By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber
DOHA (Reuters) – Grant Holloway of the United States blazed to his first 110 meters hurdles world title on Wednesday in a dramatic race in which defending champion Omar McLeod fell.
The 21-year-old Holloway, who came into the championships with the season’s fastest run of 12.98 seconds, smoothly glided through 10 hurdles to cross the line in 13.10, five hundredths of a second ahead of Sergey Shubenkov.
“The race was a blessing,” Holloway said. “My goal was just to come out here and execute each and every round. I felt like I did that.”
Favorite to defend his title, Jamaican McLeod came out of the starting blocks fast but his race quickly turned sour as he knocked down hurdles and tumbled to the track before reaching the finish line.
McLeod’s problems seemed to upset Diamond League champion Orlando Ortega in the next lane and he finished fifth in 13.30 seconds.
McLeod said he had felt a hamstring strain in the warm-up and thought it would go away.
“I was ready to go, I showed up ready,” McLeod said. “I put myself in the very best situation to defend my title.”
Capitalizing on McLeod’s fall, Shubenkov, the 2015 world champion, took his second consecutive world silver with a technically sound run of 13.15 seconds.
Holloway and Shubenkov said they had not no idea that chaos was unfolding in neighboring lanes.
“In the replay I saw that one fell down… another was celebrating,” said Shubenkov. “I thought to myself ‘I missed everything’.”
The Russian secured a third medal for the authorized neutral athletes after golds in the women’s pole vault and high jump this week.
Like all other Russians competing in Doha, Shubenkov cannot wear his national colors and brandish the Russian flag during his celebratory lap because the country’s athletics federation remains suspended following a doping scandal.
The bronze medal went to European champion Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, who finished 0.03 seconds behind Shubenkov to give France its second medal of the world championships.
“I was the one who stayed on my feet,” Martinot-Lagarde said. “It’s the medal of self-control. It’s the medal of the guy who stayed focused.”
(Additional reporting by Gene Cherry; Editing by Ed Osmond)