Mutaz Essa Barshim wins third consecutive gold medal in high jump

Barshim defied odds after an uneventful season to accomplish the goal of winning three consecutive world titles which had not previously been done by a jumper.

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Athletics - World Athletics Championships - Men's High Jump - Final - Hayward Field, Eugene, Oregon, U.S. - July 18, 2022  Gold medallist Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim celebrates after winning the men's high jump final REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Athletics - World Athletics Championships - Men's High Jump - Final - Hayward Field, Eugene, Oregon, U.S. - July 18, 2022 Gold medallist Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim celebrates after winning the men's high jump final REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

There was one goal walking into Eugene, Oregon for Qatari high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim; win a third consecutive gold medal. The feat had never been accomplished by any other jumper, but Barshim was able to accomplish his goal and stand atop the podium, receiving his medal even though he was unsure just a month ago if he would be able to do it.

The 2022 season has not been a walk in the park for Barshim. He struggled to find consistency since his gold medal performance at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which he shared with his friend and fellow jumper Gianmarco Tamberi. Both men finished with completed jumps of 2.37 meters. This season, however, Barshim only competed in two meets prior to the World Athletics Championships and he didn’t come close to his Olympic mark in either.

Despite barely competing in 2022 and coming into Worlds after recovering from injury, Barshim felt confident and healthy. “Three World golds in a row is something that has never been done before. I came here to secure that,” Barshim said. “I know I put a lot of hard work to be where I am.” And secure it he did. Barshim remained perfect through the competition. His first miss did not come until he had already secured his gold medal and moved the bar to 2.41 meters.

On Monday, Tamberi fell just short of making the podium, but Barshim still had to edge out some capable opponents. The silver medal went to South Korea’s Woo Sanghyeok who has given Barshim a run for his money over the last year. Woo was so close to an Olympic medal he could taste it, but came up short last summer and finished fourth. Since then, however, he has been competing, and beating, those who bettered him in Tokyo.

Athletics - World Athletics Championships - Men's High Jump - Final - Hayward Field, Eugene, Oregon, U.S. - July 18, 2022  South Korea's Woo Sanghyeok in action during the men's high jump final REUTERS/Mike Segar
Athletics - World Athletics Championships - Men's High Jump - Final - Hayward Field, Eugene, Oregon, U.S. - July 18, 2022 South Korea's Woo Sanghyeok in action during the men's high jump final REUTERS/Mike Segar

This year alone he set Korea’s national record and won the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade. In addition, he beat Barshim in Doha at the Wanda Diamond League in May. Woo knew winning at Worlds was possible, but unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get the job done in Eugene.

Winning bronze with a jump of 2.30 meters was Ukraine’s Andriy Protsenko. Last year in Tokyo, Protsenko finished in 14th place. This year, he wasn’t even sure if he would be able to make it to Worlds. “I managed to take my family from Ukraine and occupied territory,” Protsenko said. “But I left everything in my hometown of Kherson. I took only one bag. That’s all I have.”

The 34-year-old made it through the qualifying rounds and went jump for jump with Barshim clearing 2.28. In finals, he cleared 2.33 on his first attempt and moved into the bronze medal position over Tamberi. The medal and the applause from the crowd after leaving the mat brings a level of hope and humanity back to Ukraine that is much needed as war wages on.

Athletics - World Athletics Championships - Men's High Jump - Final - Hayward Field, Eugene, Oregon, U.S. - July 18, 2022 Ukraine's Andriy Protsenko celebrates on the podium during the medal ceremony REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel
Athletics - World Athletics Championships - Men's High Jump - Final - Hayward Field, Eugene, Oregon, U.S. - July 18, 2022 Ukraine's Andriy Protsenko celebrates on the podium during the medal ceremony REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

Barshim’s first place finish shows the resilience and determination he possesses. The 31-year-old may have dealt with some adversity in the last year, but he pushed through to accomplish something that has not been done before. “Three Worlds golds in a row is something that has never been done before. I feel like I have a name in our sport, but I have never felt like the greatest one in the field,” added Barshim. With only the world record left to capture, eyes will be on Barshim in the next few years in the hopes that he can scratch that off of his bucket list, as well.