Mike Rowbottom

A fine thing happened today. A former colleague of mine was marvelling on Twitter over the memory of what he described as "the greatest solo goal I ever saw". And, unexpectedly, he got to see it again - other than in his mind's eye.

Richard Williams, formerly chief sports writer for The Guardian and very much not formerly a Nottingham Forest follower, was recalling an effort by Ian Storey-Moore on this day 50 years ago which earned Forest a 1-1 draw with Arsenal, then league champions.

Williams recalled Storey-Moore, who would soon afterwards join Manchester United for the gargantuan sum of £200,000 ($270,000/€235,000), receiving a pass from full back Tommy Gemmell near his own penalty area and then running 74 yards with the ball - according to a later calculation - before evading the London side's famously formidable defence and beating keeper Bob Wilson.

"No TV footage seems to have survived", Williams added, a little plaintively. Not so.

Within 15 minutes Williams, through the miracle that is sometimes Twitter, was able to view once again what he had seen from the Trent End back in the day. His recollection was false in only one regard - Gemmell headed the ball out to Storey-Moore…

Nowadays virtually anything that moves in the world of sport is recorded. And particularly so in elite sport, Olympic sport. You want to see it again? You can.

That said, thanks are due eternally to the live feed director and cameraman operating on the infield of the Tokyo Olympic Stadium on August 1 for being present to capture - and thus endlessly reproduce - one of the most wonderful moments in sport, in which Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Italy's Gianmarco Tamberi, friends and rivals, decided to share the Olympic high jump title.

At the time I described it like this: "When Mutaz Barshim, tied with Gianmarco Tamberi on perfect progress to 2.37 metres and three failures at 2.39m, asked his impish question of an official from under the brim of one of his biggest, reddest hats: 'Can’t we have two golds?' and got the response 'Is possible', there suddenly opened up a magical doorway through which both men, gladly, stepped.

"As soon as those official words were spoken the entire dynamic was between two competitors. Barshim was grinning, nodding, inviting corroboration with an outstretched hand. Tamberi, suddenly electrified, slammed his hand back in response, briefly leapt on his opponent and then careered away with a primeval cry.

"Honestly, I can’t remember seeing anything better in sport.

"Now I’m trying to work out exactly why."

This morning I have looked again and again at the video clip of that dawning glory. It's irresistible - like a piece of butter tablet on the tongue. And the flavour will never wane.

What I realised when I listened back to it was that the official involved continued with a conversation that had suddenly become irrelevant.

"It’s possible… if you decide you both want to be Olympic champions," he added - as Tamberi raved off and away and Barshim turned back, grinning broadly, indicating with his hands that all was over and that he and his buddy had decided against trying to rip shreds off each other in a de-escalating jump-off at the end of a muggy and exhausting night of competition in which they could not be separated.

Can an Olympic title properly be shared, as it was, is and will be in the Tokyo 2020 Games? It is a discussion topic that will endure, and there are good arguments on both sides.

"I appreciate that it suited both men but isn’t competition what sport is all about?" tweeted one former Olympian at the time. 

"The deal they cut isn’t 'in the rules' and is surely against the spirit of sport. It denied us who watch the prospect of a thrilling jump-off. Similar parallels in other sports are unthinkable."

He was wrong about it not being in the rules - indeed, in that same stadium two months earlier Barshim had agreed to share victory in the Olympic test event after he and Japan’s indoor record-holder Naoto Tobe could not be separated even by a jump-off.

Golden double - Gianmarco Tamberi and Mutaz Barshim on the podium after their decision to share the Tokyo 2020 high jump title ©Getty Images
Golden double - Gianmarco Tamberi and Mutaz Barshim on the podium after their decision to share the Tokyo 2020 high jump title ©Getty Images

Both men cleared heights from 2.15m to 2.30m on their first attempts before failing their efforts at 2.33m. They then took it in turns to attempt 2.33m, 2.31m and 2.29m to decide the winner before settling for shared spoils after their long competition.

In tone, the decision taken, instinctively and almost instantly in the Olympic final, was akin to sharing a beer with an opponent after a tough match - won, lost or drawn. Something more important than the contest.

And I am very far from being alone in feeling that moment of sharing, that effective gainsaying of the Vince Lombardi analysis of sport - "Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing" - was sublime. Barshim wins; Tamberi wins; sport wins.