04 May 2018 – 5:05
By Chinthana Wasala I The Peninsula
DOHA: Qatar’s celebrity athlete Mutaz Essa Barshim will be seeking a tough challenge in the season’s opening high jump battle at Qatar Sports Club Stadium today.
Barshim, who was named the IAAF World Athlete of the Year at the end of last season, said he had trained well in the build-up to the first Diamond League competition.
“I love the sport. When I compete, I want everybody to be (fully) engaged. You need to have a strong competition. I’d rather lose jumping 2.45 metres or 2.46 metres than winning with 2.30 metres. I need a higher standard,” Barshim said yesterday.
Barshim, 26, leads a star cast at the Diamond League series opener at the Qatar Sports Club today. The tall Qatari – who has won a silver and a bronze at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games respectively – wants to get back to his top form and rhythm as quickly as possible.
Last year’s Diamond League Champion, Barshim started the 2018 season on a high note when he won the gold at the 8th Asian Indoor Athletics Championships in Tehran, Iran, in February and went on to secure the silver at the IAAF Indoor World Championships in Birmingham, UK in early March.
Russian athlete Danil Lysenko won the gold in Birmingham with a 2.38m jump, but the Qatari – who has cleared the 2.40-metre mark in more than 10 occasions – remains unfazed.
“Most people ask me what happened (in Birmingham)? Why you failed, they asked. But nothing has happened. You need a little time to get back into the rhythm,” Barshim said with his trademark smile in place.
Commenting on his previous season, Barshim said he had little complaint about his performances in 2017.
“(The) previous season was great. I won the World Championship gold and topped it with the Diamond League trophy and then the World Athlete of the Year Award. It was amazing,” Barshim said.
“Coming to this season, last season’s performances definitely give me much more motivation. I think our target this season is to custom fit more records since there are no championships this year. I am definitely going to focus on the Diamond League season,” Barshim said.
“I’m super excited that the Diamond League season is back on track again,” he added.
Barshim said he was pleased to make the field events more popular among the fans.
“Few years back, the attention obviously wasn’t much on the field events. It was more on track thanks to Usain Bolt and all the guys who have been running. But I’m really glad that I’ve been part of this revolution to bring attention to the field events,” Barshim said.
The popular Qatari said he loves competing in front of the home crowd. Barshim said he has observed the growing number of spectators at the Doha meetings over the last few years.
“Definitely, three, four five years ago at the stadium, it was just people doing the sport, not fans outside,” Barshim said.
“You see now that you’re affecting people, people are inspired, changing. I have many families coming even to my house, asking to go to the stadium with me. I see the changes. Sometimes it needs time, but it’s coming, definitely,” Barshim observed.
“I feel that I’m inspiring people by doing what I’m doing and by always trying to be the best of the best and even better. I want people to enjoy this sport as a lifestyle and enjoy their time in it, and not to think about the Olympics as the first goal because it comes step by step,” he warned.