McLeod gets golden feeling
RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil:
In 2011, Omar McLeod travelled to Lille, France, as part of a talented Jamaican team to the World Youth Championships.
It was a busy championship for the then Manchester High School student, who took the track seven times during the five-day meet, ending with a fourth-place finish in the 110m hurdles and an eighth-place run in the 400m hurdles.
A silver medal placing as a member of the sprint medley relay team was the highlight of what could be called a workmanlike, yet unspectacular performance.
Sixty-one months later, McLeod is the Olympic champion in the 110m hurdles - becoming the first athlete from Jamaica and the English-speaking Caribbean to top the podium at the Olympics in the event.
Not even he saw this coming.
"I wasn't thinking that this could be possible. I knew I loved hurdles, I did the 110m and the 400m hurdles so I knew I had that love for it, but never in a million years did I imagine myself being here, being a world champion and an Olympic champion in one year - that's crazy," said McLeod.
Breaking records at 'Champs' while wearing Kingston College's purple and white and dropping jaws on the US collegiate scene for the University of Arizona Razorbacks must have planted a seed.
If those did not, a gold medal at the World Indoor Championships earlier this year and a dominating season on the Diamond League circuit certainly confirmed that the sprint hurdles had a new star.
"Maybe," he laughed when one reporter asked if he can become the 'Usain Bolt of the sprint hurdles'.
He is Jamaican, he is fast and he is a champion - three boxes checked.
What's missing right now is the 12.80 seconds world record, something many believe he is more than capable of breaking, but a target that McLeod is not in a hurry to achieve.
"I'm young, I want to grow in the event. I was never thinking about gold medals, all I'm trying to do is develop in the event and have fun and win titles. It (world record) will come some day. I hope it does and when that happens I will embrace it," McLeod said.
Bolt's influence - and that of other Jamaican standouts like Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is, however, not lost on the 22-year-old.
"You feed off them, (Usain) Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and all those athletes who you look up to, and you see them go out and represent themselves and their country and they have fun and win, and you want to do the same thing," McLeod added. "It's contagious, you just want to feel how it feels, and I have now felt it."