BUDAPEST – Katie Moon wanted to split the gold. Nina Kennedy wanted to split the gold, too.
The pole vaulters knew that was possible, thanks to a pair of high jumpers who turned their tie at the Olympics two years ago into a feel-good moment where everyone walked away a winner.
Moon and Kennedy did the same thing Wednesday night at world championships, cementing their friendship by agreeing to split the title after finishing in a tie for first place.
“I kind of looked at her and said, 'Hey girl, you maybe want to share this?” Kennedy recounted.
Moon did. She definitely did.
“What an amazing night,” Moon said. “I hope everyone enjoyed that one.”
They can thank Mutaz Essa Barshim (Qatar) and Gianmarco Tamberi (Italy) for the idea.
Two years ago at the Tokyo Olympics, they paved the way to splitting a title when they finished deadlocked in the high jump. It sent Tamberi into all sorts of celebrations, including a belly-flop onto the track (Tamberi won a title of his own Tuesday night in Budapest).
In high jump and pole vault, athletes keep jumping until they miss three attempts in a row. Ties are broken by who has more misses at a certain height. If still tied, they count the number of misses through the entire final. If there's still no difference, a jump-off ensues. But when an official at the Olympics told Barshim and Tamberi that a tie was possible, they jumped at it.
And so, a precedent was set.
“It’s funny because until the Olympics, I never realized you could split the gold medal,” said Moon, the Olympic champion from the United States who now gets credit for defending her world title. "I just didn’t realize that was a thing. Coming into this coming into the meet, you don’t expect that it’s going to come down to something like that.
“And it’s funny because I never knew what I do in the moment.”
Turns out, share it.
Moon and Kennedy, an Australian, missed all three tries at 4.95 meters (16 feet, 2 3/4 inches). Right after, Moon looked at the official to gain some sort of clarification.
“He said there was going to be a jump off and I just assumed (Kennedy) would want to so I just said, ‘Yeah,’" Moon said.
Moon said that only because she already had a title to herself, and she at first assumed Kennedy would want a chance to win her own, too. But Moon was exhausted. So was Kennedy, whose legs were cramping.
“And then when it looked like she maybe didn’t want to (go to a jump off), it was like, ‘I don’t want to, either,'” Moon said. “Like, ‘Did we just become best friends?’”
“We were pushing each other to the absolute limit,” Kennedy said. “Absolutely incredible to share the medal with Katie Moon. We’ve been friends for so long, so it's super special.
“I knew I could get on the podium, but it was a miracle to get the gold. So I think a miracle happened tonight.”
Kennedy thought she might have won the contest when she cleared 4.90 on her third and final attempt. Moon had to clear that height, too, or gold went exclusively to Kennedy.
Moon rose to the occasion.
“I would definitely say that was my most clutch jump of all time,” said Moon, who competed as Katie Nageotte before recently getting married. “I think we both motivated each other.”
As for how they might settle it down the road, well, that's to be decided.
“I guess we’ll find out,” Moon said with a laugh. “Nina’s so awesome. I’m just so happy that we both get to share this.”
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