By Ken Reed

There are a lot of political and economic issues involving the Olympics that are upsetting, but there are also several reasons I love watching the various athletic competitions.

One, learning about the many inspiring stories of athletes overcoming adversity to compete at the highest level — whether they medal or not. Two, watching elite athletes continue to push the boundaries of what’s physically possible. And three, witnessing the powerful moments of sportsmanship that happen every four years during the Olympics. This year’s men’s high jump competition included all three.

Italian jumper Gianmarco Tamberi and Qatari jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim were deadlocked in first place at 2.37 meters. (Tamberi was seen applauding for Barshim when he cleared 2.37.) They each missed their three tries at 2.39 meters. So, the high jump official told them they could continue with a jump-off to determine the winner and gold medal recipient. Barshim asked the official if they could each get a gold medal. When the official said yes, Barshim and Tamberi looked at each other and seemed to non-verbally agree that was what they wanted. The official asked Tamberi if he was okay with sharing the gold and Tamberi responded with a scream, jumped into Barshim’s arms and then started running around the track. Barshim, smiling, walked over to his supporters, hugged several of them and began to weep. (The video is a must-watch. Reading about it doesn’t do the scene justice.)

Tamberi couldn’t compete in the 2016 Rio Games due to an ankle injury but he was determined to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. After the competition, he held a cast from the ankle injury that he had used for inspiration for the last five years. On it was written “Road to Tokyo.” The year 2020 was crossed out and replaced with 2021.

The 2021 Tokyo Games men’s high jump competition not only represents best-in-the-world athleticism but world-class sportsmanship as well. In the spirit of true competition, both athletes pushed each other to their limits and then embraced.

Well done gentlemen. Well done.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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