Mutaz Essa Barshim is the second Asian athlete leading the world rankings this season. The Qatari high jumper and Guangzhou Asiad victor is a world junior champion in 2010. He went on to win a bronze medal in London Olympics and improved it to a silver position in the world championships at Moscow last year before standing on the top of the podium this year as he crowned in the World Indoor championships at Sopot, Poland.
Barshim improved the Asian record in high jump five times to date. Beginning with 2.39m in Lausanne two years ago that erased Zhu Jianhua’s 2.38m set way back in 1984 to his latest classic 2.43m at Brussels in the first week of this month. Incidentally he improved the AR thrice this year itself. Barshim even made some gallant attempts to better Cuban Javier Sotomayor’s 21-year-old world mark of 2.45m but could not succeed yet. Under ideal conditions the Qatari jumper shall provide a proud moment to the Incheon spectators to witness the first-ever world record in athletics at the Asian Games!
Although ranking second, China’s Zhang Guowei (2.34m) will be the main competitor for Barshim in Incheon. Chinese athletes are having a great tradition in high jump. From the days of Ni Zhiqin (Ni Chih-Chin) to Zhu Jianhua, the country behind the great wall has witnessed some of the popular high jumpers in the World. Barshim had a giant advantage of 12:1 winning ratio over Guowei in their head-to-head encounters. But the Chinese will try his might to topple the applecart with the company of his teammate Wang Yu (2.33m PB) and Japan’s Naoto Tobe (2.31m) in Incheon.
In pole vault the main fight will be between two Chinese athletes. Defending champion Yang Yancheng (5.80m PB in 2013) will clash with last year’s Asian champion Xue Changrui (5.80m PB in 2014). Japan’s Daichi Sawano, who scaled 5.83m in 2005, will take compatriot Seito Yamamoto (5.75) and Korean Jin Min-Sub (5.75) to challenge the vaulters from dragon-land.
Chinese hurdlers have been winning 110m hurdles almost in every edition of the Asian Games since 1974. Only in 1982 that the title went to Japan’s Yoshifumi Fujimori. Leading continental hurdler Xie Wenjun (13.23 secs) is looking tall even to his compatriot and reigning Asian champion Jiang Fan. Kuwait’s Abdulaziz Al-Mandeel will be another hurdler having podium ambitions.
Joseph Abraham, the Indian gold medalist in 400m hurdles four years ago, is not in a good shape to defend his title in Incheon. China’s Cheng Wen (49.28 PB) is expected to log horn with Dmitriy Koblov of Kazakhstan, Takayuki Kishimoto of Japan and Ali Khamis Abbas of Bahrain for the top honours.