The current indoor athletics season has gifted us with an amazing duel in the men’s High Jump even if these two have not competed in the same field since September 3, 2015 at Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich.

Defending World Indoor champion Mutaz Essa Barshim decided to prepare for Portland directly after he missed the podium at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. That is why nobody is surprised that the 24-year-old Qatari tops the World season list after his first competition in Malmö when he cleared 2.31m on January 31, 2016. For someone who has soared over 2.40m eight times, it was a typical start to the season.

The most unexpected reply was ready almost four days later from 2011 European Junior Bronze Medallist Gianmarco Tamberi. The 23-year-old Italian opened his season with a new national indoor record and world-leading mark of 2.35m in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia and improved his indoor personal best by 5cm.

Barshim couldn’t accept the situation and raised the bar 1cm with a 2.36 clearance in Swedish Malmo. Just two hours later, Tamberi delivered a convincing answer in Hustopece with a national record of 2.38.

Since that time, they have both competed one more time. Barshim won the Asian championships at 2.35 when Tamberi took his first national indoor title at 2.36. Although Tamberi is the world leader, in head-to-head meetings, he has only managed to beat Barshim once as the second-best jumper of all-time holds a clear edge – 8-1.

“I beat Mutaz only one time. It happened at Sainsbury’s Diamond League event last summer. I acknowledge that Mutaz is more talented than me but now I’m ready to fight even with him. Only competitions can answer the question who is the strongest jumper today,’ said Tamberi.

“I had really bad seasons in 2013 and 2014 but then something was changed in my mind. We started to improve my technique and to gather all the jump’s details into one really good jump. When I achieved 2.37 last summer, I felt like I was reborn mentally. I keep Rio Olympics in my mind every day. Everything I do I take very seriously. I push my mental even more than my body. That is the biggest difference and greatest change that has happened with me compared to the last few years,” Gianmarco said.

Both jumpers checked the bright green Portland track at the Oregon Convention Center during Tuesday’s practice. Barshim made a very few easy jumps with only a four-step approach. He looked easy and light.

“He is in really good shape,” Mutaz’s coach, Stanislaw Szczyrba said. “We decided to use a short runway even for Rio Olympics. He is very speedy but, using all his speed, he gets injuries too often. There is no reason to risk it if he can jump 2.40 from four steps.”

“The most important thing is my runway. If I’m good in it, I jump in my best style. Am I OK? I’ll tell you Friday evening,” Barshim said with a smile.

Mutaz and Gianmarco have different approaches which is impossible to compare, but it is obvious that the Italian has improved a lot in this case while Barshim has just cut his runway.

“The best thing I do in jumps is the fast runway,” Tamberi stressed. “I increase my speed from first step of my approach to take-off. I’m one of the fastest high jumpers now. The Portland track is very good and very fast. If you able to use these facilities right, you can jump very high here. I really care about Portland because I want to finish this amazing season in a high-pitched voice.”

Those words promise an incredible show in the men’s high jump. As always, Tamberi will draw on the energy of the crowd. “If I don’t do it, I cannot jump. I need that crazy support from spectators. That is my energy and my power for competitions.”