That was the option offered to Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi in the final of the men’s high jump and the pair gladly accepted.
It meant both athletes walked away with gold, sparking wild scenes especially from Tamberi, who collapsed to the ground in tears and celebrated with Lamont Marcell Jacobs after his fellow Italian won the men’s 100m final.
Tamberi and Barshim, of Qatar, were the last two standing after successfully clearing the bar at 2.37m. But they both missed their allotted three attempts at 2.39m.
It led to officials asking whether they wanted to compete in a jump-off, to find a definitive winner, or share the gold medal. Unsurprisingly, they agreed to option B.
Barshim and Tamberi embraced as they sealed the deal that makes both of them Olympic champions.
A jump-off can occur when there is a tie, as was the case on Sunday night. It results in the bar being lowered to the previous height both jumpers cleared. Each athlete gets one jump, and the bar is alternately lowered and raised to a different height each time until the first person fails to clear the bar.
Channel 7 athletics commentator David Culbert tweeted an explanation. “They changed the rules a few years ago so athletes can decide no jump off. Share the gold,” he wrote. “They both deserve it … A jump off would have been an anti climax.”
Tamberi, who missed the 2016 Rio Olympics with a leg injury, was overcome with emotion while Barshim also broke down in tears as he celebrated with his team.
Not many would have known high jumpers had the option to share gold in the event of a deadlock as commentators were stunned by the development.
“That is extraordinary that at the Olympic level it would come down to asking the athletes about the options they have,” Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze said on Channel 7. “I can’t imagine how anyone would choose the alternative (a jump off).”
Fellow Seven presenter Andy Maher also called the ending “extraordinary”, while broadcaster and technology commentator Trevor Long was perplexed too.
“The Athletes get to decide they can SHARE the Gold Medal? Instead of having a jump-off? What the hell?” he tweeted. “Seems a very strange process — but — both of them did very well.
“Just staggering for a casual observer is all I’m saying.”
The majority of people on social media loved the emotional scenes that played out between Tamberi and Barshim.
However, not everyone was a fan. Sports reporter Darren Walton said on social media it was a “total farce”.
“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.”
British media personality Piers Morgan said: “They should have done the jump-off. It’s an Olympic final, not a tea party. Can’t ‘share’ gold medals.”
Maksim Nedasekau of Belarus also cleared 2.37m to set a national record but missed out on a share of the gold due to an earlier failure, and left with bronze.
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. Tamberi added Olympic gold to a world indoor and a European title, both in 2016 and celebrated exuberantly despite the absence of spectators at this pandemic-affected Games.
Barshim and Korean Woo Sanghyeok both got over 2.35m at the first attempt. Brandon Starc, brother of Australian cricketer Mitchell Starc, joined them with a clearance of 2.35m. But he got no further and finished fifth.
Barshim upped the ante by clearing 2.37m and Tamberi cleared it too. 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 his rival as the Italian prepared to launch. But he fell short and moments later the pair hugged as joint winners.