MUTAZ BARSHIM has been the poster boy of the ’19 WC since Doha signed its contract with the IAAF in ’14. At the time, more than 5 years ago, he was seen as the man most likely to improve on Javier Sotomayor’s long-standing WR of 8-½ (2.45) and had just taken his first global title at that year’s World Indoors. Turn the clock forward half a decade and the world has become a different place, in so many ways.
Prior to Doha, the ’17 Athlete Of The Year had been struggling with injuries for more than a year, and enduring ankle surgery with a 6-month rehab in the second half of ’18. With only 3 competitions under this belt this summer (1 each in June, July & August), he started the final with a ’19 best of only 7-5¼ (2.27) and was ranked a lowly =No. 35 on the yearly world list.
However, inspired by an almost-full Khalifa Stadium—finally!—he looked like the Barshim of yesteryear from the get-go. The Doha born-and-bred jumper cleared 7-2¼ (2.19), 7-4¼ (2.24), 7-5¼ (2.27) and 7-6½ (2.30) on his first attempts. Up to 7-6½ (2.30) so did the Russian pair of Mikhail Akimenko and Ilya Ivanyuk, plus surprising Cuban Luis Zayas, the latter equaling his PR set in winning the Pan Ams.
Belarus’s slightly favored world-leader Maksim Nedasekau, apparently suffering from back problems, looked ragged, needing a pair of tries at each of those last 3 heights but 8 were still alive at 7-7¾ (2.33). Nedasekau suddenly came to life with a solid first-time clearance at this height and Akimenko also went over right away, equaling his PR to take the lead. Barshim missed, and missed again, but soared over on his third attempt before also being joined moments later as Ivanyuk also scored a last-ditch make.
So, the quartet moved on to 7-8½ (2.35), =PR territory for Nedasekau, pure-PR territory for the Russian duo.
Miss for Nedasekau, then Barshim flew clear to take the lead albeit briefly as Akimenko then PRed to knock him down to silver, and Ivanyuk followed suit to lower him to bronze before Nedasekau promptly passed to the next setting, 7-9¼ (2.37): PR territory for the others, but a height cleared at least twice a year between ’12 & ’18 by Barshim.
Following a miss by Nedasekau, the crowd whipped themselves into a frenzy before Barshim then went clear, just tickling the bar with his heels but well clear with his torso, prompting a delirious roar from the bleachers, many of whom were armed with Barshim posters and homemade placards. Akimenko and Ivanyuk both went close with their third and final attempts but got the red flag to prompt a second wave of celebrations, and this time one that Barshim could indulge in, quickly calling it a day after becoming the first man to win back-to-back titles in this discipline.
“I needed to give it some action. If I jumped the 2.33 easy, it is boring and everyone just jumps, jumps, jumps,” he said after the event, able to joke about his pressure-point moment in the wake of getting the gold medal. “I am never afraid [of his rivals] but Russia, they always have good high jumpers. So, it was good to jump against those good high jumpers. Of course, there was a lot of pressure, but I need pressure to jump. I love competing on a high ground with a strong field so that was my thing, to push myself to the maximum. It means everything to me, I’m really happy to do it here at home. To everybody who came out here to support me and believed in me I just wanted to do this for them. I could see it in their eyes how enthusiastic they were and how much enjoyment they were getting from it.”
USATF winner Jeron Robinson advanced to the final but could go no higher than 7-4¼ (2.24) to finish 11th while teammates Shelby McEwen and Keenon Laine did not make it out of the prelims held three days before.
WC MEN’S HIGH JUMP RESULTS
(October 04) (temperature 79F/26C; humidity 61%)
1. Mutaz Barshim (Qat) 7-9¼ (2.37) (WL);
2. Mikhail Akimenko (Rus) 7-8½ (2.35) PR;
3. Ilya Ivanyuk (Rus) 7-8½ (2.35) PR;
4. Maksim Nedasekau (Blr) 7-7¾ (2.33);
5. Luis Zayas (Cub) 7-6½ (2.30) =PR;
6. Brandon Starc (Aus) 7-6½ (2.30);
7. Michael Mason (Can) 7-6½ (2.30);
=8. Hup Wei Lee (Mas) 7-5¼ (2.27);
=8. Gianmarco Tamberi (Ita) 7-5¼ (2.27);
10. Yu Wang (Chn) 7-4¼ (2.24);
11. Jeron Robinson (US) 7-4¼ (2.24);
12. Joel Castro (PR) 7-2¼ (2.19).
(October 01; auto-qualifier 7-7/2.31)
Qualifiers: Castro & Nedasekau cleared 7-5/2.26, all other finalists 7-6/2.30.
Non-qualifiers: [7-5/2.26]—Tihomir Ivanov (Bul), Shelby McEwen (US), Dzmitry Nabokau (Blr), Andrii Protsenko (Ukr), Stefano Sottile (Ita), Naoto Tobe (Jpn);
[7-3¼/2.22]— Douwe Amels (Hol), Adrijus Glebauskas (Lit), Hamish Kerr (NZ), Django Lovett (Can), Donald Thomas (Bah);
[7-1½/2.17]— Joel Baden (Aus), Takashi Eto (Jpn), Majed El Dein Ghazal (Syr), Keenon Laine (US), Mateusz Przybylko (Ger), Mathew Sawe (Ken);
… nh—Bogdan Bondarenko (Ukr).