By Lori Ewing
BUDAPEST (Reuters) -Italy’s Olympic champion and showman Gianmarco Tamberi captured the world high jump title on Tuesday, in a dramatic finish against young American JuVaughn Harrison.
Tamberi, who famously shared the Olympic title with three-time world champion Mutaz Barshim of Qatar, cleared a world-leading 2.36 metres for gold. He missed at one attempt at 2.40 and then called it a night, his victory secured.
“I feel like a human being who beats superheroes,” Tamberi said.
The 31-year-old Tamberi, wearing one green sock and one red, and his face shaved on only one side, leapt into the water hazard of the steeplechase in wild celebration with Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco, who had just raced to gold in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase.
“It’s crazy, it’s an indescribable feeling,” Tamberi said. “I have been rewarded for all the sacrifices made.
“I managed to stay focused, expressing my feelings. My secret is being myself on the platform. It worked,” he added. “Many had doubts about the change of coach, the gold is also thanks to my father.”
Tamberi’s dad Marco had been his coach until days before last year’s world championships in Eugene, when he switched to Giulio Ciotti.
The 24-year-old Harrison also cleared 2.36 but had more misses on the countback, and so took silver for his first senior global medal.
“I think this was the best year of my career,” Harrison said. “I was consistent in every competition. After qualification I was about to have fun in the final and enjoy the jumps.
“It is fantastic that I beat one of the Olympic winners and I equalled the other. This is what I came for. This result gives me a great confidence for the Olympic Games in Paris.”
Barshim cleared 2.33 for bronze, missing at all three attempts at 2.36. The 32-year-old, who has the second best jump in history – 2.43 behind Cuban great Javier Sotomayor (2.45 in 1993) – looked in for a rough night when he missed his first attempt at 2.25.
“Everything was different today,” Barshim said. “I came here with three world golds and one silver and managed to add a bronze tonight. Look at my career. If it was not me that did this, but someone else, I would like to be that someone. I am the only high jumper with such a medal count. This almost brings tears to my eyes.
“The rivalry between all the jumpers was incredible. I am happy that Tamberi won the gold,” he added. “It was a medal he was missing from his CV and he added it tonight. The Paris Olympics is my next goal but it will be my last. It will be more like a contest, not revenge.”
Barshim’s sharing of gold with good friend and rival Tamberi was one of the most memorable moments of the Tokyo Olympics. But the Italian stood alone on Tuesday, to the delight of the raucous Italian fans in the crowd, who chanted “Gimbo! Gimbo!” as he waved his long arms in encouragement.
Tamberi now has a full collection of high jump golds, having also captured world indoor, European and Diamond League titles.
Silver was a terrific result for Harrison, who in Tokyo became the first American since Jim Thorpe in 1912 to compete in both the long jump, finishing fifth, and high jump (seventh) at the Olympics.
(Reporting by Lori EwingEditing by Toby Davis)