'What the hell': Controversy erupts over Olympic gold medal 'farce'

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Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi, pictured here celebrating their gold medal.
Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi celebrate after sharing gold in the high jump. (Photo by CHRISTIAN PETERSEN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Fans and commentators were left heavily divided on Sunday night after Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi opted to share the high jump gold medal at the Olympics.

Barshim of Qatar and Italian Tamberi ended with jumps of 2.37 metres and had no failed attempts until they attempted to clear 2.39.

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After three failures each at that height, an official offered them a jump-off to decide the winner.

But Barshim persuaded organisers to let him share it with his friend and rival.

"Can we have two golds?" Barshim asked the official.

The official nodded, and the two athletes clasped hands and celebrated wildly.

"I look at him, he looks at me, and we know it. We just look at each other and we know, that is it, it is done. There is no need," 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."

Tamberi was overcome by Barshim's gesture and the fact that he'd won Olympic gold, celebrating with joy and pride.

Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi, pictured here opting to share the gold medal.
The moment Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi opted to share the gold medal at the Olympics. Image: Getty

Controversy erupts over gold medal 'farce'

The emotional scenes were widely celebrated around the world, however there were some who were left with a bitter taste in their mouths.

“That is extraordinary that at the Olympic level it would come down to asking the athletes about the options they have,” Aussie basketball legend Andrew Gaze said on Channel 7. 

“I can’t imagine how anyone would choose the alternative.”

Broadcaster Trevor Long tweeted: “The Athletes get to decide they can SHARE the Gold Medal? Instead of having a jump-off? What the hell?”

“Seems a very strange process - but - both of them did very well. Just staggering for a casual observer is all I’m saying.”

Journalist Darren Walton called it a "farce", pointing to other Olympic sports that don't have similar rules.

“Sooo it’s penalty shootouts for team events, super tiebreaks in tennis, 1/hundredths of a second deciding swimming/cycling/athletics golds (and dreams),” Walton tweeted.

“But #Olympics officials hand out TWO GOLDS for high jump instead of a jump-off. Another #Tokyo2020 farce.”

Media personality Piers Morgan wrote: “They should have done the jump-off. It’s an Olympic final, not a tea party. Can’t ‘share’ gold medals.”

Others pointed out that seven golfers had to play off for the bronze medal on Sunday instead of sharing it.

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Channel 7 commentator Dave Culbert explained that athletics had altered the rule in recent time. 

“They changed the rules a few years ago so athletes can decide no jump off. Share the gold,” he tweeted. 

“They both deserve it … A jump off would have been an anti climax.”

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