Mon | Nov 28, 2022

110m hurdles - New glamour event for Jamaica

Published:Saturday | December 29, 2018 | 12:00 AMHubert Lawrence
Damion Thomas
De'Jour Russell
Ronald Levy
Omar McLeod

In 2016, Maurice Wignall, the dean of Jamaican 110 metres hurdlers, voiced a hope for the future.

"It would be exciting to see at least three or four Jamaicans at the very, very top," said Wignall, the nation's first two-time Olympic finalist in the event. His dream has come true, and now the 110 metres hurdles is Jamaica's strongest event as track and field moves into another cycle of championships.

Reminiscent of the time when Jamaican men held all the significant titles in the 100 metres, Omar McLeod is the reigning World and Olympic champion, with Ronald Levy following Andrew Riley as Commonwealth Games champion with a win in April on the Australian Gold Coast.

The standard-bearer in the senior ranks is 28-year-old Hansle Parchment, Olympic bronze medallist in 2012, and World runner-up in 2015. He brought the Jamaican record under 13 seconds, and when Levy took the gold in Australia, the tall man from St Thomas was second.

Riley, 30, and Parchment, 28, have the most mileage as McLeod and Levy are just 24 and 26 years old, but all four are so good that with freedom from injury, they could all be world class for years to come. If they falter, they'd better watch out. A posse of youngsters will soon be snapping at her heels. World Under-20 champion Damion Thomas and runner-up Orlando Bennett are number one and joint number two in the all-time Under-20 list, and 2014 World Under-20 silver medallist Tyler Mason, at just 23, is still in the all-time top five.

Stunningly, Thomas and Bennett burned times of 12.99 and 13.00 seconds, respectively, at the National Championships in June to qualify for the World Under-20 meet. Yet, the result might have been different had 2017 World Under-18 champion De'Jour Russell been 100 per cent fit.

Russell moved McLeod's Boys and Girls' Championships Class One record from 13.24 to 13.21 in 2017 and chipped it down to 13.10 seconds this year.




Those races are run over hurdles set 39 inches high while the men navigate barriers at the 42-inch setting. Remarkably, Russell has run 13.32 over the higher height. That's the fastest by a Jamaican junior. According to the IAAF, he is the third-fastest junior over the big sticks in the history of hurdling.

Thomas is tied at number six all-time with Colin Jackson, the two-time senior world champion.

If all goes well, Jamaica should have strong representation in the sprint hurdles at the 2019 and 2021 World Championships and the 2020 Olympics.

Wignall's vision is a reality now.

"I mean, we've never ever seen that before so that could be something very, very exciting for Jamaica, and that could be the new glamour event for Jamaica instead of the 100m, or it could be riding parallel to the 100m," he said.

That observation draws a comparison to the time when a 100-metre world record by Asafa Powell kicked off a golden era in Jamaican sprint history. Powell clocked 9.77 seconds in 2005 to take sole ownership of the record to Jamaica for the first time. Olympic and World Championship success would follow for Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake, with Asafa and Lerone Clarke winning back-to-back Commonwealth titles in 2006 and 2010, and with Clarke adding the 2011 Pan-American Games crown.

The collection was made complete by Dexter Lee, who won the 2007 World Youth gold and then successive World Junior victories in 2008 and 2010.