McLeod captures Jamaica’s 1st Olympic title in 110 hurdles
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — There’s one Jamaican who thinks he can beat Usain Bolt on the straightaway.
A few minor details: Add 10 meters and 10 hurdles.
Omar McLeod picked up a gold medal in the Olympic 110-meter hurdles Tuesday night to add to his country’s haul in Rio de Janeiro. The 22-year-old topped Orlando Ortega of Spain and Dimitri Bascou of France for Jamaica’s first title in the event.
Afterward, one question simply had to be asked: Could you beat Bolt if hurdles were added to the mix?
“Yeah, I probably could then,” McLeod said, laughing.
Add the hurdles to the growing list of things the tiny Caribbean Island is dominating. McLeod said he fed off the performances of Bolt in the 100, along with medal-winning performances of Elaine Thompson (gold) and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (bronze) in the women’s 100.
“You see them go out and represent themselves, and represent their country, have fun — and they win. They harness medals,” McLeod said. “You want to do the same thing. It’s contagious. You want to feel how it feels. I felt how it feels.”
So, could he turn into the Bolt of the hurdles.
“We’ll see,” McLeod said. “The feeling is indescribable. I don’t know what’s going through my mind right now. I need to go back and just recite it a couple times, saying, ‘You’re an Olympic champion.’”
To become a champion, he had to slow down a bit. That’s right, slow down.
See, he’s too fast for his own good sometimes, and was approaching the hurdles perhaps a little too quickly. He dialed it back a notch, worked on his timing and cadence and that led to a fast time — 13.05 seconds, which was 0.12 seconds faster than Ortega.
“I’ve learned to be patient,” said McLeod, who was sixth at the world championships last summer in Beijing. “I honestly played it safe for this. I was reserved a lot. All I needed to do, to be honest, was hurdle.”
Ortega gave Spain its first medal in track and field since 2004.
“I was just thinking, ‘Come on, go. Go finish,’” Ortega said. “I see the (big screen) TV and see my second place. I can’t believe this moment.”
The top finisher for the Americans was Devon Allen, who wound up fifth.
In a few days, Allen will be joining his University of Oregon football teammates on the practice field. The hurdler/wide receiver may take a few days off — it’s been a grueling track season — but he hopes to be ready for the season opener Sept. 3 against UC Davis. If not then, maybe Week 2 against Virginia or definitely for Week 3 in a showdown at Nebraska.
“I’ll probably be the best-shaped athlete on the field right now,” Allen said, laughing.
Allen had nine catches for 94 yards last season for the Ducks as he eased back into action after tearing a ligament in his right knee during the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2015.
He said it won’t take him long to get up to speed on the football field and that he’s already at his playing weight of 185 pounds (84 kilograms). But rest might be a good thing.
“Jumping back in, it could work,” Allen said. “But maybe resting will make for a better athlete in the long run. Eventually, I’ll get back in there.”
There were quite a few tumbles and falls in the hurdles Tuesday. Like Haiti’s Jeffrey Julmis, who smacked into the first hurdle in a semifinal heat, tumbled over it and took the hurdle right along with him.
Still, Julmis got back up and finished to a roar from the crowd.
“It didn’t make sense to go down as a sore loser,” Julmis said. “The Olympic spirit — finish the race.”