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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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All eyes on Mutaz as he looks to defend world title

After a prolonged injury-break, the ace Qatari high jumper has returned to form in the nick of time.
Qatari High Jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim
Qatari high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

Champion Qatari high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim will be keen to give his wife Alexandra an early first wedding anniversary gift on Friday at the Khalifa International Stadium.

The world champion, who married the Swedish national last November, would certainly like the gift to be in gold as he defends his title on the eighth day of the IAAF World Championships.

Mutaz, who kept off competitions for almost a year with an ankle injury, had a best jump of just 2.27M going into the qualification round in Doha on Tuesday.

But after confidently sailing over all his heights — 2.17M, 2.22M, 2.26M and a season’s best of 2.29M — on his first attempt, he seems to have hit form just in the nick of time.

“I’m back, baby,” he had shouted confidently after progressing to the final as the top qualifier.

Two years ago, Mutaz, who has a personal best of 2.43 metres, cleared 2.35 metres to win Qatar’s only gold at the London World Championships. This time around, Abdelrahman Samba opened the hosts’ account with a bronze in the 400M hurdles and it will be up to Mutaz to bring home a medal of a brighter hue in front of an adoring crowd.

Among his rivals in Doha, China’s Wang Yu, who has cleared 2.31M this season, is the only jumper to have featured in the ’17 final. But it will be Belarusian Maksim Nedasekau who could prove to be Mutaz’s biggest threat. The 21-year-old has jumped the highest this season, a 2.35M clearance en route to winning the Europe-USA match in Minsk last month.

Authorised Neutral Athletes Ilya Ivanyuk (season’s best of 2.33M) and Mikhail Akimenko (2.31),Cuba’s 22-year-old Pan-American Games champion Luis Zayas, Australia’s ’18 Diamond League winner Brandon Starc (both 2.30) and Italy’s ’16 world indoor champion Gianmarco Tamberi (2.29) are some of the other big names in contention.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Bohdan Bondarenko will be conspicuous by his absence. The ’13 world champion, who was on a comeback trail following injury, had failed to register a mark in the qualification round.

Qatar team manager Khalifa Abdulmalik, who is credited with unearthing the talented Mutaz more than a decade ago, was confident about the jumper’s chances.

“He was down with an injury but now is fully fit. He’s been relishing the thought of jumping in front of his home crowd. I’m confident he’ll emerge successful,” the official told Inside Qatar.

If you are in Qatar on Friday, the Khalifa Stadium will undoubtedly be the place to be in, with the final scheduled at 8.15 pm.