Grant Holloway didn’t know whether to laugh or cry after winning the 110m hurdles title here at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 in his first season as a professional – so he did both.
The 21-year-old who heads this season’s world lists with the 12.98 he recorded in winning the US collegiate title back on 7 June won gold in a time of 13.10, leading from the gun, and cavorted onwards as if he was planning to complete a 400m run before halting, suddenly tearful, in the back straight. At which point the photographers caught up with him…
In his efforts to get back on terms with his taller opponent, Jamaica’s defending and Olympic champion Omar McLeod hit hurdle eight, nine and then, terminally, ten, losing control and spinning to the ground.
In the end it was authorised neutral athlete Sergey Shubenkov, the 2015 champion and 2017 silver medallist, who chased the new arrival home, adding another silver to his collection in 13.15 ahead of France’s European champion Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, who took bronze in 13.18.
“I am speechless,” said Holloway, who is in fact one of the most wry and articulate athletes on the circuit. “It’s my first major championships and a lot of people were counting me out because I’ve been off my game in the last month or so. But when you have motivation you never lose.
“I kept believing in myself, I kept focused and I stayed healthy.
“I came here to win every round and that’s what I did. When you step on the line no one cares what you have done before – it’s all about the here and now. I just took it one hurdle and one race at a time and tried to stay calm.”
That resolve went gloriously haywire in the moment of victory however.
Holloway arrived here with the team-mate whom he had beaten to the NCAA title in June, and who had subsequently beaten him at the US Trials, Daniel Roberts. The latter had won at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris, where Holloway finished sixth, but here the fortunes tipped again as Roberts was disqualified for knocking down the hurdle of a neighbouring athlete in the opening heat.
McLeod, who is now working in Europe with US coach Rana Reider, had been fastest qualifier in the semi-finals, in 13.08, but Holloway looked ominously good, and excited, in winning his semi-final in 13.10.
The Jamaican reported afterwards that he had felt a problem in a hamstring early on, and also apologised to the IAAF Diamond League champion Orlando Ortega of Spain after careening into his path after the final hurdle as the latter was mounting a possible challenge for a medal.
“I felt my hamstring as I came off the first hurdle, so then I was thinking about it, not my technique. It grabbed me again halfway through, but I gave it my all.
“I made a lot of sacrifices this season to get here. I showed up ready and had heart. I’m in a new situation with a new coach. I just need to re-group and come back for next year.”
Following a second protest from the Spanish team, the jury of appeal decided that Ortega would also receive a bronze medal.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF