Arching his back high over the bar at 2.36 metres before landing gracefully to a thunderous applause, including a mesmerised Richard Mille in the crowd, Mutaz Essa Barshim then bagged a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Flying to such heights with finesse and skill was nothing new for Mutaz who holds the national and Asian record with a best mark of 2.43 metres. Thus, RM 67-02, a Richard Mille watch as prime, precise, elegant, and light as Mutaz himself, was born.
How did you start out as an athlete? Why did you choose the high jump instead of other athletic sports?
Mutaz Essa Barshim: My father was an athlete too, but he was a mid- and longdistance walker before turning to coaching. He loves athletics so much that he would take me to watch practices at the stadium and has always supported me even though I was always the worst until the age of 15 or 16. But I loved it so much that I kept on going. Basically, I was having fun as a child during my first years of training because I would spend less time at school or studying—besides, running and walking are too tiring compared with the high jump where you get to do backflips or trampoline just like in a park during playtime.
Now that you’ve recovered from your previous injury, how are you preparing yourself mentally and physically for 2019 IAAF World Championship in Doha and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo?
MEB: You need to make sure you’re strong enough physically to compete while also being ready to take on the pressure mentally. My coach, my agent, and I have discussions about competitions to join and to not join, especially leading up to the Olympics. It’s not wise to travel too far out and too often beforehand— I’ve learned that I don’t deal well with jetlag and prefer to arrive around a month before a competition to let my body adjust.
MEB: I went to the workshop a few times where Richard Mille’s watchmakers explained to me how it all works, and I even got to try my hand at assembling the parts— hopefully I can visit the factory in the future. All in all, it took around a year to create the RM 67-02, and I felt so happy when it was finished, just 10 days before the 2017 IAAF World Championship in London.
Richard had told me that it would be very light on my wrist, so I was looking forward to trying it out—and that moment of the championship was just unforgettable. My friends were there, Richard was there, and I got this cool watch in the colours of Qatar’s flag, and the national anthem was playing. Afterwards, we celebrated my win with dinner with the Richard Mille team and we talked so much about watches.