Series13 Jun 2016

First impressions – Omar McLeod


Omar McLeod after winning the 60m hurdles at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016 (© Getty Images)

Omar McLeod has made a stunning start to 2016, firstly winning the world indoor 60m hurdles title and then clocking a series of world-leading times in the 110m hurdles.

He is unbeaten in any event in 2016, having also become the first sub-13 110m hurdler to have run under 10 seconds for the 100m, and is the current Diamond Race leader in his discipline.

The Jamaican offers an intriguing insight into his world by answering our first impressions questions.

First sport

I started out in track and field. As a Jamaican, that is our native sport. I remember racing to the shops running barefoot. I was really fast from a young age and I was nicknamed 'Runner'. I couldn't wait for the weekends to come when I would have a race and the shopkeepers would reward the winner with a biscuit. It was exciting and a lot of fun. I later played basketball and soccer, but athletics was my first sport.

First competition

I started athletics seriously at a later age because my mother, who is a teacher, wanted me to focus on academics. I remember one of my first serious competitions was at the Champs (The Inter-Secondary Schools Association Boys and Girls Champs). The event is electrifying and it is the kind of event whereby if you can compete there you can compete anywhere. I didn't win my first year there, I think I placed third, but it was always a great learning experience. 

First athletics idol

I have always looked up to three hurdlers: Allen Johnson, Liu Xiang and Colin Jackson. I especially look up to Allen and Colin because, like me, they are not tall but put their explosive power and speed to good use. Also, like me they were eight steppers. I think today I am one of the few eight steps 110m hurdlers on the circuit. I try to mimic them.

First disappointment

I can never forget that I had to compete in the 110m hurdles, 400m hurdles and Swedish Relay at the 2011 World Youth Championships in Lille. I reached the final of both hurdles events, finishing eighth in the 400m hurdles and fourth in the 110m hurdles. I remember thinking I was so close to a medal in the 110m hurdles that maybe if I had not run in the 400m hurdles I may have won a medal. The experience definitely helped me grow as an athlete, so I have no long-term regrets. 

First coach

Jerry Holness from Manchester (in Jamaica). We had our ups and downs but he was my first overseer. I was always fascinated with the hurdles and as soon as I made the Carifta Games, I guess that's when he first saw my talent for the 110m hurdles.  

First overseas competition

It was competing at the Carifta Games on the Cayman Islands. I competed in the hurdles and the 4x100m. I was aged 16 and I remember stepping out to compete for Jamaica was a big deal. It was stepping stone for the future. I knew it was the start of something great.   

First pet

It was a dog named Max, a rottweiler and german shepherd mix. He died when I was in high school and we then I bought another dog, a border collie named Toby. He is so smart. He is like a human being and he has really filled that void.

First fashion disaster

I was at a cousin's birthday party aged about 12 or 13. It was at McDonald's and I spent ages playing on the slides in the kid’s area. I was wearing some dress jeans, which were made of a thin material, yet I had been sliding so much a tear had appeared in the crotch area. It was so embarrassing. Everyone was laughing and I had to get some new pants. I was reminded of the incident countless times.

First car

My first car is my dream car, a Range Rover Evoque. I bought it almost new last year as a little treat for the amazing season I had in 2015.

Steve Landells for the IAAF