Thu | Aug 17, 2017

On top of the world

Published:Sunday | May 15, 2016 | 5:00 AM
Jamaica's Omar McLeod speeding to a world leading 12.98 seconds win in the 110 metres hurdles at the IAAF Diamond League meet in Shanghai, China yesterday.

Nine races unbeaten and his name beside the three top 110 metres hurdles times of the year so far, including his world-leading 12.98 seconds, which took him to a win at the IAAF Diamond League in Shanghai yesterday.

It's looking more and more like it will take some effort to stop hotshot Jamaican sprint hurdler Omar McLeod, who extended his impressive campaign in front of an appreciative crowd inside the Shanghai Stadium.

Sure, the Olympic Games may still be all of three months away, but it's hard to fault the 22-year-old for already seeing himself as the favourite for gold in Rio, after a start that has left his peers quite familiar with the heels of his spikes.

"The times that I am running tell. I have the world-leading time, so I think it's obvious that I am the favourite right now," McLeod told The Sunday Gleaner shortly after his event.

McLeod's run was a highlight of an exciting meet that also saw America's sprinting flag-bearer Justin Gatlin post his first legal sub-10 seconds 100m run of the season, with other impressive performances coming in the women's long jump, discus, 1500m and men's 5000m.

The Jamaican hurdler held off a strong challenge from his countryman, Hansle Parchment, who clocked 13.12 to finish second to McLeod for the second week in a row, with China's Xie Wenjun taking third place in 13.34.

It didn't come without drama, though, as two false starts saw Spain's Orlando Ortega and American Aries Merritt both being booted from the race, with the latter causing further delay after trying without success to run under protest.

"That certainly affected me. I was beginning to get cold. It was the first time I was in a situation like this with back-to-back false starts, so I just tried to play it safe. My hamstring was getting a little tight, so I didn't want to overdo it. I just wanted to finish the race, to be honest, and I'm glad I came out with a win," added McLeod.

"But I'm not trying to get ahead of myself or anything because this event is technical and anything can happen. So I'm staying grounded and [will] keep doing what I have been doing, try to keep the momentum going. The sky is the limit," McLeod said.

There were second-place finishes for Veronica Campbell-Brown (22.82), who finished behind Murielle Ahoure (22.72) and ahead of Anneisha McLaughlin-Whilby (22.94) in the women's 200m, and also for Stephenie Ann McPherson, who clocked a season's best 50.98, but could not stop high-flying Bahamian Shaunae Miller (50.45) in the women's 400m.

Natasha Hastings (USA), 51.10, was third with Novlene Williams-Mills (51.96) ending fourth, and Shericka Jackson (53.02) sixth.

"I'm totally disappointed with this finish. This result is no indication of where I am right now. I am in great shape, but may have overdone it in training," said Campbell-Brown after the event.

Gatlin really got his season going with a 9.94 win in the men's 100m ahead of his training partner Femi Ogunode (Qatar), 10.07, and Mike Rodgers (USA), 10.10. Jamaican Julian Forte finished sixth in 10.23.

"It felt good to come out and execute a good race. The plan is to get that right, remain steady and get better and better after each race," Gatlin shared.

However, despite still recovering from leg surgery in March, Jamaica's World Championships bronze medal winner O'Dayne Richards was left disappointed in the shot put event after only managing a 19.22m effort, which left him down the list in 10th place.

The event was won by American Kurt Roberts with a season's best 21.40m ahead of New Zealand's Tom Walsh (21.20m) and world champion Joe Kovacs (20.82m).

Croatia's Sandra Perkovic delighted in the discus event, bettering her own world lead (7.59m) and Diamond League record (7.52m) to win with a mark of 7.88m, which placed her ahead of Australia's Dani Samuels (67.77m), and Cuba's Denia Caballero (66.14m).

Ivana Spanovic (Serbia) set a meet record 6.95m to win the women's long jump, while Kenya's Faith Kipyegon shattered the world lead and meet records to win the women's 1500m in 3:56.82.

Ethiopia Muktar Edris set a new world-leading mark 12:59.96 in winning the men's 5000m with Kenya's David Rudisha (1:46.24) finishing a disappointing fifth in the men's 800m, which was won by Cheruiyot Rotich (1:45.68).