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McLeod Nets Gold for Jamaica...

Sets new national mark of 7.41 seconds in 60-metre hurdles

BY PAUL A REID Observer writer reidp@jamaicaobserver.com

Omar Mcleod of Jamaica (centre) on his way to winning gold ahead of silver medallist Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (left) of France and bronze medallist Dimitri Bascou of France in the Men’s 60-metres hurdles final at the IAAF World Indoor Championships at Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon, yesterday.

PORTLAND, USA — A brilliant gold medal run by 21-year-old Omar McLeod in a new national indoor record and joint world-leading 7.41 seconds, highlighted yesterday’s final session of the IAAF World Indoor Championships at the Oregon Convention Centre in Portland.

Powered by his trademark bullet-like start, the three-time NCAA indoor champion was earliest to the first hurdle and held his composure to get to the finish line ahead of the two French runners, Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (7.46 seconds) and pre-championships favourite Dimitri Boscou (7.48 seconds) who took silver and bronze.

“I am not used to being called ‘world champion’ yet,” McLeod told Jamaican media representatives after the race. “And never in a million years I would ever think I’d be a world champion at age 21. Thanks to God — my tower of strength, coaches, family support system,” he said.

It was the first gold medal in the event by a Jamaican, beating the bronze won by Maurice Wignal in 2004 in Budapest, while Michelle Freeman had won a gold in the women’s event in 1997 in Paris and a bronze four years later in Lisbon, Portugal.

McLeod’s time also broke the 40-year-old Jamaican record of 7.48 seconds set in 1976 by Wignall in Budapest.

McLeod was the star of the show, however, and got praises from Martinot-Lagarde, who told Jamaican journalists that once the Jamaican got that good a start it would be difficult to catch him.

The Jamaican, a finalist in the outdoor World Championships in Beijing last year, said it was the start that set him up for the gold medal.

“That’s my strong point... my coach told me ‘If you want to win that race you got to get out and have tunnel vision and own the race’,” he said.

McLeod said he knew the two Frenchmen “would be there”, and admitted, “it wasn’t a clean race”.

“I hit a few hurdles, but I tried to control the race and powered through. I can’t recall anything that went on in the race,” he said.