Intro: Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim has already achieved greatness in the world of high jump. But he isn’t satisfied with that. He wants to be the best of the best…
There are roughly 7.5 billion people living on earth right now. Out of these billions only a miniscule percentage end up becoming athletes. And only a miniscule percentage of athletes end up on the podium. And only a ridiculously miniscule percentage of these end up doing so repeatedly and go on to become legends of the sport.
And Qatar has one of them ‑ Mutaz Essa Barshim.
He’s just 26 years old, a Red Bull athlete and already the top gun in the world of high jump. He has won a bronze and a silver in the Olympics, a favourite for the upcoming world championship this month – and, most importantly, expected to be the man to break the longest standing record in the history of the men’s high jump.
It was in 1993 that Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor produced an incredible jump of 2.45 metres. Barshim was two years old then. And now the Qatari is confident that he will be able to break that elusive world record. “I’m very confidant about the world record. I trust in the work that we are putting in. All we need is patience and time,” Barshim told XTork.
Interestingly the Qatari didn’t begin his sporting journey as a high jumper. Barshim started as a long distance runner, inspired by his dad Essa Mohamed Barshim, who himself was a medal-winning athlete. It was only at the age of 15, courtesy a club coach, that Barshim took up high jump. Within a year of training, Barshim won third place in the 2009 Gulf Championships. And that’s also the year when he met his current coach Stanislaw Szczyrba.
The Polish/Swedish coach was able to convince him that he could achieve greatness and and from then on, there was no turning back. The duo have been together since and Barshim had reached great heights. “We met in 2009 after I graduated from Aspire Academy. He saw my talent from the beginning and told me – You have gold in you, let’s work. I believed him,” said Barshim about the meeting with his now coach. “He knows exactly what he is doing and he cares about quality,” he added.
From then on, Barshim has scaled many heights with the Olympic medals being the top-most glory. He first won the bronze at the 2012 London Games and then the silver in 2016 in Rio. “Emotions cannot describe what I felt at that moment. It was happiness and pride. It was a feeling of being on top of the world,” said Barshim about winning the medals.
He’s the only Qatari to have won a silver medal in the Olympics and Barshim believes it’s all about his self-belief. “It’s a great achievement and I never doubted my ability to achieve greatness.”
When asked what would be, apart from the Olympics, the moments that he would rate as the high points in your career, the Qatari said: “Winning the world junior championship in 2010 and jumping the highest I have (2.43m) in Brussels 2014. I also remember fondly the first time I jumped over 2.30 metres – in Vietnam in 2010.”
At this young age, Barshim is already a shining beacon for the sport in Qatar and a source of inspiration for current and upcoming athletes all over the world. What would his advice be to the future athletes of Qatar? How does one become Mutaz Barshim?
“You need to put in a lot of hard work and be patient. Great things take time. Make sure you know what you are doing and you’re willing to fight for it. No one can become the next Mutaz Barshim but anyone can find the greatness in them,” said the Qatari.
Barshim is already one of the legends of the sport and his career seems on the ascendancy. A win in the world championships and then a first-ever Olympic gold for Qatar in Tokyo 2020? And along the way, grabbing that world record too? It’s all possible if you believe and that’s definitely what Barshim has – belief in himself. Belief in his ability to raise the bar even higher. It will be a momentous occasion when Barshim does grab that Olympic gold and break that record. With the entire nation of Qatar behind him and his own belief, it only seems a matter of when and not if.
By the way, do you know what Mutaz means in Arabic? Pride.
And that’s what he is – the pride of Qatar