Hansle Parchment wins the 110m hurdles at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (© Getty Images)
No matter how good the competitor, the outcome is never certain in the 110m hurdles.
It is the track’s most perilous individual event. The challenge of clearing 10 barriers, each more than a metre high, in just 13 seconds, can undo the very best.
And that is what happened in the Tokyo Olympic final on Thursday (5).
The world champion Grant Holloway had come into the Games head and shoulders above his rivals, having missed the world record by 0.01 at the US Olympic Trials in May, clocking 12.81. He remains the only man who has broken 13 seconds this year.
And for the first five hurdles of the Olympic final, it all seemed to be going to plan for Holloway. The US 23-year-old was almost a metre clear of the field and appeared poised to claim his first Olympic gold medal. But he tightened noticeably over the second half of the race, losing his rhythm and labouring over the hurdles.
At the same time, Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment was coming through strongly and by the 10th hurdle had joined Holloway in the lead. He took all his momentum from the final clearance and drove through to the finish line to win in 13.04, his season’s best.
Holloway looked off-balance as he landed after the 10th hurdle and only just held on to the silver medal (13.09) as another Jamaican Ronald Levy (13.10) charged at him. Just behind them were the USA's Devon Allen (13.14) and France's Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (13.16).
Parchment could hardly believe he had won.
“(It’s) the greatest feeling, the greatest feeling, I’ve worked so hard," he said.
“It’s unbelievable that I caught this guy (Holloway). I’m really grateful. A lot of times, after the final hurdle, I’m kind of leaning too early, and my coach reminded me to run through the line – and that’s what I did."
Holloway looked stunned at the outcome. He had not lost a sprint hurdles race since August last year.
“I just think the nerves, the big atmosphere, got the best of me a little bit," he said. “But I’m young, I’ve got a lot of races under my belt, so I’ll take this with a grain of salt and I keep moving forward.
“This was not the outcome that I wanted but it enables me to say I’m an Olympic medallist.”
He vowed to come back stronger.
“I love the hurdles and I can’t wait until next year for the World Championships in front of a home crowd (Eugene, Oregon). I think that’s going to be really good for me," he said.
Rio Olympic bronze medallist Parchment, by contrast, had only just scraped into the Jamaican Olympic team, finishing third at his national trials in 13.16. He had not broken 13.20 in the qualifying rounds in Tokyo, but saved his very best for last.
The 31-year-old Jamaican had not run this fast since the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, where he finished second, his best global finish until today. But he was the most experienced man in the field and kept the coolest head
He said he would need time to believe he had finally won the gold medal.
"I think I might have to sit for a bit (when I get home) and just absorb the moment," he said.
The Jamaicans may have left empty-handed from the men's 100m but they claimed two of the three medals in this event.
"It was all about composure out there," Levy commented.
Nicole Jeffery for World Athletics
|MEN'S 110m HURDLES MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Hansle Parchment 🇯🇲 JAM||13.04|
|🥈||Grant Holloway 🇺🇸 USA||13.09|
|🥉||Ronald Levy 🇯🇲 JAM||13.10|