Three-time high-jump world champion Mutaz Essa Barshim needed only one leap to cruise into the final at the Hangzhou Asian Games in China yesterday. Other Qatari athletes too entered the final with world championship finalist Abderrahaman Samba and Bassem Hemeida sealing their place in today’s 400m hurdles medal race, while Abdulrahman Hassan made it to the 800m final.
Barshim, who skipped the season-ending Diamond League event at Eugene to be in Hangzhou, compared the Asian Games to the Olympics. The reigning Olympic gold medallist won Asiad titles in 2010 and 2014 and is determined to cap his 2023 season with another. “For me, the Asian Games are important. You see these vibes, it’s like our Olympics before the Olympics,” he said after needing only a single jump of 2.19m to lead the field into tomorrow’s gold-medal showdown.
“Eugene? I am not saying it’s not important, it’s about having different priorities now. For me, it was too much travel and I am a different high jumper now. I have three Diamond (League) trophies. Adding a fourth would have been great, but it’s not my top priority at the moment so I decided to skip that.”
Barshim has extra motivation to get back on top of the Asian Games podium after being shocked at the Budapest world championships by Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi, who denied him a fourth consecutive title. “The stadium is amazing, the crowd is amazing. This is the last competition of the season, hopefully finishing at the top,” he said. “Then I need a good break, a good vacation to recharge before the Olympic season starts.”
His chief rival is South Korea’s Woo Sang-hyeok, the 2022 world silver medallist who won the Diamond League trophy in Eugene that Barshim skipped, with a personal best 2.35m. He also qualified comfortably yesterday.
Meanwhile, Samba and Hemeida won their respective heats with ease and will battle for gold today. Samba, who is coming back from a long layoff due to injury, won in 49.12 secs, while Budapest Worlds semi-finalist Hemeida had much in the tank after a 49.44 secs finish.
In the 800m, Hassan won his heat in 1:49.32 secs yesterday to move into the final but his compatriot Abubaker Abdalla missed out after finishing third in his heat in a time of 1:50.17 secs.
At the athletics arena, there were heartbreaks for Qatari athletes too yesterday after Femi Ogunode and Moaaz Ibrahim finished fourth in the 200m and discus throw finals respectively.
Former Asian champion Ogunode missed the bronze medal by a whisker after clocking 20.75 seconds, just a millisecond behind Chinese Taipei’s Chin-Han Yang. Ibrahim threw the discus at 60.77 metres but China’s Tuergong Abuduaini pocketed the bronze with 61.19m throw.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s squash star Abdulla al-Tamimi made quick work of Pakistan’s Nasir Iqbal 11-9, 11-8, 11-6 in 32 minutes yesterday to enter the quarter-finals. Today, al-Tamimi will meet Malaysia’s Mohamed Addeen Idrakie. His compatriot Syed Amjad lost to Malaysia’s Yow Eain NG 3-11, 1-11, 2-11. Qatar’s basketball team were thrashed by the Philippines 41-80 to bow out of the Asian Games.
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