It was hard not to be won over by the tall Qatari olympian with the boyish smile at the Rio Olympic high jump final last night.
Mutaz Barshim most definitely, and quite literally, upped his game. The London 2012 Olympic bronze medal holder won a Rio 2016 silver, giving Qatar its very first silver Olympic medal.
In the final, he cleared the first five target heights in one swift attempt.
Mutaz Barshim's three shots at the 2.38-meter jump all ended up with the pole falling down, despite having registered 2.40 meters this June. Meanwhile, his Canadian opponent cleared the 2.38 target and won gold.
"We were hoping for the gold, but [won] silver today in Rio. God willing, what is coming will be better," he said. "Truly thankful and grateful for the silver. Thank you very much for the support always."
This is the Gulf nation's fifth Olympic medal, all of which have been bronze until yesterday.
But Barshim is still itching for more, and said he has his mind set on the gold for Tokyo 2020. "I want to be satisfied after I retire. I don’t want to retire and feel like I could have given more," Barshim previously told Nike .
"That’s why I don’t have any of my medals or trophies out. I keep them in storage and only let them out for a photo shoot or something. Later when I finish [competing], I can look back and see what I’ve done.”
The high jump final also saw Syria's flag-bearer Majededdin Ghazal place seventh with a best finish of 2.29 meters, five centimeters short of the 2.36-meter personal best he registered earlier this year – a number that would have landed him on the podium alongside Barshim.
Barshim's win marks the Arab world's third silver medal at the Rio Olympics, after Algeria's Taoufik Makhloufi's win in the 800-meter race and Bahrain's Eunice Kirwa's win at the marathon. Arab 2016 Olympians have also won two gold and six bronze medals so far.