A number of familiar faces will be missing from the men’s 110m hurdles in Rio. The list includes reigning Olympic champion and record-holder Aries Merritt.
Joining Merritt on the side-lines are his countrymen Jason Richardson, the London Olympic silver medallist, and David Oliver, the fourth fastest hurdler this season, who pulled out of the US trials with injury after reaching the final. The ban on Russia’s athletics team means 2015 world champion Sergey Shubenkov will sit out the games as well.
With so many notable absentees Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment by default claims the elder statesman status at the games in this event. Parchment, who won bronze in London, got a medical exemption and took no part in the 2016 Jamaica National Senior Championships.
Parchment’s only race since then came at a meeting in Belgium where he won in 13.53 seconds. Now that he has proved his fitness, it’s time to regain his quickness. His season’s best of 13.10 seconds before injury curtailed his progress ranks him the fifth fastest hurdler going into Rio.
Some new and exciting youngsters will ensure that this will be one of the stellar events on show. Chief among them is reigning IAAF world indoor 60m champion Omar McLeod, who has been the hottest property over the barriers this season. McLeod (22) owns five of the fastest times this season including his world leading 12.98 at the IAAF Shanghai Diamond League. However, the Jamaican domestic champion has hit a snag recently. McLeod’s last two outings have not been ideal as he has crashed out causing some concerns among his supporters.
Nevertheless, McLeod remains confident of his chances in Rio and will use the setbacks as motivation to work harder. He is cognizant of the hopes of a nation that has never won the men’s 110m title at an Olympic games.
Orlando Ortega is the number one ranked sprint hurdler in the world according to the recently released IAAF Rio rankings. This is courtesy of his 12.94 PB achieved at the Paris Diamond League in 2015. Incidentally, Ortega was one of three newcomers last season to join the sub 13 seconds club. The others were world champion Sergey Shubenkov of Russia and Jamaica’s Omar McLeod.
Ortega (25) was a finalist in London 2012 when he competed for his native Cuba. Now with his transfer of allegiance speedily completed, he will be donning the colours of Spain in Rio. He has been very quick over the barriers this season with times of 13.04 and 13.09 coming nine days apart in July. The Spaniard will be closing fast like a raging bull coming down the streets of Madrid.
Devon Allen (21) is the fastest American this season with his 13.03 PB while winning the US trials in Eugene. Allen has dominated the collegiate circuit racking up impressive credentials while representing the University of Oregon.
The accolades include winning the NCAA Division one 110m hurdles title twice (2014 & 2016). He missed the 2015 season with a knee injury sustained while playing American football for the Oregon Ducks as a wide receiver. He is also the first man in many moons to win both the NCAA and US trial titles within the same year. Allen is extremely confident of visiting the podium in Rio and he’s certainly aiming for the middle step.
Duece Carter, a youngster with a brilliant name and vast potential, was runner-up at the Jamaica National Senior championships. Carter who ran 13.20 a new PB at the JN Racers Grand Prix in June will be hoping to pull out a few aces from up his sleeve and continue merrily in his breakout season.
The French challenge should be two-prong coming from Dimitri Bascou and Pascal Martinot-Lagarde. Both are dangerous outsiders. Bascou ran a 13.12 PB at the Monaco Diamond League while Martinot-Lagarde registered a season’s best 13.17 in the same race.
Early in the season Omar McLeod was the overwhelming favourite, however, as the games draw closer it seems everyone is now on an even keel. The path to glory is filled with obstacles and unforeseen incidents. Let’s see who navigates the situation best. Expect lots of Bangarang!