What gravity?

Despite winning an Olympic silver medal, the Qatari high-jumper warns that 2016 was just the start

Qatari high-jumper Mutaz Barshim has racked up some incredible achievements in his short career. He is the national record and Asian record holder; he won the Asian Indoor and World Junior champion in 2010, and he won gold medals at the 2011 Asian Athletics Championships and 2011 Military World Games.If that list isn’t already impressive enough, we haven’t even mentioned that he won a silver medal at last summer’s Olympic Games in Rio and a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics. To honour his achievements Esquire Middle East presented him with the Sportman of the Year award at the Man At His Best Awards 2016. And, at 25, he still has many more years to fly the flag for this region at the very highest level.***

ESQUIRE: How was 2016 for you?
Mutaz Essa Barshim: 
Overall it was good. I had some niggling injury issues with my body, but winning silver at the Olympics is my biggest sporting achievement to-date, so I can’t be too upset by that! All in all, 2016 was a great year of learning for me.

Looking back at Rio 2016, what is the emotion for you?
It’s a mixture of joy and disappointment. Part of me is frustrated that I missed out on gold by just 2cm, but then the other part of me realises that I have to celebrate the best achievement in my career. I look at it as everything happens for a reason, and you get what you deserve. I am going to celebrate my silver, but I am going to use that to push me to getting the gold next time.

How does experience make you a better jumper? Surely, one jump is the same as any other…
Ability and experience are two very different things. You may have all the ability in the world, but you may not know when to use it. That’s what experience gives you. It doesn’t matter how much talent you have, you have to learn how to use it in the right way.

Mr Barshim wears T-shirt, jogging pants and trainers by Nike; watch by Richard Mille.

How does a field athlete hit form?
There are several differences. For example, there is a huge mental barrier between jumping at a small meet compared to something like the Olympics. At the Olympics there is a lot more pressure on you. You are competing on behalf of your country, and the media spotlight is so much more intense. Also at the Olympics you effectively have two days of competition. There is qualifying on one day and the final on the next. That means you have to learn the balance between saving your energy for the final, but ensuring you do enough to qualify.
Again, experience is important.

Speaking of experience, how was Rio different from London four years ago?
It was totally different. London was terrible for me. I was injured to the point where I wasn’t even able to even confirm that I’d compete until 10 days before. I was in pain and I didn’t enjoy the competition at all. That’s why winning the bronze felt like winning gold. I remember walking into the stadium and looking at the crowd and saying to my coach that there was no way that I wasn’t jumping. Even if it meant that I’d never jump again, it didn’t matter. My dream was to be in the Olympics.

Rio was a different. I had already been to one Olympic Games and so I was more ambitious. In London I didn’t expect to medal, but I did. At Rio, I knew that I was one of the top jumpers. I enjoyed it a lot more. I love jumping, and I was doing what I love on the biggest stage in the world. I wanted to live and loved every single moment.

What are your goals for 2017?
The World Championships are in London in August, so that is what I am targeting. Because of that I’ll probably take it slightly easy on the indoor circuit; maybe I’ll do a couple of meets in February, and start building my form from May. This summer will be a busy one with the Arab Championships, the Asian Championships and the World Championships. My goal is gold in London.

Well, make sure you have plenty of space in your trophy cabinet..
[Laughs] I don’t even have one! I put everything I win in a secret place where nobody can see them. Maybe when I retire I will display them properly.

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This article was originally published in Esquire Middle East – January 2017. Photography: Ethan Mann; Styling: Daniel Higgins;

Source: https://www.esquireme.com/culture/interviews/18909-mutaz-essa-barshim-what-gravity