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McLeod overwhelming favourite for Jamaica's sportsman of the year

Having become the fifth-fastest hurdler in the world ever with a new national record of 12.90 seconds posted on June 24 this year, Omar McLeod has become Jamaica's most celebrated athlete in 2017. Photo: Jamaica Observer
KINGSTON, Jamaica, WI- How many sprint hurdlers have become world champions one year after becoming Olympic champions?

Only two.

One is retired American Allen K. Johnson, an Olympic and multiple world indoor and outdoor champion; and the other is Jamaica's golden boy, 23-year-old Omar McLeod.

Having become the fifth-fastest hurdler in the world ever with a new national record of 12.90 seconds posted on June 24 this year, McLeod has become Jamaica's most celebrated athlete in 2017, irrespective of gender, according to the Jamaica Observer on December 24, 2017

No one doubts that this quick Jamaican, who ran 9.99 seconds in the 100 metres in 2016, can shatter the world record of 12.80 seconds set by American Aries Merritt in 2012.

McLeod, who lost only one of 11 races this season because he was not well on that July 1 date in Paris, has been so consistent in the past two years that not many have remembered that he finished sixth at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing.

He is clearly the overwhelming favourite for sportsman of the year 2017 and to fittingly become the first male sprint hurdler to cop the top prize.

Certainly, athletes such as Winthrop Graham and Brigitte Foster-Hylton will be delighted to see another hurdler taking the top prize.

Indoor records

McLeod's interest in running the sprints may have some merit, as he holds not only the national 60m hurdles indoor record of 7.41 seconds, established last year, but he also holds (and not many know this) the national indoor 200m record of 20.48 seconds ran on February 17 this year in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

However, McLeod should not give up on sprint hurdling until he can break the world record, and that may take another three to four years as Merritt was 27 when he established the world mark.

And yet Jamaican sprint hurdling remains in good hands with rise of two upcoming compatriots in Ronald Levy, 13.05 seconds, and Dejour Russell, the fastest 17-year-old in history who clocked 13.32 seconds last June.

But McLeod is still the man, the golden hurdler respected by rivals worldwide.

Yet next year will not be easy pickings for the Jamaican, who will have to face Garfield Darien, the Frenchman who finished fourth at the London World Championships, and Hungarian Balázs Baji, the World Championships bronze medallist.

McLeod remains a popular man in world athletics, but for the time being he will play to the drumbeat of athletes such as South African Wayde Van Niekerk, exciting high jumper from Qatar Mutaz Essa Barshim, and American pole vaulter Sam Kendricks.

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