9/28/2016 9:10:56 AM

BASKING IN GLORY

BASKING IN GLORY

COMPARISONS are said to be odious — they do not carry any substantial merit and quite often deviate from the main topic. But it is a human nature to not only compare, but look for similarities too.

Mutaz Essa Barshim was just a one-year-old toddler when Mohammed Suleiman won Qatar their first Olympic medal — a bronze in 1,500M at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Twenty years down the line, Mutaz emulated Suleiman’s feat with a high jump bronze at the 2012 London Games. And four years later at Rio, he became Qatar’s most decorated Olympian of all time by winning a silver.

While Suleiman holds the credit for being the country’s first-ever Olympic medallist, Mutaz has carried it further and in him rests Qatar’s hope of winning their first gold.

Bronze at London, silver at Rio and gold at Tokyo seems a logical progression and Mutaz was candid while admitting that.

“Yes, that’s my target,” Mutaz told Doha Stadium Plus after returning to Doha following a long season. 

The feeling is yet to sink in. His phone is still busy all the time and his inbox is flooded with congratulatory messages and requests for interviews. The celebrations are going overdrive while felicitations, lectures and interactive sessions have been the norm since
his return. 

So has the life changed much for the champion athlete?

“Not really,” gushes Mutaz. “I like to be as much as the same kind of person I was before. Of course, my training routine might change,” he said.

At Rio, Mutaz gave Canada’s Derek Drouin a tough fight, but lost out on gold after failing to clear 2.38M three times.

He was content with his effort of 2.36M though.

“I aimed only for gold. But I’m happy with the silver. I don’t believe in could, would and should. Every event is a new experience for me. I try to learn as much as I can and be better next time,” Mutaz said.

Suleiman and sprinter Talal Mansour are usually the inspiration for Qatari athletes, but Mutaz looked upon his father first.

“He was a race-walker at the regional level. He always used to take me with him to the track. That’s how I got inspired in the first place. I wouldn’t have been what I’m today without the help of my family,” Mutaz added.

Mutaz’s breakthrough year was 2010 when he signalled his arrival on the big stage by winning at the IAAF Junior World Championships in Moncton, Canada, and followed it up with Asian Games gold in Guangzhou. 

The 2012 London games bronze followed and silver at Moscow World Championships in 2013 enhanced his  credentials. In 2014, he raised the bar further. After winning the World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland, Mutaz set his personal-best mark of 2.43M at the Brussels Diamond League, which was just 2M short of Cuban Javier Sotomayor’s long-standing world record. 

“Yes, that’s a goal I’ve been chasing for some time now. There’s no timeframe for it, because your performance on a particular day depends on a lot of factors like local conditions, fitness etc. But for sure, I would like to beat that mark some day,” said Mutaz. 

The 25-year old has not been able to hit the highs of 2014 and for that he cites a back injury sustained during that year which forced him to miss many events.

“After the back injury, yeah, it was a bit up and down. I wasn’t able to use my full run-ups. I used to jump half only then. I was perhaps competing in too many events, and I was getting tired very fast. But the good thing is
that it happened before the Olympic year. My body feels great right now,” he said.

Having tasted success so early in life, Mutaz was candid while admitting that he was making a lot of sacrifices though he is ready to take it in his stride.

“Maybe I’m missing some aspects of life. I may not be leading the life of a normal 25-year-old. But I’ve my priorities and I’m living my dream. I’m a professional athlete and I’ve a target to always do better,” he added.

Whether Mutaz is Qatar’s best all-time athlete remains open to debate. But with an Olympics bronze and silver adorning his trophy cabinet, he can bask in the glory of being the country’s most successful Olympian. DSP

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