QATARI athletes are ready and raring to go. If any proof of it was required, then it came at the opening leg of International Association of Athletics Federations’ Doha Diamond League, where they clinched their best haul of two gold medals and a bronze.
At the Qatar Sports Club Stadium last week, star high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim soared to 2.36M en route to clinching gold.
Promising 400M hurdler Abdulrahman Samba then made a big statement by excelling in a strong field to win gold in 48.44sec.
Asia’s fastest man Femi Seun Ogunode pipped his famed training partner and 2004 Athens Olympic champion Justine Gatlin for bronze in 100M, an event won by unheralded South African Akani Simbine.
The high jump competition did not reach any great heights. But Rio Games silver medallist Mutaz was more than happy considering the fact that he had never won at home in the Diamond League.
“This was the season’s first competition. Myself and my coach had just two targets — get the first place and surpass the 2.35M mark which fetched me gold at the recent GCC Championships — and we got both of them,” said Mutaz.
Great Britain’s Robert Grabarz, who shared the London Games bronze with Mutaz, finished second with a leap of 2.31. Bahamas’ Donald Thomas settled for bronze with 2.29.
Much is expected from Mutaz these days as he eyes Cuban Javier Sotomayor’s world record of 2.45M set way back in 1992. The 25-year-old had the second-best jump in history, of 2.43 which he achieved at the Brussels Diamond League meeting in 2014.
While expressing his relief at having finally won at home, Mutaz admitted that he did not want to dwell too much into it considering it was just the beginning of the season.
“Of course, winning at home is everything. These people support me and I give them my best. Having my mother at the stadium was a big motivation for me,” he said.
“I didn’t want to exhaust myself. We’ve the Shanghai Diamond League meeting coming up on May 13 and I’m also looking forward to the competition there,” added Mutaz, who cleared 2.26, 2.29 and missed one at 2.33 before scaling the mark of 2.36.
Last year’s Diamond League had started, with Rio Games looming large. This time too, there was plenty for athletes to look forward to as the London World Championships are coming up in three months’ time.
And going by early signs, Qatari athletes, led by Mutaz, are surely going to make their presence felt there.
“I think London is an inspiring place for me. I always love it. A big crowd comes to back the athletes. Especially for me, everything started booming as it was the place where I got the Olympic bronze medal. That really changed my life and I became a really true professional.
“I think getting back to the same place for the Worlds would be just great. This performance in Doha is just the kind of start to the season that I dreamt of,” concluded Mutaz.