“I’m always the favourite,” Mutaz Barshim declared as the Qatari defending champion brushed aside concerns over his return from a serious ankle injury to cruise into the high jump final.
There wasn’t an iota of doubt that Barshim would not make it to Friday’s final of the IAAF World Championships, but the manner in which he would seal his place was under the spotlight.
At the Khalifa International Stadium, though, Barshim allayed any fears over his form and fitness with a flawless performance in the qualifications that would have sent alarming signs to his rivals.
Until yesterday, Barshim had competed in just three events this year with a best of 2.27m at the London Diamond League in July. But as a classic idiom goes: ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’, Barshim rose to the occasion with a clinical show.
The 28-year-old started with a jump of 2.17m, before going past 2.22m, 2.26m and eventually sealing his spot in the final with his season’s best of 2.29m. The crowd that gathered around the first bend of the track remained buoyant throughout as the local hero showed glimpses of what to expect of him in Friday’s final.
In none of his four jumps, he even touched the bar, let alone knocking it down. The 2017 world champion showed no signs of any discomfort in his ankle, which had sidelined him for 14 months, and that should augur well for him in the final. “I am happy with the start, no complaints. Hopefully I can comeback on Friday and do my best,” said Barshim,
The 2012 Olympic bronze and 2016 silver medallist was not too concerned about his form this year. “The build up doesn’t really matter. I’m here! It’s not about time, it’s the World Championships. It’s about medals. I don’t care if I jump 2.50 or 2.10, I just want to go out there and hope for gold,” he said.
When asked if he fancies his chances of a gold medal, Barshim, without any hint of arrogance, said: “I’m always the favourite. It doesn’t matter where I compete.”
Barshim said competing at the Doha Worlds had provided him with extra motivation as he began his long road to recovery from injury.
“It is home and I feel really good jumping. Today was very important for me because I was pushing myself whole season to jump well at home. Despite the fact that people are sometimes very critical, I am happy to compete here and hopefully to come back in the final and do the hard job,” he said.
“I always want to win; it does not matter where it is. Every athlete wants to compete at home so it is special. It is really great to jump in front of the home crowd when you have your family, wife in the stands and it was very important for me, I just want to do this for them It definitely makes these championships special to me and it gives you extra motivation,” he added.
Barshim’s main rivals also made it to the 12-man final field, albeit in contrasting manners. While, Russians Ilya Ivanyuk and Mikhail Akimenko cleared 2.29m with ease, this year’s world leader Maksim Nedasekau of Belarus scraped in with a best of 2.26m. Andriy Protsenko of Ukraine, the fourth-place finisher at the 2016 Olympic Games, failed to make the cut.
El Seify in final
Meanwhile, Qatar’s Asian Games champion Ashraf El-Seify qualified for the hammer throw final. In the qualifications, El Seify hurled his best throw of 76.22m, which was just short of the qualification mark set at 76.50. However, it was enough for him to seal his place in the final as he finished in 12th place overall. The final is scheduled for today at 9:40pm.
In the men’s 400m, Qatar’s Abdelalah Haroun finished his heats in sixth place in a time of 47.76secs, which was his season’s best. Haroun, who is also returning from an injury, was clearly not at his best.
In the men’s 3000m Steeplechase, Qatar’s Yaser Bagharab finished 14th among 15 runners with a time of 8:25.79.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s Mariam Farid registered her personal best in the women’s 400m hurdles heats with a time of 1:09.49 secs. Farid was grateful for the opportunity of competing in a world championship.
“I am very proud, it’s a dream come true,” said Farid. “On the track, I wanted to cry, it was just so beautiful. I am very happy to improve my new national record by two seconds. This is the first World Championships for the Middle East and it was great to perform in front of my friends and family,” she added.
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