Doha, Qatar: Qatar hero Mutaz Barshim not only competes but also plays the role of an organiser as the world's leading high jumpers are set to vie for victory in the inaugural What Gravity Challenge carrying a prize purse of $77,000.

Barshim, the most celebrated high jumper of the era, yesterday said he is excited to play his part both on and off the field as he goes head to head with a select group of multiple Olympic, World, and Continental medallists at the Katara Amphithetre.

“I woke up this morning and told my wife I’m really excited like it’s the Olympics. That’s how excited I am. (because it’s) not just from an athlete’s perspective, but also from being on the other side behind the scenes,” Barshim, who announced the event in February, said during a press conference at The Chedi Katara hotel, yesterday.

“I want to show my gratitude especially to [Qatar] Olympic Committee President His Excellency Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani. He was the person that gave me the first start when I met him,” the three-time Olympic medallist said.

“He (Sheikh Joaan) wanted me to create something for a lasting legacy. So I’m really thankful to them. And again I’m really happy. Just looking forward to having a wonderful event,” Barshim, the reigning high jump world champion said.

“We have the younger generation. We have the older generation (competing here). They’re trying to catch us and we’re trying to make it difficult for them. But again, this is sport you know. We are selfish and everyone wants the best for yourself and I think that’s the only way to improve. But again I expected to be at the top, but my advantage is I’m home,” Barshim said.

Barshim’s friend Italian Gianmarco Tamberi with whom he famously shared the Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Games three years ago, is also set to compete today, along with Ukrainian Bohdan Bondarenko, one of only three athletes to clear the 2.42 mark, and his compatriot Andri Protsenko who is a former World Championship bronze medallist.

These ‘veterans’ will be challenged by the ‘younger generation’, New Zealand’s World Indoor champion Hamish Kerr, USA’s JuVaughn Harrison, Sanghyeok Woo of South Korea, Luis Castro Rivera of Puerto Rico, Germany’s Tobias Potye, Australia’s Brandon Starc, Naoto Tobe of Japan, and China’s Zhen Wang.

USA’s World’s silver medalist Harrison said it feels great to be the next generation following the footsteps of the likes of Barshim while challenging them at the same time.

“I’ll try to do the same thing tomorrow. But you know, like I said. I’ve watched those. I admire him and to be able to compete against him is a great pleasure,” the 25-year-old Harrison said.

The reigning World Indoor champion Kerr said he is excited to be in Doha, but admitted he had to struggle with jetlag earlier.

“I come from New Zealand, which is a long way away, but I was in Asia just before this week. So we decided to come here a bit early and do sort of nice training. So yeah, it’s been amazing. This is my third time in Doha and trying to come back again. I just feel like I’m welcomed by everyone,” Kerr said.

As athletes gear up for the upcoming Paris Olympics, Barshim said he is expecting a fierce contest.

“I expect (the best from everyone) and I wish everyone the best. But definitely, I have hopes for myself. I want to win,” the home hero said.

The Qatar Athletics Federation President Mohammed Issa Al Fadala said spectators will get to enjoy a memorable event.

“These are the best jumpers in the world. I hope everyone will enjoy the competition at this wonderful arena, the Katara Amphithetre. I hope tomorrow the spectators are going to enjoy it. I hope there will be some surprises tomorrow,” Al Fadala said.

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