Doha, Qatar: Qatar will be hoping for their first gold at Doha World Championships when Mutaz Essa Barshim competes in the high jump final at the Khalifa International Stadium on Friday.
Mutaz, sidelined for almost a year after suffering an ankle injury in 2018 July at Gyulai Memorial in Szekesfehervar, Hungary, moved into the final without much trouble on Tuesday with his season’s best of 2.29m, but he will have to improve upon that performance to defend his world title.
At the London Worlds, the 28-year-old had not found his roaring form which he was in before he got injured, but he still managed to win gold with relative ease with an effort of 2.35, and a repeat of that performance is all he needs on Friday.
The Olympic silver medallist, as always, was confident about his chances.
“I am happy with the start, no complaints. Hopefully, I can come back on Friday and do my best,” said Mutaz after Tuesday’s qualifying round.
“It is home and I feel really good jumping. Today was very important for me because I was pushing myself the whole season to jump well at home. Despite the fact that people are sometimes very critical, I am happy to compete here and, hope to come back in the final and do the hard job,” he said.
For Mutaz, who has been aggressively chasing Cuban Javier Sotomayor’s world record of 2.45 — he got injured while going for a 2.46 attempt after clearing 2.43 — the main fight is against himself as his rivals do not have any chance of catching him if he is in form and full fitness.
Neutral athletes Ilya Ivanyuk, 2.33 and Mikhail Akimenko, who both cleared 2.29 all the heights are ready to pounce if Mutaz does not find his rhythm while a host of others including Yu Wang of China and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy would also be considering themselves as clear medal contenders. Majd Eddin Ghazal of Syria and Bohdan Bondarenko of Ukraine, who both had fought hard with Mutaz in the past, disappointed.
Mutaz knows he is not at his best and the trick for him is to get the maximum without putting too much pressure on himself as the Olympics is just around the corner.