NEW YORK, NY – Omar McLeod’s meteoric rise in recent times has catapulted him into the spotlight of becoming Jamaica’s next male track superstar. So much so, that he was deservedly the runner-up at the country’s Sportsman of the Year Awards to the legendary Usain Bolt.
“Last year was my first as a professional and I know I was going up against seasoned professional athletes who wouldn’t hand me any favours, so I just went in with the willpower not to settle and to go after it all and have fun doing it, I have a jovial personality and every time I did that, I got results.”
McLeod, speaking after the New York Millrose Games press conference in Midtown Manhattan, told Trackalerts.com of his ambitions for the upcoming season while expressing joy about last year’s breakthrough performances, which earned him worldwide recognition.
He will open his season on Saturday (11 Feb) against Aleec Harris of USA and fellow Jamaican Andrew Riley over 60m hurdles at the 110th Millrose Games at the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory.
“I started last season here at the Millrose Games with victory over my idol Ashton Eaton and then I went on to have a fantastic year,” McLeod reminisced. “This meet set up my season last year and on Saturday I’m going in with the same mind-set and put on a good show.”
The 22-year-old is extremely confident that he can reproduce his amazing form from 2016. McLeod has several outstanding athletes who are barriers to his quest to be the world’s best. “It’s an individual sport and I’m aware of the competition, I see what they’re doing and I applaud them but I thrive off competition,” he said with a game face.
“I’m excited, they’re running fast and I know I’m going to run fast and match up. I always bring my ‘A’ game whenever I’m competing, I never short-change my competition, I always give it my all and I’m just going to execute and have fun.”
McLeod had an auspicious start capturing the IAAF World Indoor 60m title in March and from thereon cultivated (internally) a winning culture. He demonstrated his vast potential and range later in the season when he experimented with the 100m dash and surprised many pundits while registering 9.99 seconds.
That run gave an unaware McLeod the unique distinction of being the first man to run under 10 seconds in the 100m and under 13 seconds for the 110m hurdles. Interestingly, he was also the only 110m hurdler to dip below 13 seconds in 2016.
“I didn’t know about it until after the race, I saw it on social media.”
By this time, McLeod’s confidence was as high as the sky when he landed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for his first Olympic games. There he continued his history-making feats, becoming the first man from his country to win gold in the 110m hurdles.
After those strings of accomplishments, no one would begrudge him if he had followed a similar path like others with his own documentary. “It was a great feeling, obviously you start the year and set your goals and to accomplish them was a wonderful feeling,” said Mcleod gleefully.
“I did it not only for myself but for my country and the other aspiring athletes who were looking up to me, and winning the first gold medal at the world indoors and then the Olympic games will certainly open doors for Jamaican kids.”
McLeod, whose guilty pleasure is eating Popeye’s chicken and spending quality time with his two dogs, is not ruling out the possibility of moving up to the 400m hurdles, which he ran as a junior for his country. He was also the first Jamaican schoolboy to dip below 50 seconds (49.98) in the 400m hurdles.
“My coach wants me to run it real bad and I owe him that much. I’m not going to limit myself because I’m a super talented athlete so maybe I’ll do it in the off year.”