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Hubert Lawrence | Omar is the new king!

Published:Wednesday | August 9, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Jamaica's World 110 metres hurdles champion, Omar McLeod, with his gold medal.

It's official. Omar McLeod is the new king of Jamaican athletics. With the incomparable Usain Bolt bowing out, McLeod has hurdled his way to the forefront by winning everything in his path. Thankfully for a nation that needs champions, he has ascended the throne just in time.

Bolt is still the best Jamaican athlete of all-time. His seven-deep stack of individual World Championship gold medals would be enough to place him in elite territory even if he didn't also have six individual Olympic gold medals and five world records. His perch at the top of the Jamaican all-time ranking is safer than the Bank of England.

McLeod is carving a niche in Jamaican track and field history for himself. He is the nation's first male World Indoor 60 metres hurdles champion. Last year, he became Jamaica's first 110 metres hurdles Olympic champion, and now, he is Jamaica's first World Champion in that event.




Like Bolt, he is brilliant in big events. Like Bolt, he is dominant and lightning quick. In addition, there is a chance that he will join Bolt on the list of Jamaicans who have held world records.

However, he doesn't need the record for us to afford him the acclaim he has earned. The only Jamaican men to precede him as Olympic champion are Arthur Wint, George Rhoden, Donald Quarrie, and Bolt. Bert Cameron, Yohan Blake, and Bolt are the only men to become World Champion before McLeod did in London this week.

The best thing about him is his youth. At 23, he has scope to improve. If he does make strides, he could close the gap between his national record of 12.90 seconds and the world record of 12.80. Beyond that, a defence of his Olympic title isn't out of the question.

That would put him in league with Americans Lee Calhoun and Roger Kingdom, who took two gold medals each in the 110m hurdles.

The additional hope is that his successes and that of Hansle Parchment, reigning Commonwealth champion Andrew Riley, World under-18 champion DeJour Russell, and the unlucky Ronald Levy will inspire others.

It's sad to see Bolt go, but thankfully, there is an athlete who can keep Jamaica's men atop the podium in the biggest meets. His name is Omar McLeod. That's official.

- Hubert Lawnce has made notes at track side since 1980.