Champion Barshim joins star cast in Birmingham
20 Aug 2017 - 0:29
By Chinthana Wasala / The Peninsula
The newly-crowned world champion Mutaz Essa Barshim will be looking to extend his dominance in his pet event when the Birmingham Diamond League meeting kicks off today.
The Qatari high jumper is in brilliant form, having won a gold medal at the 2017 IAAF World Athletics Championships in London just a week ago. He faces a challenge by home favourite and long-term rival Robbie Grabarz.
However, Barshim has a fantastic record in Birmingham as he won the same event in a Stadium record 2.38m in 2014 and also cleared 2.37m in 2016 at the same venue.
Grabarz finished in joint fourth behind Barshim in Rio last year and was joint Olympic bronze medallist with the Qatari athlete and Derek Drouin of Canada at London 2012.
“I love competing in the UK so to have another chance to compete there at the Muller Grand Prix Birmingham is fantastic,” said the Qatari superstar.
The 26-year-old Barshim who has jumped higher than anyone in history except Cuban world record holder Javier Sotomayor, has a seasonal best of 2.38m, cleared at the Diamond League meeting in Oslo, Norway, in June. His personal best stands at 2.42m which is also the current Asian record.
Barshim’s closest rival in the Diamond League series, Ukrainian Bohdan Bondarenko has a season best of 2.32m, followed by Syarian Majed Aldin Ghazal (2.32m) and Grabarz (2.31m).
Barshim won’t be the only world champion to hit the field at the Alexander Stadium today.
On track events, a star cast is ready to take off from the starting blocks, including the home star Mo Farah who has announced that this will be his final season on track events. After this season, Farah will be focused on road racing.
After losing his final championship race on the track, Mo Farah is returning to compete in the 3000m today.
Last week, Farah notched a victory in the 10,000m event at the IAAF World Championships, the 10th global championship title of his career, and he returned to place second to Muktar Edris in the 5,000m, his first loss in the 5,000m event at a global championship since 2009.
Meanwhile, in the women’s 100 metres, Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson, Trinidadian Michelle-Lee Ahye, Nigerian Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor and Olympic silver medallist Marie-Josée Ta Lou of Ivory Coast will lead the star-studded battle while 200metres world champion Dafne Schippers is also expected to join the final eight.
Surprise 400m gold medallist in London Phyllis Francis will also return to action in Birmingham, and will immediately face silver and bronze medallists Salwa Eid Naser and Allyson Felix.
In the men’s 200 metres, spectators will have a glimpse of a London rematch which will see Turkish World Champion Ramil Guliyev, Nathaneel Mitchell-Blake, Isaac Makwala and Ameer Webb.