LONDON (Reuters) - Mutaz Esha Barshim leapt into Sunday’s high jump final at the World Athletics Championships in the manner of a man ready to finally ascend to the very summit of his sport.
The wiry Qatari, who has jumped higher than anyone in history except Cuban world record holder Javier Sotomayor, breezed through Friday’s qualification, clearing the automatic qualifying height of 2.31 metres with the greatest of ease.
Barshim, whose only global title came at the world indoor championships in 2014, demonstrated why he is a warm favourite to win his first major outdoor crown following silver and bronze at the last two Olympics.
The 26-year-old, who has an Asian record best of 2.43m, is one of six athletes who cleared 2.31 but the only one to go through the morning without failing on a single jump.
His main danger again looks set to come from Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko, who beat him to the 2013 title, while Danil Lysenko, competing under a neutral flag following the Russian Federation’s ban, also qualified easily after just one failure.
There was delight for the home crowd as Robbie Grabarz confirmed his place in the final amid plenty of cheering by going over 2.31m at the last attempt.
Erik Kynard of the United States, who won the Olympic silver in this arena five years ago, had to pull out injured after one unsuccessful attempt at his opening height of 2.17m.
Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Gareth Jones