Sprint hurdler Omar McLeod has endured several challenging months on and off the track and believes it’s time for him to prioritise his mental health after the recent loss of a close family member and his failure to make Jamaica’s team to the World Athletics Championships after disappointment at the National Trials on Sunday.
McLeod, the 2016 Olympics champion, finished eighth in the men’s 110m hurdles final at the National Stadium in a time of 13.54 seconds, after losing his balance after clearing the second hurdle, missing out on his second-consecutive championship, following his controversial absence from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
He also struggled in the 2019 World Athletics Championships final in Doha, where he fell after the final obstacle and was eventually disqualified for a lane violation.
McLeod, the 2017 world champion, says he will be seeking the necessary help to get back on track with the aim of closing out the season in the strongest possible manner.
“I’m still grieving. I hate to use that as an excuse but I lost somebody who meant the world to me,” McLeod said. “I think I’m going to prioritise my mental health with this one. I don’t want to take this one for granted. I took it for granted because I didn’t know how much it was affecting me and I really didn’t even get to go to the funeral. I was in Oslo and I couldn’t even compete at the Diamond League.
“I’ve learned from this one not to take grieving lightly and so I am just going to try to get myself together, get some mental work and see if I can finish the season. I want to finish the season strong because I know there’s a lot more in me and I just want to keep on fighting,” McLeod told the Jamaica Observer.
McLeod said that despite going into the championship lacking race sharpness, he was hoping to rely on a strong technique to get into the top three and punch his ticket to Eugene, but could not adjust well enough during the race, when he started experiencing challenges.
“There were days when I couldn’t wake up and go to practice, I knew I wasn’t race sharp but I knew I was fit enough to come out here and get the job done and hopefully finished in the top three. My coach was like, ‘just get out hard and try to take control of the race’ and I got out hard and the hurdles came on me quickly and I just wasn’t reactive enough and I stumbled and lost composure but and I’m just going to have to keep fighting and keep building and see if I can finish the season and get some grief therapy and try to figure myself out,” he said.
“I knew I needed to be technically sound, and I just wasn’t, I didn’t execute. I got out hard enough and I got out with the intention to take control of the race and execute a technical race but I lost composure and just started leaning backward and it just wasn’t on the cards for me,” McLeod stated.