By a correspondent/Paris
Italian high jumper Gianmarco Tamberi has written of how his Qatari
world champion friend Mutaz Barshim’s advice and counselling helped him
through a crisis of confidence after he suffered a career-threatening
injury almost two years ago.
Tamberi had a dream start in 2016, winning the gold medal at the World Indoor Championships in Portland in March before breaking his ankle at the Monaco Diamond League meeting in July.
He spent a year recovering and building his strength before making a comeback in June 2017 at the Ostrava Golden Spike event in the Czech Republic.
Tamberi, a bit of a showman, often turning up at events with half his beard shaved off, was happy with his seventh position at Ostrava but his confidence nosedived just a week later when he failed to clear his opening height at the Paris Diamond League meeting.
“I remember, I went from Ostrava to Paris, and I did badly in Paris, really awful. I couldn’t clear my opening height. I was feeling frustrated, because I didn’t know whether I’d ever get back to the shape I was in in 2016,” Tamberi wrote in a column for the IAAF website under the headline ‘My Friend Mutaz’.
“You’re jumping, but you’re not jumping-jumping. You’re diving into the mat. And in that first Diamond League it was very frustrating. Other jumpers would come to me afterwards, but I didn’t want to talk to nobody. I went directly to my room,” Tamberi wrote.
“The day after, Mutaz started knocking on my room and he wouldn’t go away. First I just wanted him to leave. He persisted and was shouting: ‘Gimbo. Gimbo, please I want to talk to you.’ So I gave in and let him in.
“We talked. I cried in front of him. He tried to calm me down, and told me what he had to say.”
According to Tamberi, Barshim told him not to “rush it”.
“You had a big injury, you’re already back in the Diamond League. No one expected that. But now you need to take your time, don’t expect too much too early from yourself. Just see what happens,” Barshim told his Italian counterpart.
According to Tamberi, Barshim made him realise that he had nothing to prove to anybody, except himself.
“The most important thing he helped me realise was that I had to do it for myself, not for others,” said Tamberi.
“Over the last few years I received a lot of support from people. I don’t know why, but so many people I would meet in the street would put a hand on my shoulder, or give me a hug and tell me they knew I’d be back and that they believe in me,” the 25-year-old wrote.
“So I started the season thinking I am doing it for them and not for me. I was putting pressure on myself, felt like I have to jump for the people that helped me.
“And that’s what Mutaz told me: you don’t jump for them, you have to jump for yourself. For you. He said: ‘You do a lot. I know you work hard. You work every day, every morning and afternoon in the swimming pool, with an elastic, all year. But it’s not an easy thing to come back from an injury like that. Just do it for yourself, in your own time.’”
Barshim won the competition in Paris and although Tamberi ended up right at the bottom, the Qatari’s advice helped him boost his confidence.
Tamberi then entered an event in Budapest, requesting the meeting director to allow him to compete and keep his inclusion a secret.
“I went to Budapest and I did a great competition. Nobody knew I was there, because I didn’t want to jump for anyone. I wanted to jump for myself.
“I was there, just me, concentrating and I jumped 2.28m. It was my best competition of the year until then. I had jumped 2.21m, 2.20m, a no height, and there I jumped 2.28m. Something inside me changed, there I really started to live again. I was a high jumper again.”
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