For years, Mutaz Essa Barshim has had to live out of a bag to achieve the success he has for his country and himself.
The Qatari star had told this newspaper after becoming the only high jumper to retain his world title last year at home in Doha, “I was away since May, preparing (for the IAAF World Championships). Every time I used to go back home, it was to pick up a change of my luggage and then to the training camp. I used to be home and yet I wasn’t. I hate hotels, but that’s my life. You have to go through this to achieve what you want.”
Fast forward to these challenging times with coronavirus concerns weighing down the world, Barshim, like many other athletes around the world, has been forced to grind his otherwise hectic training and sporting schedule to a halt.
The 28-year-old has not only chosen to pay heed to Qatari government’s advisories and rules, but is also focused on spending time with his family, training as much as he can, and… wait for it… answering e-mails.
But he has also indulged in some introspection.
“The situation, as bad as it is health-wise, has brought everyone closer together and I think this will continue to be the case even after the recovery. It’s like humanity has been given a new life, and the human kind will stop taking everything for granted moving forward,” the 2017 IAAF Athlete of the Year said.
But before the “recovery”, what’s important is complying with the rules and advisories put in place by the government in the State of Qatar.
“When it comes to health and safety nothing else matters. We need everybody’s collaboration and support, we need to be united to overcome this situation,” he said.
For someone who has often in the past said that he loves participating in any kind of sport, staying within the confines of home may have been challenging but not impossible.
“I start my day with praying, and then training and use my time to do some activities at home. I clean my office, decorate the house, play games and now I can say I have more time to answer more e-mails,” said the high jumper, who has gotten closest to Cuban Javier Sotomayor’s world record of 2.45m with a 2.43m jump in Brussels in 2014.
“You can do so many things at home. Trainings and activities at home are still an option. Even if it’s just 1 hour a day, one needs to make sure to stay active.”
Barshim, who has a run of six straight years when he jumped 2.40m or higher to his name, has also taken up painting the walls of his home. “And well, cooking…,” he laughed.
Being an athlete, staying in top form may be difficult, but, he said, “For the moment I can do nothing to replace competitions, and we are all in the same situation. We just have to keep on training until we can compete again.
“The Olympics have been postponed to 2021, I just need to prepare myself and keep on training harder like all my fellow athletes are doing.”
Not a fan of video games, Barshim has taken to “Monopoly, cards, Jenga and Uno”. “These games allow for more and better quality times with family,” he said.
The spread of Covid-19 has thrown everything into disarray. But Barshim said, he is focused on working on things that are in his control.
“It’s affecting everyone. People from diverse work fields and professions are suffering from the impact this virus is having on our lives.
“I will do my best on the things I can change, and try to stay healthy and prepared. I would prefer not to distract myself with things and situations that are out of my hand and stay focused on training.
“It’s a new situation. We just do our best and hope for the best.”
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