Barshim dominates first 'What Gravity Challenge Championship' in Doha . WGC

On the eve of the third stage of the Diamond League in Doha on Friday, reigning Olympic high jump champion Mutaz Essa Barshim hosted and won the first edition of the 'What Gravity Challenge' with some of the best specialists in the discipline on Thursday.

Qatar's current Olympic high jump champion, Mutaz Essa Barshim, thrilled local fans when he won the 'What Gravity Challenge' (WGC) at the landmark 3,275m2 Katara Amphitheatre, an ingenious balance between the classical Greek theatre concept and the everlasting Islamic features, completed in 2008 and officially inaugurated on 11 December 2011, which seats 5,000. 

In Paris, the Asian high jumper will defend the Olympic crown he won three years ago in one of the most famous moments of Tokyo 2020, when he decided to stop jumping and share the gold medal with Italy's Gianmarco Tamberi. "It won't happen again," the best Qatari-born athlete in history said recently

The event - the brainchild of Barshim - was organised with the support of the Qatar Olympic Committee and the Qatar Athletics Federation, whose president, Mohammed Issa Al Fadala, was delighted with the success of the inaugural edition and stressed the high artistic value of the participation of the world's best.

Khalifa Abdulmalik, the tournament director, said that holding the competitions at the Roman Amphitheatre was a qualitative leap for the culture of athletics, moving from the field to cultural landmarks. He stressed that the competition helps to spread the base of the game and praised the performance of Qatari champion Barshim as a global star in the competition. 

And Barshim didn't disappoint. With a personal best of 2.43m (second best ever, just two centimetres behind Cuban Javier Sotomayor's world record of 2.45m), he was the best with a world-leading jump of 2.31m on his first attempt before failing three times at 2.33m. South Korea's Sanghyeok Woo was second despite also clearing 2.31m (on his third attempt), while American JuVaughn Harrison was third place with 2.28m on his third attempt. 

Reigning World Indoor Champion Hamish Kerr of New Zealand was fourth with 2.25m and Donald Thomas of the Bahamas completed the top five with a season's best of 2.21m. Ukraine's Bohdan Bondarenko and Andrii Protsenko both cleared 2.17m, as did Japan's Naoto Tobe.

Sanghyeok Woo, Barshim and Harrison, happy together after the What Gravity Challenge. WGC
Sanghyeok Woo, Barshim and Harrison, happy together after the What Gravity Challenge. WGC

"To be honest, I am very happy. The 'What Gravity Challenge' has finally seen the light of day after being an idea on paper for a long time. I am very happy to have won the first edition here in Doha. I would like to thank all the sponsors and supporters and all the fans who came here to witness the event and I would like to offer them this victory. Our idea is to continue with this tournament. This is just the first step," said Barshim. 

"This victory is an important morale boost for the team ahead of the next Olympic Games and it is an important step towards my goal of defending the gold medal in Paris. On the other hand, the organisation of the Championships in the Roman Amphitheatre for the first time represents an additional public success for the high jump in the midst of intense athletic competition at the highest level," he added. 

He received the trophy, designed by local artist Ahmed al-Bahrani, and a prize of $15,000 from Dr Thani bin Abdulrahman al-Kuwari, Second Vice President of the Qatar Olympic Committee. After the medal ceremony, Barshim, Sanghyeok Woo and Harrison joined the crowd for an intense and emotional celebration.