World and Olympic 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod talks about his long-held passion for hurdling and what motivates the Jamaican superstar athlete.
“My passion for hurdles – or at least jumping over things – began early. I recall from the age of nine or ten I used to set buckets up in the road and invite my cousins and my little brother to race over them. Yet my enthusiasm and passion for hurdles really began after I went to high school and I started to carry out hurdles drills. The event was very technical and being an adventurous kid I liked the challenge.
“As soon as I started the event it seemed a natural fit for me. I instinctively went over the hurdles with my dominant leg - there was just something about the hurdles. In my first ever race, I placed seventh in a high school competition but I remember the fun I had in that race. The event felt safe - even if that seems a little weird to say for an event with ten hurdles!
“On the back of my natural talent and my zeal and love for the event I made rapid progress. I made sure my mum recorded all the Diamond League races and I would go home and watch Liu Xiang and Dayron Robles for any tips. I was always willing to learn more.
“That is still the case today and I feel like a new hurdler today under my new coach (Edrick Floréal), who is helping drastically improve my technique. When I race in the hurdles it is such an exuberant feeling. At that moment, nothing else matters – and that’s what I love about the event. I completely switch off and run the race on muscle memory. I am not even aware if something is happening in the lane next to me. The event takes me to another world.
“Another reason I do hurdles is to help redefine which events Jamaicans can perform well at. Jamaicans see so many sprinters perform at the very top but it is my job to show that as a Jamaican hurdler you can dominate and be the best in the world.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF