To mark the imminent beginning of the 2014 season of the IAAF Diamond League, which gets under way next month in Doha, world indoor high jump champion Mutaz Essa Barshim spoke to the press in a media teleconference this afternoon (2).
After a bronze medal at the London 2012 Olympics and a silver medal at last year’s IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Barshim last month continued his steady rise by taking the gold medal at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot.
With no outdoor senior global championships this year, Barshim’s aim is to compete well on the Diamond League circuit, where he will doubtless come up against the likes of European record-holder Ivan Ukhov and world champion Bohdan Bondarenko.
Here are some of the highlights from the teleconference:
What were your thoughts and expectations leading up to the World Indoor Championships in Sopot?
Mutaz Essa Barshim: For this indoor season we didn't have big expectations. My coach and I had two goals – to win the Asian Indoor Championships and the World Indoor Championships. I didn't compete much; I only had four competitions and two of those were small ones. I basically took it easy and trained a lot because the indoor season is very short.
I was in really good shape and I opened my season with 2.35m. I think if I'd competed more, I would have jumped higher, but that wasn't the goal for me.
Of course I saw that Ukhov was jumping 2.40m and 2.41m which was really great and motivated me more. It's great for the high jump and for my performance because it gave me motivation to compete.
Did the competition in Sopot go as expected for you?
MEB: I was aiming for the gold. My coach and I knew I could win it. It just came down to the competition. My jump at 2.38m was really great and to win with an Asian indoor record is good, but I think I could have jumped higher had I not already won it. You need a bit of pressure and someone to push you, but after I won, I was too happy to focus.
What was the reaction to your victory like in Doha?
MEB: The reaction was big, from the moment I landed back at the airport. Everybody was so happy and I appreciate that loads. When you've done all that hard training and made loads of sacrifices, then it makes me realise that I didn't do this for nothing. And that motivates me more.
The 2014 IAAF Diamond League season gets underway in Doha. It’s a meeting you’ve never won to date; how important is it for you to win this year?
MEB: To be honest, for my training purposes it's not much good to be jumping high in May. I don't really want to break my preparation for the beginning of the season. I'm still recovering from the indoor season and if the Diamond League wasn't in Doha then I probably wouldn't compete there because it's still a bit early for me and I'm in really hard training.
Of course I always want to give my best in my home town, and hopefully I'll do something better this year than in the past.
What are your goals for this season?
MEB: We have the Asian Games, which is a target for us, and the Continental Cup is another target.
Apart from that, we just want to be on the circuit, train as much as possible, and try to jump something big to make a big impact. I want to jump a personal best, something higher than 2.40m.
I'm just looking for a really strong competition to achieve the ultimate result. If I compete against the top jumpers in the world, we'll produce spectacular results.
Do you think the high jump world record could be broken this year?
MEB: I think it's very possible. I can't say for definite one way or another, because anything in sport is possible. But I think the level of high jumping now is the best it has ever been. I think there could be a world record at any given time.
In Sopot you were using a different technique, running straight to the bar and taking fewer steps. Why is that?
MEB: My technique is different to most other jumpers, but I'm trying to find what works for me. I don't want to simply look at somebody and copy them. I believe I can find a way that suits me, and that's what I've been working on with my coach. I'm not as strong or fast as some others, so I'm trying to use what I have and make the best out of it, making my own way to jump.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF