The men’s 110m hurdles at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 promises to be an intriguingly open affair involving numerous stellar talents but no one obvious favourite after a season where injuries and circumstance have taken the edge off many leading performers.
So it might be the year of another US breakthrough in the event, given the dynamic talents of two competitors who have just turned professional after competing with honour in the collegiate system: Daniel Roberts and Grant Holloway.
But first, to recap the trials and tribulations of the men who have won the significant medals in this event in recent years.
Olympic champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica will defend the title he won in London two years ago, but he has had a bumpy ride in the past couple of years. In 2018 he had to cut his season short because of injury and later in the year moved to a new coach. In 2019 he lost form in the middle of this season, suffering an unprecedented four successive defeats, before shifting camp once again and setting up with US coach Rana Reider in a temporary base in Germany.
Training alongside genial colleagues including USA's world and Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor, and Britain’s 2014 European 200m champion and world 4x100m gold medallist Adam Gemili, McLeod has got himself into a happier state of mind and won at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham last month.
He did not appear in the IAAF Diamond League final, but was a confirmed Doha entrant on 22 September.
The winner of that IAAF Diamond League final was Spain’s Orlando Ortega, who took silver behind McLeod at the 2016 Olympics. This looks like his big chance to step up one place on the global podium.
Sergey Shubenkov, the authorised neutral athlete who won world gold in 2015 and took silver behind McLeod in 2017, has had an up-and-down season – becoming a father for the first time may or may not have had something to do with it.
After an awful race at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris last month, where he finished eighth and last in 13.88, he recovered his form to finish third at the IAAF Diamond League final in 13.33, as Jamaica’s Ronald Levy, who will also be in Doha, took second place in 13.31.
That Paris race saw France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, who beat Shubenkov to the European title by a fraction in Berlin last summer, finish fifth in a season’s best of 13.24 – a useful marker after a couple of months of enforced inactivity because of the insidious and weakening Epstein-Barr virus.
Paris also marked the IAAF Diamond League debut of the impressively fast – and laconic – Holloway, whose winning time of 12.98 at this year’s NCAA Championships on 7 June tops the season’s list.
Holloway finished sixth in Paris, but will have learned from the experience. The race was won by his teammate Roberts, second on the 2019 list with the time of 13.00 he registered in finishing second at the NCAA Championships, who subsequently beat Holloway at the US Trials.
Roberts, confident beforehand, walked the walk as he won in 13.08.
These two 21-year-olds have a big global future in the event that might be starting in Doha.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF