Hubert Lawrence | McLeod the sprinter?
Notwithstanding a loss on the weekend, Omar McLeod is the world's finest sprint hurdler, and he has the titles to match. No 'quashi' can win gold at the World Indoors, the Olympic Games and World Championships. McLeod has.
It's no wonder he wants to spread his wings. With a 100 metres personal best of 9.99 seconds, albeit with the maximum allowable assisting wind at his back, and a national indoor 200 metres record of 20.48 seconds, he's almost entitled to feel good about his chances away from the crease. I know I would.
Moreover, even with the new Athletics World Cup arriving to spice up this 2018 season, the time to gauge his sprint prospects is now. On the weekend, he took this philosophy to the Clemson Tiger Paw meet in South Carolina and suffered mixed fortunes. He lost to Grant Holloway, 7.42 seconds to 7.53 in the event where he is world indoor champion, the 60-metre hurdles.
He came back to win the 200m in 20.76 seconds. One loss does not a crisis make, but it does prompt a look into the future. Very few male hurdlers do any of the individual sprints at major championships. Typically, they focus on their prime event.
From a technical basis, it's good sense. The drive phase seen in the 100 metres would be a disaster in the sprint hurdles. By the same token, popping up too soon in the 100m is a recipe for slow acceleration. For these reasons and perhaps others, the only male hurdler to ever win a major sprint title is Harrison Dillard of the USA in 1952.
The postscript is that Dillard crashed out of the hurdles in the 1948 Olympic Trials and was grateful to make the USA team in another event, the flat 100m-which he won in London at the Games. He stayed in the sport long enough to win the hurdles at the Olympics four years later.
McLeod's case is different. He is already Olympic champion and World Champion. At just 23, he can afford to experiment in the sprints and get back to hurdling exclusively in time to join Lee Calhoun and Roger Kingdom as the only men to win the Olympic gold twice in the 110-metre hurdles.
Why can't he double? He probably isn't yet fast enough to go with the likes of Christian Coleman, Andre DeGrasse and Yohan Blake in the 100m, and the schedule for the 2019 World Championships has an overlap between the 200 and the hurdles. As things stand, the 200 metres heats start three hours before the 110 metres final.
If McLeod was drawn in the last of the 200m heats, there would be even less time for him to get set for the gold medal race in his bread and butter event.
McLeod is a smart man. Unless he gets to 9.90 or better in zero wind or the schedule changes to accommodate the 200m/110m hurdles double, he won't try it. After all, Wayde van Niekerk and Shaunae Miller-Uibo came away from their attempts at the overlapping 200/400 double at the last World Championships without the expected bounty.
McLeod won't risk that at next year's World Championships in Doha. What he can do in this off season is chase another piece of history. He is already the only man with times under 10 seconds in the 100m and 13 in the 110m hurdles. On a good day, a very good day, perhaps he could dip under 20 for the 200 metres as well.
- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.