Doha: Mutaz Essa Barshim dominated high jump last season so much so that he remained unbeaten throughout and ended up winning the IAAF Athlete of the Year award.
The triumph at London World Championship highlighted his 2017, but this season with no World Championship or Olympics around he needed something to keep himself motivated.
And how does he aim to tackle this unique problem? Simple, he’s going for the records.
“I need something to keep me going. To keep pushing we need a target. And since there is no World Championship we need to find something to focus on. I think we will go for records. We will try to jump as high as possible,” Mutaz told dohastadiumplusqatar.com after the pre-event press conference on Thursday, the eve of the Doha Diamond League.
“Last season it was extraordinary and it will be very hard to top it. Especially when there is no World Championship. We have to find something to motivate us. We have the Asian Games, but it’s in August. We are looking forward to records, we are trying to improve. World leading mark, personal best, something to grab on.”
But it won’t be easy for him, for there is no one in sight to push him, to give him the fight that is so much needed to conquer greater heights.
“I don’t know (if there are guys to push me). It’s very hard to talk about others but I believe so and I really hope so. Because I need someone to push me to provide competition. To make something special we need everybody’s support and everybody pushing. We had five-six guys jumping really high, I think that’s what we need,” said Mutaz, who is aiming for Javier Sotomayor’s world record of 2.45M set in 1993.
Mutaz, who also wants to win gold at Tokyo Olympics, has a personal best of 2.43 and looks the only person who can challenge the world record.
A balmy Friday evening at Qatar Sports Club right at the start of the Diamond League season won’t be the ideal setting, but rest assured that he will go for it.
While Mutaz was hogging the limelight, his compatriots Abdellelah Haroun and Abderrahaman Samba have been working quietly to carve their niche.
While Haroun is the 2017 World bronze medallist in the 400m, Abderrahaman Samba, who destroyed the field in 400m hurdles in Doha last season, recently ran a World-lead time of 47.89 and both are ready to prove their mettle again in front of home supporters.
Meanwhile, a host of international stars are also looking to make their mark in Doha, but none will be keener than Caster Semenya.
That the South African is clearly unhappy with IAAF’s new rules for female athletes who have high testosterone levels would be an understatement, with her country’s federation already looking to challenge it.
As per the new rule which will come into effect on November 1, 2018, female athletes with a higher testosterone level who compete in the 800M and 1,500M must block and lower it to avoid what the IAAF believe is an unfair advantage and South Africans believe it’s definitely targeting their runner.
American Christian Taylor, the reigning World and Olympic triple jump champion, Greece’s pole vault superstar Katerina Stefanidi, British 200M runner Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, German Thomas Rohler, the Olympic champion in javelin throw, Kenya’s 3000M world champion Hellen Obiri and American steeplechaser Jenny Simpson, who will compete in the 3000M also attended the fun-filled pre-event press conference.
But, on Friday evening fun and camaraderie will be the last thing on their mind as they try to go for glory and the gold.
And that’s why Qatar Sports Club Stadium could be a good place to be at if you are an athletics fan, or if you love battles.