Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Coach Graham happy for McLeod

Published:Friday | August 19, 2016 | 8:00 AMHubert Lawrence
Omar McLeod with his 110 metres hurdles gold medal in Rio Janeiro on Wednesday.

Coach Raymond Graham, who guided Omar McLeod through a triumphant 2013 high-school athletics campaign, is overjoyed for the new Olympic 110-metre hurdles champion.

Graham says McLeod's discipline and hard work have paid off and says a key factor of the hurdler's victory in the Rio Olympic Games was controlling his high level of speed.

"I'm excited! I'm thrilled and happy for him because I was nervous coming into the championship because, you know, he fell twice," Graham recounted of McLeod's crashes at meets in Monaco and Budapest.

"It sticks in the brain," he said, remembering the worry he felt in the weeks after the falls leading into the Olympics. The falls ended an undefeated year for McLeod, which included victory at the World Indoor Championships in the 60-metre hurdles and the fastest time in the world outdoors, 12.98.

Graham is clear on the technical elements that won the gold medal.

"First, I'm happy that he did not attend the training camp in Brazil, because last year, you remember Stephen Francis was very upset that they took him away from his coach," he recalled of the circumstances prior to last year's World Championships in Beijing.

McLeod arrived there as one of the favourites, but placed sixth.

"When you are doing a technical event," he explained, "you need your coach to be very close to you."

"What is he doing in camp without his coach?" asked MVP head coach Francis last year in an interview with The Gleaner prior to the World Championships. "He is a medal prospect, he should be with his coach training, trying to win this thing," asserted Francis.

 

CONTROLLING FEARSOME SPEED

 

Graham discerns that McLeod and Doug Case, his coach at the University of Arkansas, used the time between his Monaco and Budapest mishaps to control his fearsome sprint speed.

"To see Omar clearing all 10 hurdles and not hitting one," he observed, "that means the weeks he spent after he fell and extra days leading to the Olympics, they must have worked on something because he was very clean."

In contrast to the hurdle-crashing falls in his last two races before the Olympics, McLeod stepped flawlessly to the gold medal in Rio with a time of 13.05 seconds.

More broadly, Coach Graham isn't surprised that McLeod has moved to the top of the hurdling world so soon after his days at Boys and Girls' Championships.

When McLeod transferred from Manchester High School to Kingston College for the 2012-2013 school year, he was already a World Youth 110 and 400 metres hurdles finalist and a two-time Carifta champion. When he started as a student-athlete at Kingston College, his quality was instantly apparent.

"Seeing Omar running in between the hurdles as if there was no hurdle, it was amazing," he reminisced. "Sometimes when we were doing the hurdles practice, the other guys would stop and watch Omar," he reported.

With Graham refining his hurdling style, McLeod set records at Champs 2013 in both the Class 1 110 metres hurdles and the 400 metres hurdles. His mark in the shorter event - 13.24 seconds - still stands.

"He was just an example to all the students at Kingston College - all the hurdlers," praised Graham. "When he came here," the veteran coach said, "everybody tried to copy him."

"He's just a disciplined and hard worker, and this is the result," Graham concluded.