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Question for Michael O'Hara: To hurdle or not to hurdle?

Published:Wednesday | August 19, 2015 | 12:00 AM

You may not know it, but Michael O'Hara is the best young sprint hurdle prospect on Earth.

His sprint prowess is superbly camouflaged, but a closer look reveals that as a hurdler, he has enormous potential.

With Jamaican sprinting aglow with the achievement of Bolt and company, O'Hara must decide whether to hurdle or not to hurdle.

Tyler Mason, the 2014 World Junior runner-up, has graduated nicely from the high-school ranks with a 110-metre hurdle personal best of 13.32 seconds and fourth place at the Pan-Am Games.

Jaheel Hyde has won the World Youth and Youth Olympic gold medals and has the World Youth record.

O'Hara, however, has consistently beaten them both during their high-school years.

In fact, in 2013 when Hyde won the World Youth title, he had been defeated by O'Hara at Boys and Girls' Championships earlier in the year.

O'Hara scorched his way into the record books with a time of 13.50 seconds. He has, in fact, won the sprint hurdles class one, two and three. That's a distinction he shares with Kevin 'MacGyver' Mitchell, the Jamaica College Champs star of the 1990s.

This year, at Champs, he beat Hyde in the most highly anticipated encounter of the entire meet.

Here's how he hides his hurdling prowess from view.

While Mason and Hyde hurdled their way to prominence in summer junior international competition, O'Hara focused on the sprints. The returns were good. He won the 200-metre gold medal at the 2013 World Youth Championships and bronze at last year's World Junior Championships. So it's easy to forget that he hurdles.

Mason made a smooth transition from the 39-inch high junior hurdle to the 42-inch barrier that faces seniors.


No problem for him


O'Hara is taller, with longer legs, and should have no trouble with the higher hurdle. Moreover, he will likely have the same hurdling coach as Mason. That's Kevin Pryce, who sired dozens of fast timber toppers at Calabar High, before joining the Racers Track Club.

In fact, the young prospect has been so good as a 4x400m relay runner that he should probably try the 400 metres hurdles. His former Calabar teammate, Javon Francis, once ran that event in 52.3 seconds and Francis doesn't have O'Hara's experience in the sprint hurdles. He'd have to learn to alternate lead legs, but after that, the sky would be the limit.

That last flight of fancy isn't likely. His new handlers, including celebrated sprint guru Glen Mills, are unlikely to relinquish his awesome sprint capabilities. That's understandable, but his potential as a sprint hurdler is awesome, too.

For some, his size and sprint speed makes him a candidate to be the next Usain Bolt, but there's only one Usain Bolt.

When you pull away the camouflage, he looks more like a big and powerful sprint hurdler in the mould of Olympic gold medallist Anier Garcia and the American pair of World champions, David Oliver and Greg Foster.

It's a look I could live with.

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