Hubert Lawrence | Take your pick!
Great athletes can dazzle you. When they hit top form, they produce so many good performances that it's hard to pick just one as the best. Either that, or observers with different interests can each find one performance they feel is exemplary.
Take Omar McLeod, for instance. Concerned more with what the athlete does when wearing black, green and gold, the National Sports Awards group has pinpointed McLeod's polished run to win the gold medal in the 110 metres hurdles at the 2017 World Championships in London. His time of 13.04 seconds unseated defending champion Sergey Shubenkov of Russia and came at exactly the time when Jamaica's campaign in London needed a boost.
Track and Field News took a more statistical approach to find its top McLeod performance of the year. Instead, the respected US publication cited his winning time at the Jamaican Championship as his very best of 2017. With a spot on the team to London at stake, the 23-year-old blitzed to the finish in 12.90 seconds, a national record by 0.04 of a second and a time that made him the joint fifth fastest in the history of athletics.
Yes, stat freak, that time makes him faster than greats like Colin Jackson, Roger Kingdom, and Renaldo 'Skeets' Nehemiah. In addition, the 37-member international Track and Field News world ranking panel voted this 12.90 the seventh-best performance across every event for the entire year. It was that good.
Despite all that and two other clockings of 12.96 and 13.01 seconds by the former Manchester High School, Kingston College and University of Arkansas man, there is yet another performance that made knowledgeable observers sit up and take notice. Magnificent McLeod opened his season in 13.04 seconds in Des Moines, Iowa on April 29 at the Drake Relays. While Jamaican teams were basking in decidedly Caribbean weather at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, McLeod was hurdling in even worse conditions than he would encounter in London.
During the World Championships, temperatures would fall to 13 degrees Celsius. In Iowa, the reading was half that figure. To make matters worse, icy rain had chilled the track into a hurdler's worse nightmare. A slip would have been disastrous.
The official wind reading of 1.8 metres per second was just 0.2 short of the maximum allowable, but on the track, the flags held by officials behind the starting blocks indicate that a headwind was present.
Had he produced that effort on the same day in Philly, he might have gone even faster than 12.90. It was that good. For the record, no one has ever run under 13 seconds in the month of April.
Take your pick of McLeod's magnificent 2017 performances. Will you choose the solid 13.04 to win gold in London, the sizzling 12.90 that put him within dream range of the world record or the Drake 13.04, done on a wet April track in a 7 degree chill? I know my pick. What's yours?
- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.