Mutaz, Samba to spearhead Qatari challenge
The hosts will be looking for some sparkling efforts from the two big guns at the World Championships.
When the 2019 IAAF World Championships action takes off at the Khalifa International Stadium on Friday evening, the host nation will expect some sparkling performances from their top athletes.
Abderrahman Samba, the joint third-fastest 400M hurdler (46.98sec) of all-time, seems to be Qatar’s brightest medal prospect in a squad of 19.
The hurdler, who has remained unbeaten in 12 finals in his pet event since late 2017, suffered a slight hamstring injury just before the 400M flat race at the London Diamond League in July.
Since then, he has deliberately kept a low profile, focused only on the IAAF Worlds at home. His main opposition will be Norway’s defending champion Karsten Warholm, who is also the current world leader (46.92), and American Rai Benjamin (46.98).
“I’m looking forward to meeting Rai Benjamin and others in Doha,” Samba told Inside Qatar. The 24-year-old will be in action on the first day itself, competing in the first round of the hurdles. He has also been entered in the 400M flat.
Defending high jump champion Mutaz Essa Barshim is another strong medal contender.
Having cleared 2.40M every year from 2013 to ’18, Mutaz’ status as one of the best jumpers of his generation is unquestionable. Last year, he suffered an ankle injury while attempting the world record in Hungary, putting him out of action for almost a year.
Upon return, he finished second at the London Diamond League with a best jump of 2.27M while in the Zurich Diamond League, he could manage only 2.20M. Mutaz may not be close to his best but the thought of competing at home will spur him on.
His biggest challengers will include the world’s three leading jumpers — Belarusian Maksim Nedasekau (2.35M) and Authorised Neutral Athletes Ilya Ivanyuk and Mikhail Akimenko (both 2.33M).
Ukraine’s Andriy Protsenko (2.32), who won the Diamond League final last month, is also in fine form. His compatriot Bohdan Bondarenko and Syria’s reigning Asian champion Majd Eddin Ghazal (both 2.31M) are other contenders for the podium.
In hammer throw, Ashraf Amjad El Saifi (76.21M) might be the reigning Asian Games champion but the Qatari, a two-time world junior champion, may not worry the big guns in the field – Poland’s Pawel Fajdek and Wojciech Nowicki. Fajdek has a best of 80.88M while Nowicki leads the charts this season with an 81.74M heave. The experience, however, will certainly benefit the 24-year-old Qatari.