Olympics-Driven Barshim still spearheading Qatar's challenge at fourth Games

Athletics - Diamond League - Xiamen - Xiamen Egret Stadium, Xiamen, China - April 20, 2024 Qatar's Mutaz Barshim in action during the men's high jump final REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo

(Reuters) - Mutaz Barshim was at the centre of one of most memorable moments of the Tokyo Olympics and the high jumper will again carry a large part of Qatar's hopes of medal success on his slender shoulders in his fourth Summer Games in Paris.

The 32-year-old's shared gold medal was not the only one secured by the Gulf State in Tokyo and Egypt-born weightlifter Fares Ibrahim will also be back to defend the middle-heavyweight title he won three years ago.

Sherif Younes and Ahmed Tejan, the beach volleyball duo who won bronze in Japan, are well on their way to qualification for Paris but it is the athletics competition, and Barshim in particular, that most Qatari eyes will be focused on.

Three-times a world champion and an Olympic silver medallist in London and Rio, Barshim said recently that he does not display his impressive collection of trophies for fear that complacency might blunt his competitive spirit.

"If you come to my house, you will not see any medals. There are no medals, no trophies, nothing," he told Eurosport.

"I hide everything because I don't want to feel that satisfaction that I've done so much. One day, hopefully, when I retire, I take everything back, I'll look at it and enjoy it. But for now, I want to do the most.

"I want to be mentioned as one of the high jump greats. I want my name to be mentioned whenever high jump is mentioned. I want to make it hard and difficult for the person who's coming behind me to break my records."

The biggest prize in Barshim's collection is the gold he won alongside Italy's Gianmarco Tamberi in Tokyo after both cleared 2.37 metres and sensationally agreed with officials that there would be two champions.

"That will never happen again," Barshim said. "It was a moment, and it was, I think, a historical moment, but it's not going to happen again.  Now we must go and push the limit."

Barshim has shown no signs of resting on his laurels even a decade on from his jump of 2.43m that remains the second highest leap in history.

He had the second highest mark in the world last year (2.36) and has finished second in both the high jump competitions in the Diamond League this season.

"People are always asking me, 'How are you still going?', given the fact that I won everything," he said.

"For me, I look at the sport like there's not one single goal that I'm looking for. I want to be a world champion, and then it's done. No, I've achieved that. It's good. What can I do more? I want to win it twice, three times. I want to do more."

Qatar sent 15 athletes, including two women, to Tokyo and, with eight athletes already qualified, will be hoping for a similarly sized delegation in Paris.

The other athletes already qualified are shooters Saeed Abu Shareb and Rashid Saleh Al-Athba and track athletes Abu Bakr Haider, Ismail Daoud, Bassem Hemeida and Abdulrahman Samba.

(Reporting by Ashraf Hamed Atta; Editing by Nick Mulvenney and Michael Perry)

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