Olympic 'vibes' for high-jump great Barshim in Hangzhou
Three-time high-jump world champion Mutaz Essa Barshim compared the Asian Games to the Olympics Monday after skipping the season-ending Diamond League event at Eugene to be in Hangzhou.
The reigning Olympic gold medallist won Asiad titles in 2010 and 2014 and is determined to cap his 2023 season with another.
"For me, the Asian Games are important. You see these vibes, it's like our Olympics before the Olympics," he said after needing only a single jump of 2.19m to lead the field into Wednesday's gold-medal showdown.
"Eugene? I am not saying it's not important, it's about having different priorities now.
"For me, it was too much travel and I am a different high jumper now. I have three Diamond (League) trophies. Adding a fourth would have been great, but it's not my top priority at the moment so I decided to skip that."
Barshim shares top billing as Qatar's most famous sportsman with five-time Dakar Rally champion Nasser Al-Attiyah, who also took time out from his hectic schedule to be in China.
Along with rallying, Al-Attiyah is an accomplished skeet shooter and won men's team silver and individual bronze in Hangzhou.
Barshim has extra motivation to get back on top of the Asian Games podium after being shocked at the Budapest world championships by Italy's Gianmarco Tamberi, who denied him a fourth consecutive title.
"The stadium is amazing, the crowd is amazing. This is the last competition of the season, hopefully finishing at the top," he said.
"Then I need a good break, a good vacation to recharge before the Olympic season starts."
His chief rival is South Korea's Woo Sang-hyeok, the 2022 world silver medallist who won the Diamond League trophy in Eugene that Barshim skipped, with a personal best 2.35m.
He also qualified comfortably on Monday.
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