Following the unusual ending of the men’s high jump event in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 a few days ago, with images of an official explaining to Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi the options they had to end the final, I was curious as to how both of them had arrived to the competition and what was their track record in the past. For that purpose I used the website “Track and Field all-time Performances” (maintained since years ago by Peter Larsson).
With the data of all-time men’s best high jumps I plotted the chart below with the best 2,224 jumps (jumps from 2.31m and above) and their dates, highlighting the jumps by Javier Sotomayor (who still holds the record), Barshim and Tamberi.
- Sotomayor holds 189 of the 2224 jumps (8.5%) at 2.31m and above.
- Barshim holds 128 of the 2224 jumps (5.8%) at 2.31m and above.
- Tamberi holds 19 of the 2224 jumps (0.9%) at 2.31m and above.
- Of those jumps of 2.38m and above:
- Sotomayor holds 25 of the 105 jumps (23.8%) at 2.38m and above.
- Barshim holds 24 of the 105 jumps (22.9%) at 2.38m and above.
- Tamberi holds 1 of the 105 jumps (1.0%) at 2.38m and above.
- At higher heights the dominance of Sotomayor and Barshim is more relevant.
Tamberi had previously won some Europan championships medals and a World Indoor Championship medal in 2016 which is also the year he jumped is best jump of 2.39 in Monaco. Ever since, he had jumped at or below 2.33m until last Sunday.
Barshim had previously won 3 medals in the World Outdoor Championships, including the gold medal in the last two, and had also won two Olympics Games medals, bronze and silver, at the previous two Games in London and Rio de Janeiro. He has the best ever jumps after Sotomayor. While in 2019 he had also jumped 2.37m the last time he had jumped above that height was in 2018, when he jumped 2.40 twice and 2.38m.
Looking at that background, I can imagine that, when asked by the official about what they intended to do, Barshim wanted to secure the gold medal that had escaped him in the previous two Olympic Games (the gold was won in London with 2.33m and in Rio de Janeiro with 2.38m; heights that Barshim in theory dominated). On the other hand, Tamberi must have thought that he had little chance against Barshim, even if they had both already missed three times attempts over 2.39m, looking at how each one had been jumping in the past years.