Exclusive Interview: Qatar’s falcon and High Jump icon Mutaz Barshim gears up for the 2021 Season
Qatar’s falcon and High Jump icon's victory at the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Athletics Championships will resonate for a long time telling the story of a legend whose name will go down in letters of gold in the history of Qatar's sports.
Aspire Academy’s premier graduate ‘Mutaz,’ whose name literally translates as “pride,” has secured a number of medals at the Asian, World and Olympic competitions since a breakthrough year in 2010.
The Qatari Red Bull athlete's historical victory that earned him his second gold medal has demonstrated his extraordinary ability to overcome difficulties and challenges, as he was just recovering from an injury when he achieved the biggest win.
Here is an exclusive interview with two- time high jump world champion after the COVID-19 pandemic took all the athletic disciplines in the world by storm and his positive take on things happening around.
Yet, Barshim has a lot up his sleeve for the upcoming period. Let’s see what the High Jump icon has to say.
After the big jumble caused by the coronavirus pandemic to the tournament schedule, what are your plans for the 2021 season and competitions?
Mutaz Barshim: My plans for the period to come have started by a return to the usual routine and the daily training, in preparation for the championships that will pave the way to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. I will keep on the same track till then.
Does your exceptional achievement at the 2019 World Athletics Championship, as the first athlete in the history of the game to preserve the High Jump title, put some sort of pressure on your future undertakings?
Mutaz Barshim: I believe that feeling the pressure is something natural for every professional athlete such as myself. I even deem it essential for me to feel the pressure in all the competitions I take part of. Nonetheless, I have to adapt to it, and prevent it from taking a toll on me, so as to channel the pressure into positive results.
Do you consider that as COVID19 has brought all championships to a halt, you now have the opportunity to be more prepared, or is it just an additional load in terms of training?
Mutaz Barshim: Not competing in any championship for a whole season is undoubtedly a negative thing, but I will try to make the most out of it by training and exercising.
You are one of the most determined athletes in the face of difficulties. This was demonstrated after your infamous injury, and your strong return to the scene, to claim the World High Jump Championship. How do you view the challenge now?
Mutaz Barshim: I personally strive to do my best in every tournament I take part in. I take each of the challenges very seriously and attempt to succeed. Seriousness is indeed an important factor in achieving success and winning.
During the past period, you were one of the athletes that contributed the most to raising awareness on the importance of staying home, in line with the efforts aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19. Did the quarantine have negative effects on athletes, especially as their usual trainings came to a halt?
Mutaz Barshim: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a toll on the world as a whole, and athletes are no exception to that. However, athletes have the duty to give back to society, by leaving a positive impact. Sometimes we just have to make the right decision, and comply with the rules, even if it goes against our interests as athletes. The public health of the community takes precedence in such cases. Of course, staying home will do athletes no good, but there is a positive side to it, as it sends the message that preserving public health and safety is given utmost importance at both individual and community levels.
Mutaz, you are one of the biggest names the world of Athletics, and a High Jump Icon. Will you limit your activities to the Olympic Games, or will you also compete in the World Athletics Indoor Championships, the Diamond League, and other such tournaments?
Mutaz Barshim: So far, we’re still carrying on the routine training, which is the most important thing for us currently. We are still to set the schedule of the events I will compete in during the 2021 season, but that will be decided with the coach and the management team and will include a review of all the competitions of the 2021 season.
After the COVID-19 crisis, athletes are now subjected to yet another type of psychological pressure, as they have to prepare for the Olympics, which is the Event par excellence. What are your thoughts with regards to Tokyo 2021. Do you think that going after your third Olympic medal will pose a particular challenge to you after London 2012 and Rio 2016?
Mutaz Barshim: Yes indeed, Tokyo 2021 is a great challenge to me personally after London 2012 and Rio 2016. Yet, I do think of it as any other milestone in my career, and I shall do my best while keeping in mind that competing for gold may be though, but it is not impossible.
You work very hard with your coach Stanislaw Szczyrba. What kind of relationship do you have with him? Is it a regular coach-athlete relationship, or are you, friends? And has the bond you have facilitated your joint progress and success in all tournaments?
Mutaz Barshim: I definitely have a strong bond with coach Stanislaw Szczyrba, and it is not just a coach-athlete relationship. It goes beyond the track and field and is not limited to training. We are friends, we discuss all matters of life. This has facilitated communication between us, and we now understand each other, which grants us success.
Do you believe it is time to break Cuban Javier Sotomayor’s 2.45m record?
Mutaz Barshim: When it comes to the High Jump record, I think no time is a good time to consider breaking it. I think I need to be focused on my training, (and my aim is to set this figure as a target during my training).
What is more important for you right now: Focusing on the Olympics, or gradually returning to the scene through the World Indoor Championship and the Diamond League?
Mutaz Barshim: What’s important to me right now is to go back to competing in tournaments, in order to be physically fit and prepared, as would be the case for any athlete in my position.
Your injury during the 2018 Hungary Memorial Meet made things hard. But you’ve overcome the challenges. Do you consider participating in such events later on, or will you just focus on the World Championship and the Olympics?
Mutaz Barshim: I am currently focused on competing in the 2021 Tokyo Olympic games, after which it may be possible to take part in such events.
Mutaz, what have you learned from the serious injury you suffered? How did you manage to turn suffering into a sweeping success?
Mutaz Barshim: Injury has taught me that nothing is impossible when there is will and hard work. I’ve got my friends and family’s support to thank for helping me triumph over injury, as well as my patient and devoted team and coach who have facilitated my strong comeback. But first and foremost, I thank God for everything, as success is actually a gift from above.
Make sure to check out our social media to keep track of the latest content.
Instagram - @qatarliving
Twitter - @qatarliving
Facebook - Qatar Living
YouTube - qatarlivingofficial