PETALING JAYA: Different goals but nevertheless one that brings pride and joy to Asia.
Qatar’s reigning world champion high jumper Mutaz Barshim is aiming for a world record while Lee Hup Wei (pic) hopes to mark his third Olympics appearance with a new milestone for Malaysia.
Hup Wei aims to qualify for the final in Tokyo in what is very likely to be his last outing.
To do that, the 34-year-old needs to jump at least 2.26m in his first attempt, which should ensure he is among the 12 finalists.
Hup Wei can’t afford to miss out on his first attempt as it would likely go to count-back.
It will be a historic breakthrough for Malaysian athletics if Hup Wei, who is South-East Asia’s only representative in the event, is able to pull it off. No Malaysian have qualified for a final in athletics.
Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan recorded the best achievement in track and field athletic when he made the 200m semi-finals twice – in Tokyo in 1964 and four years later in Mexico City.
Apart from being injury-free, Hup Wei will be accompanied by Alexander Gasparyan, his Uzbekistan coach for the last five in Tokyo.
Hup Wei’s personal best is 2.29m achieved at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, where he became the first Malaysian track and field athlete to reach the final and eventually finished eighth.
Nauraj Singh Randhawa, who competed at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, holds the current national record of 2.30m.
The favourite for the gold medal in Tokyo is definitely the 189cm jumper from Qatar.
The 30-year-old won gold at the 2019 World Athletics Championships following a long injury layoff.
Mutaz also won bronze at the London 2012 Olympics and silver at Rio 2016.
Mutaz has a personal best of 2.43m and is only the second high jumper in the world to win two world titles after Javier Sotomayor.
And Mutaz is gunning after the Cuban’s world record of 2.45m set in 1993.