Barshim delivers royal command performance for Qatar's Emir

Doha (AFP) –


Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim received the personal congratulations of the country's Emir after he sent the crowd wild on Friday by retaining his high jump title at the World Athletics Championships.

The 28-year-old, who had got himself out of trouble by succeeding on his third and final attempt at 2.33 metres, took gold with a jump of 2.37m in front of a raucous and packed Khalifa Stadium.

Barshim revealed he had chatted with the country's ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani after his triumph.

"I felt that (support) a lot from the crowd, from the emir himself to everyone who came out tonight," said Barshim.

"I was with him (the Emir) just now. I can't tell you (what he said) -- it's top secret."

When pressed, he did give some insight into his conversation with the ruler of the energy-rich state.

"He (the Emir) was very excited and very happy. He said well done, he is really happy and proud because I delivered on what he wanted."

For Barshim, it confirmed his return to the top after a serious ankle injury in July last year when he tore a ligament when attempting to break the world record.

"My injury last year could have been career ending," said Barshim, who only returned to training in April this year.

"You start posing questions like am I ever going to jump again and you start having questions about yourself.

"Now I am just thinking about the future and I am really happy where I am."

Barshim made light of the botched medals ceremony which saw him and his fellow medallists appear into an empty stadium before they were hurriedly ushered off again and told to return on Saturday.

"It is always great standing on a world championship podium," he said grinning. "But yes it is better to do it again."

Barshim, who will bid to make it a full house of Olympic medals next year having won silver and bronze, said he had revelled in the pressure of performing in front of his compatriots.

"Of course there was a lot of pressure, but I need pressure to jump," he said.

"I love competing on a high ground with a strong field so that was my thing to push myself to the maximum.

"It means everything to me I'm really happy to do it here at home.

"To everybody who came out here to support and believed in me I just wanted to do this for them."

Barshim said the packed stadium -- the early part of the championships was marked by largely empty spaces -- was great but he added it provided hope for the future of the sport in Qatar.

"I did not ask them to come tonight," he said. "I could see it in their eyes how enthusiastic they were and how much enjoyment they were getting from it."

Barshim said the elusive Olympics gold was on his mind but he had other priorities in the immediate future.

"Tokyo is the target of course," he said. "However, first I need to be fat, to eat as much as I can and to have a vacation!"

The minor medals went to two athletes competing under the Authorised Neutral Athlete banner.

Mikhail Akimenko took silver on countback with 2.35m and Ilya Ivanyuk won the bronze with 2.35m.