to Tamberi. His Italian friend nodded and reached his hand out for a celebratory shake. There was his answer.

“History, my friend,” Barshim said confidently.

The gold medal was to be shared.

Tamberi and Barshim smacked hands. The exuberant Italian leapt on Barshim in a Koala-like hug and let out a primal scream. Once detached, Tamberi went bonkers, leaping up and down around the track in clear euphoria.

Gianmarco Tamberi, left, jumps for joy after sharing gold with Mutaz Barshim, center, in the men's high jump during the Tokyo Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium.
Gianmarco Tamberi, left, jumps for joy after sharing gold with Mutaz Barshim, center, in the men's high jump during the Tokyo Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium.
Andrew Nelles, USA TODAY Sports

Then, he crumbled to the ground, covering his face with his hands in shock. Injuries nearly ended his career a few years before. Now, Tamberi was an Olympic champion.

A few feet away, Barshim coolly pumped his fist, facing the crowd. After a silver in 2016, once-elusive Olympic gold was finally his.

The best part? Two friends who had leaned on each other in moments of pain and loss were now sharing a gold medal at the top stage in sports.

“This is absolutely an insane night in the stadium,” Leigh Diffey of NBC Sports projected on the broadcast, addressing the millions of likely stunned viewers.

As Barshim told Tamberi, the moment was, indeed, “history, my friend.”

Not since the 1908 London Olympics had two track and field athletes shared a gold medal podium, when U.S. pole vaulters Edward Cook and Alfred Carlton Gilbert tied due to the length of the competition.

American Katie Moon and Australian Nina Kennedy followed Tamberi and Barshim’s lead at the 2023 World Championships, sharing the women’s pole vault gold in Budapest.

Tamberi since Tokyo

Since the historic Tokyo Games, both Tamberi and Barshim have remained near the top of their discipline and will represent their respective countries at the Paris Olympics.

“Gimbo” Tamberi, 32, has been on a scorching streak, winning gold at 2023 Worlds, plus racking up victories at back-to-back European Championships, where he hasn’t lost since 2014. Tamberi cleared 2.37m at this year’s Euros in Rome, matching his gold-medal height from the Tokyo Games.

The Italian also has capitalized on his gold medal-boosted celebrity, becoming a national and international star. He played for Dominique Wilkins’s team at the 2022 NBA Celebrity All-Star Game and flew high for a putback dunk, fitting for a high jump champion.

Tamberi has gone viral numerous times for his unique — and admittedly wonderful — half beard:

Gianmarco Tamberi
Gianmarco Tamberi celebrates after winning the high jump at 2.36m during the World Athletics Championships.
Kirby Lee, USA Today

In Italy, President Segio Mattarella selected Tamberi — along with Olympic champion fencer Arianna Errigo — to bear the nation’s flag at the Opening Ceremony on the Seine.

Tamberi is cruising on his way to the Paris Olympics. He has been the No. 1-ranked high jumper in Europe for nearly 140 consecutive weeks.

Barshim since Tokyo

Like Tamberi, Barshim will bear his nation's flag on the Seine as he embarks on his fourth Olympic Games for Qatar.

After the gold in Tokyo, he won gold at 2022 Worlds in Eugene and secured bronze the following year in Budapest, where he trailed Tamberi by 0.03m. Barshim also took gold at the 2023 Asian Games and West Asian Championships.

The 33-year-old recently announced his intention to retire from athletics after the Paris Olympics, telling Africanews that he’s “done the most that’s possible.”

In addition to his three Olympic medals (a gold and two silvers), Barshim holds the Asian high jump record at 2.43m.

Barshim and Tamberi are both considered favorites to repeat as Olympic champions in Paris, although Americans JuVaughn Harrison and Shelby McEwen, Korean Woo Sang-Hyeok and New Zealand’s Hamish Kerr will challenge the duo.

Their continued dominance begs the question: Might Tamberi and Barshim share gold in Paris?


Tamberi answered that firmly at a press conference in 2022 before the Doha Diamond League.

If tied again, “we will look at each other and say, ‘OK, let's go’” to a jump off,” Tamberi told reporters.

"But it does not mean we are not proud of it. I will never change the past, even if you paid me or guaranteed me that I would be the one who wins that gold medal. 

I would share with him, because I know he deserves. We will forever remember as brothers, friends.

Editor's note: Tamberi announced on his Instagram on July 10 that he has suffered an injury that may hamper him in Paris. He still plans to compete, but he apparently will not be at 100%.