Rio de Janeiro: Jamaican star Omar McLeod said the “contagious” Olympic medal-winning performances of Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce inspired him to his 110m hurdles triumph on Tuesday.
McLeod, 22, became the first Jamaican to claim gold in the event after a flawless display at the Olympic Stadium to win in 13.05sec.
It was a silky hurdling performance from the latest product of Jamaica’s incredible sprint factory.
The win capped a tumultuous season for McLeod, who last month was involved in a spectacular fall at a Diamond League meeting which left him hobbling over the line.
McLeod bounced back brilliantly in Rio, inspired by the example of triple Olympic 100m champion Bolt and double Olympic 100m champion Fraser-Pryce.
“You see them, they go out and have fun and represent themselves and their country and they win, and you just want to go out and do the same thing,” McLeod said.
“It’s honestly contagious. You just want to feel how it feels.”
McLeod said he was struggling to come to terms with his victory, which saw Spain’s Orlando Ortega take silver and Dimitri Bascou of France bronze.
“I’m elated. The feeling is honestly indescribable. I don’t know what’s going through my mind right now,” he said.
“I need to go back and recite it a couple of times and say ‘You’re an Olympic champion.'”
After his fall in Monaco last month, McLeod said he had taken a conscious decision to rein in his natural speed to concentrate more on navigating the hurdles cleanly.
“You fall and you wonder what’s going on,” McLeod said.
“You just need to learn how to regroup. It was a learning experience. I learned to be patient and I honestly played it safe, my speed. All I needed to do was just hurdle.”
McLeod, who models his technique on 1996 Olympic champion Allen Johnson, said that once he manages to unleash the full force of his speed he would be able to target Aries Merrit’s world record of 12.80sec.
“I’m young, I’m just trying to develop,” he said. “It (the record) will come one day I hope.”