May 12, 2017 / 7:52 AM / in 5 months

Hurdles king McLeod puts seven-step start on hold

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Olympic 110 metres hurdles champion Omar McLeod has decided to put his transition to a seven-step start on hold for this season, the Jamaican said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: 2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Final - Men's 110m Hurdles Final - Olympic Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 16/08/2016. Omar McLeod (JAM) of Jamaica celebrates as he wins the race REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

The 23-year-old was the only elite high hurdler taking eight steps to reach the first hurdle last season but was also the only athlete to break the 13-second barrier in 2016 and won his first major outdoor title at the Rio Games.

McLeod had intended to move to a seven-step start this season but told a news conference ahead of Saturday’s Shanghai Diamond League, the meeting at which he ran 12.98 last year, he had been struggling with the change.

“I am finally a seven-step hurdler but we’re not taking it on this year, sadly,” he told reporters.

”I was doing a lot of compensation going into the hurdles instead of running freely and I didn’t like that.

“Next year in the off season, we’ll take it on. But we’re trying our hardest not to change much this year.”

McLeod also ran 9.99 seconds in the 100m last year, becoming the first man to go below 10 seconds in the flat sprint as well as under 13 in the hurdles.

He also has a personal best under 50 seconds in the 400m hurdles and said last year his favourite event was the 200m sprint.

After his Olympic triumph he said he was a hurdler “for now,” but plans to diversify into other events have also been postponed, he added.

“We’re thinking about taking on another event but we’ve decided to get the world championships out of the way first and then look at it,” he said.

Like all athletes, McLeod lives in the shadow of compatriot Usain Bolt and he said it was “sad” that the sprint king had decided to retire after the Aug. 4-13 world championships in London.

“All we can do as young emerging Jamaican athletes is shine our own lights and keep the flag flying high,” he said.

McLeod’s compatriot and women’s double sprint champion Elaine Thompson and Kenya’s 800m world record holder David Rudisha are among a host of other Olympic champions competing in the second leg of the Diamond League on Saturday.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Peter Rutherford

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