Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim kicked off his bid to add a high jump Olympic gold to his rich haul of medals, as track events got underway at the Tokyo Games on Friday. Later, Qatar’s 400m hurdler Abderrahman Samba qualified for the semi-finals.
In the qualifications held at the Olympic Stadium, Barshim cleared 2.28m to secure his spot in the finals to be staged tomorrow. The Olympics carry extra significance for Barshim as a gold in the Games is the only medal he is yet to win in a distinguished high jump career.
At the 2012 London Games, the 30-year-old won a bronze, which was later upgraded to silver, picked up another silver in Rio de Janeiro four years later and then won two successive world titles in 2017 and 2019.
“I’m trying to avoid injuries,” Barshim. “A couple of years back I was getting injured and it wasn’t so pleasant for me. So I’m trying to play it smart. More training and less competing. I’ve been waiting for five years for this. It’s the one I want and I’ll do what it takes to make it happen. I’m ready to go as high as it takes to win.”
Meanwhile, Samba won his heat in a time of 48.38 seconds to book his place in the semi-finals, which will be held tomorrow. The final showdown will take place on Tuesday. Samba – the world bronze medallist from 2019 – edged Brazil’s Alison dos Santos, with Algeria’s Abdelmalik Lahoulou coming third.
However, he conceded the lack of atmosphere preyed on his mind. “Without the crowd, I think it is really, really difficult,” said the 25-year-old said. “I really missed the crowd.”
Samba’s main rival – world record holder – Karsten Warholm eased into the second round yesterday. The 25-year-old Norwegian said he is focusing on adding the Olympic men’s 400 metres hurdles gold to his two world titles. Warholm timed 46.70 seconds to break Kevin Young’s long-standing mark in Oslo on July 1.
Warholm brushed aside the question of whether he would need to break his own record to win golf on July 3. “Maybe someone else will do it. I’ve done my job,” he said after breezing into the semi-finals.
Another 400m hurdles contender is American Rai Benjamin. The 25-year-old is the third fastest of all time and arrives fresh, having not run in the European season. Benjamin also ran a strong race and finished in 48.60 yesterday. Warholm won his second straight world championships by keeping Benjamin and Samba at bay in Doha in 2019.
Meanwhile, Bashayer al-Manwari came sixth in Heat 1 of women’s 100m preliminary round yesterday to celebrate her first appearance at the Olympic Games with a new personal best of 13.12 seconds.
Tala Abujbara won her E final race in 8:00:22 minutes to finish overall 25th. At the Sea Forest Waterway, Tala led the standings ahead of Uganda’s Kathleen Grace Noble and Nicaragua’s Evidelia Gonzalez.
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