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World Athletics Championships Oregon22

Series09 Oct 2017

My greatest challenge – Majd Eddin Ghazal


High jump bronze medallist Majd Eddin Ghazal at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 (© AFP / Getty Images)

Syrian high jumper Majd Eddin Ghazal has enjoyed an outstanding 2017 season which included a World Championships bronze medal and gold at the Asian Indoor Games. The 30-year-old says that battling severe anaemia at the 2016 Rio Olympics was one of his most difficult experiences.

'Doctors told me that even by competing I should have been awarded a gold medal'

“During the 2016 season my preparation for the Rio Olympics in all respects went very well. I had jumped a national record of 2.36m in Beijing and performed well at the Monaco Diamond League, finishing third, and I was hopeful of a good performance in Rio. I was lean and ready to perform.


Majd Eddin Ghazal carries the Syrian flag during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games


“Yet when I got to Rio, it was a disaster in every sense of the word. I struggled to stand. I was battling with vertigo. I had constant headaches, an accelerated heartbeat and a sense of fatigue and exhaustion. 

“Unfortunately, because my usual medical staff did not accompany me in Rio, I did not have the right level of medical support on hand to treat the problem.

“Despite my condition, I arrived with the ambition to win a medal and I was determined not to withdraw under any circumstances.

“In qualification, I managed to clear 2.29m with my second attempt and I made it through to the final. I was confident I could then jump 2.35m and fight for a medal but it wasn’t to be.

“I struggled to run or even stand up. I struggled to put on my spikes and I could not warm up ahead of the final. It’s hard to describe just how bad I felt.

“Understandably, I was not in the best physical condition to be in the mix and I ended up finishing seventh with a best clearance of 2.29m as Derek Drouin took the gold.

“After the final, I went to hospital when it was discovered I had severe anaemia with a haemoglobin level of 5.6. I had never had anaemia before and it was really hard to fathom. The doctors told me that even by competing I should have been awarded a gold medal, but I was far from happy.

“After the Olympics, it took three full weeks for my haemoglobin levels to fully recover. Thankfully, I have not had a recurrence, although I carefully observe myself to avoid it happening again.”

Steve Landells for the IAAF