PROUD TO BE PRIDE
My name is Mutaz which means “pride” in Arabic. Some people say that I am the pride of my country, having collected several high jump titles within the past years. However … it makes me proud to be “pride” – and it gives me new motivation every day of training and competing.
THE EARLY YEARS
Among my earliest memories is seeing my father compete on television. He was an athlete in the national team, in both walking and running events, he did 20km walk and 10km running. I saw him on TV many times, and I was going to events to watch him. I liked it. He was Gulf champion maybe two or three times, and won medals in the Arab championships. I remember him doing the victory sign on TV, and I ran to the neighbours, to tell them.
Because of my father I started athletics with walking and long distance running. But I liked jumping more. I tried long jump, triple jump, high jump – all of them, for two or three seasons – but eventually settled on the latter discipline. At the Gulf Championships in Qatif in 2009 I leapt 2.14m and finished third. Later that year I met my current coach Stanislaw “Stanley” Szczyrba – former coach to Sweden’s 2007 European Indoor silver medalist Linus Thornblad – and started to treat the sport more seriously.
FROM TALENT TO PROFESSIONAL
I turned up for my first session (with Szczyrba) and I was playing with a basketball. He stood there amazed, told me I had “a real talent” and that one day I can jump 2.40m. It was a hard thought to comprehend that he believed I could jump so high.
My trust started to grow after I leapt 2.20m for the first time at an indoor meet in Malmo in January 2010. That was huge for me! And after that I started to believe. I adopted a more professional approach to the sport, in terms of carefully controlling my diet and receiving the requisite rest. Today I would describe 2010 as the “key” season in my career development.
CRACKING THE 2.30M BARRIER
That year I continued to improve throughout the summer season and at the Asian Junior Championships in Vietnam in July I cracked the 2.30m barrier with a 2.31m clearance. For me it was an unforgettable breakthrough year. I could secure the Arab and Gulf junior titles and won the World Junior Championships in Moncton with a 2.30m clearance.
In 2011 my career advanced another step forward as I gained more crucial international experience, improving my personal best to a national record 2.35m with victory at the Asian Championship in Kobe, Japan.
GETTING A LESSON
The indoor campaign in 2012 opened in promising fashion. I set an Asian indoor record of 2.33m in Spala before clearing 2.37m in Hangzhou to take gold at the Asian Indoor Championships. Many expected me to strike gold at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, but the experience proved a chastening one for me as I disappointed in the final to finish ninth equal with a best of 2.28m. In my own mind I was already the winner. I was celebrating too early, but it was a really good lesson for me that I need to go through all the processes to win at a major competition.
After winning the Asian Indoor Championships in February I had started to encounter problems with my back. The pain level became more and more intense – and I was diagnosed with a stress fracture of the back.
JOINING THE 2.40M CLUB
I returned to competition in the Polish capital Warsaw in mid-July and cleared 2.33m, but at the final pre-London Olympic competition, I disappointed to finish down in seventh with 2.26m in Monaco. At the London Olympics I won the bronze medal with 2.29m. It was a huge moment for me! Considering the situation with my back, to win that medal was perfect. It was only my country's fourth medal in Olympic history.
My 2013 campaign started positively with victories in five of six indoor competitions, never dipping below 2.30m and equaling the Asian indoor record of 2.37m in Moscow. And in June there was this unforgettable moment in Eugene by clearing 2.40m to win at the Diamond League meeting. To join membership of the exclusive 2.40m club meant everything to me.
In 2014 I secured my first global senior title with victory at the World Indoor Championships in Sopot – and I concluded my Diamond League campaign for 2014 courtesy of a first time clearance at 2.43m to secure the overall IAAF Diamond League title in Brussels with an Asian record, World leading mark, Diamond League record. This gave me the extraordinary position of the second-best high jumper of all time.
As for the future, I would love to add a global outdoor title to my CV but the 2.45m World record of Cuban high jump great Javier Sotomayor is also a tantalising target. I would like one day to be the world record holder! Five years from now I would like to have achieved that goal …