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'I'm not going to Rio without the Holy Spirit' - Omar McLeod held firm to his Christian faith

Published:Thursday | August 18, 2016 | 8:00 AMShanique Samuels
Omar McLeod's mother, Annella Morris (left), brother, Matthew (centre), grandmother, Dasilver Knight (right), and aunt Tracyann Knight (back) are in a high spirits after their relative won the 110m hurdles at the Olympics in Rio, Brazil, on Tuesday.

Despite the many obstacles he faced in his quest to make it to the Rio Olympics, Omar McLeod held firm to his Christian faith, remained focused and delivered a golden performance in the men's 110m hurdles on Tuesday.

His relatives are yet to soak up the reality that he is now an Olympic champion.

His mother, Arnella Morris, was at a loss for words to describe the way she felt about her son's achievement.

"It's just so surreal. It's an awesome feeling," she told The Gleaner as she beamed with pride.

 

Stepdad dreamed of gold

 

She said her husband, Omar's stepdad, who is abroad, predicted, based on a dream, that he was going to win the gold.

"Even after the mishaps in the Diamond League recently, he managed to regain his confidence. We were nervous for him, but he remained focused. Psychologically, he erased it out of his mind [and] the entire family got behind him and supported him. We told him to regroup, refocus and trust God to see him through.

"Omar believes in prayer. Before he left for the Games, he said, 'Mommy, you have to come and pray with me. I'm not going to Rio without the Holy Spirit'."

At the request of her son, Morris took the trip to Arkansas. "We fasted and prayed for seven days before he left for Rio. I anointed his feet every morning, I anointed every one of his jerseys and spikes with consecrated olive oil and packed his bags, and the Monday morning before he left, he was filled with the Holy Spirit" she said.

Leading up to the race, the community of Sanguinetti in Clarendon, where Omar grew up, came together and set up a big screen in the square for the final. "We were nervous for him, but he was confident," she continued.

"When the race began, it's like everyone was running with him, and when we saw that he cleared the last hurdle, the celebration started. Everybody was just rejoicing. It was just pure excitement and joy. Everyone in the community is happy for the win and is proud of him," said Morris.

"Its a joyous feeling to know that the whole nation was behind him. Nobody doubted that he would win." she stated.

She explained that he knew he could have gone faster, but didn't want to overdo it. He wasn't focused on the world record. He just wanted the gold, and he got it."

His aunt, Tracyann Knight, recalled Omar's younger years. "Growing up in the community, he used to stack the bottles in the street and run and jump over them and he always won (cleared them), and from then, he was known to everyone in the community as 'Runner'."

He was always a star since the Boys and Girls' Champs. He has countless medals and accolades amassed throughout those years of competition. Omar's 110m hurdles record set at Champs in 2013 still stands.

"Each time Omar is going to race, we pray. We were nervous for him even though we saw that he had the confidence he needed to get him through," his aunt said.

His grandmother, Dasilver Knight, said she, too, was overcome with joy at the performance of her grandson. "When I walk in the street, people now know me as Omar's grandmother."

McLeod is described as a warm and loving person who loves his family.

He started track and field at Manchester High School in grade seven and competed for the school before he moved to Kingston College, where he did one year of 'A' levels. His brilliance in academics and athletics earned him a scholarship to the University of Arkansas, where he recently completed his bachelor's degree in business management. He will be moving on to read for his master's degree.